On Thursday 2 May local elections were held across the United Kingdom. 248 local councils and six directly-elected mayoral positions were contested in England, as well as 11 local authorities in Northern Ireland. Most of the votes were counted over Thursday night, but there are a number of results that are expected later in the afternoon on Friday 3 May, including those in Northern Ireland.
At the time of publication, the broad changes, compared to 2015 when these seats were last contested, are:
Conservatives: 2074 (-763)
Labour: 1397 (-87)
Liberal Democrats: 858 (+454)
UKIP: 20 (-81)
Green: 142 (+112)
Others (including Independents): 626 (+363)
The local elections were anticipated as the next opportunity following which Tory MPs would put pressure on Theresa May’s position. The significant losses for the Conservatives were as expected and will increase pressure on the Prime Minister's premiership. In the run up to polling day, the requisite number of Conservative associations had signed a petition calling for an Extraordinary General Meeting - which will take place in June - to discuss Theresa May’s future. While this meeting is symbolic and non-binding, the election results will give renewed impetus to the Prime Minister’s critics calling for her departure.
The results were also disappointing for the Labour Party. There had wide been expectations of modest gains for Labour, with Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell publicly suggesting that the party was aiming for up to 400 gains. The Liberal Democrats, Greens and Independents all had very strong nights.
The European Parliamentary Elections, which are due to take place on Thursday 23 May 2019, will be a different beast: a key litmus test for the recently established pro-Remain ChangeUK and Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party (neither of whom fielded candidates in the local elections). Their respective successes will gauge the level of public support for the handling of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. The local elections are less indicative in this sense, as the two main parties have sought to remove the national discussions by campaigning distinctly on local issues. As such, the two results in tandem will provide a more accurate indication of the country’s attitudes towards May, the two main parties, and the Brexit process.
DLA Piper will provide such an assessment following the results of the European elections later this month. At this stage, however, it is important to anticipate that continued uncertainty will ensue from these local elections results, and those anticipated at the European level. The Brexit Party are leading most polls, with the latest YouGov survey expecting they will capture 28% of the vote - 5% ahead of second place Labour and 15% ahead of third place Conservatives. If this were to translate into tangible results on the day, the Government's position will become even more precarious and we may see further resignations.