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Good things happen sometimes

By Jim Hancock

By Jim Hancock

It is the biggest round of local elections ever in the North West with county elections running alongside polls in Greater Manchester and Merseyside for the first time. Will Boris Johnson benefit from his vaccine bounce and how will Labour's Keir Starmer come through his first test? Jim marks your card.

Feeling good

How are you feeling this weekend? I’m emerging from my pandemic gloom and I wonder why. Well, the weather is wonderful, very like last spring when the sunshine was the only consolation as the virus took hold.

But more substantially, the conviction of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd was a relief because otherwise America would have been plunged back into riots. Let’s not kid ourselves that the country is about to live up to its declaration that all men (and women) are created equal, but perhaps it is a turning point.

Then there was the demise of the European Super League after three days. Our MD, Frank McKenna, has given his thoughts on his blog, so suffice for me to make two points. One is that the new Champions League concession to allow two underperforming big clubs to qualify on their past record should be withdrawn. There is no need to appease these disgraced giants anymore. Second, I will be surprised if these overseas billionaire owners will allow fans any meaningful control of their clubs. The only hope is that they will now lose interest, take their money away and allow football to get off this obscene money escalator.

Up the poll!

I think one of the reasons polling is often low in local elections is because of the complexity. County, unitary and district councils elected on different cycles, with sometimes all the councillors up for election, sometimes only a third.

Well on May 6th we have complexity in bucketloads. Because last year’s elections were postponed, we have the biggest round of local voting ever in the North West.

For the first time county elections in places like Lancashire will be held at the same time as polls for a third of the councils in Greater Manchester and Merseyside. There are some unitary council elections along with rural districts. Cheshire’s unitary councils are not up this year. There are some parish council polls including a ward in Handforth, although Jackie Weaver is not a candidate!

There are also mayoral and police and crime commissioner elections which I will cover next week.

The political prospects

The seats coming up on metro district councils were last contested just before the EU Referendum in 2016. The Tories lost 48 seats nationally which wasn’t bad a year into David Cameron’s majority Conservative government. Labour’s performance was lacklustre in Jeremy Corbyn’s first round of local elections.

The county council seats coming up for election were last contested in the middle of the 2017 General Election campaign. Theresa May did well making 558 gains, which gave little sign of her underperformance weeks later when she fell short of an overall majority.

In Lancashire, the Tories won by a substantial majority under controversial leader Geoff Driver. He is retiring after decades as a major figure in the county’s politics so this could be an opportunity for Azhar Ali’s Labour Party to make progress in a county they controlled from 1981-2005. A Labour- Liberal Democrat coalition leads Cumbria whilst the Conservatives will be hoping to hold on in Derbyshire with the help of Edwina Currie. The former Minister is standing in Whaley Bridge.

The metropolitan district councils of most interest are ones with no party in overall control, Wirral, Bolton, and Stockport.

On the unitary council front, all out elections are being held in Warrington and Halton and for a third of Blackburn with Darwen. All Chorley’s district councillors are up for election.

I’ll have a final look at the likely outcome next week, but this will be a judgement on the handling of the pandemic. The PM has had a major triumph with the vaccination programme while Keir Starmer has struggled to cut through. Perhaps the Tory sleaze row will help him if it starts to resonate with the public, but now it looks like being a comfortable result for the Tories.

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