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By Jim Hancock

By Jim Hancock

Judgement on Labour

Jim presents his comprehensive preview of the local elections next week in the North West. The Tories should do very badly but Jim suggests the picture is complicated for Labour.

WHERE’S THE SPIRIT OF 95?

Next Thursday’s local elections are in many ways more significant for Labour than the Conservatives. The governing party is expected to do badly midterm and the opposition to sweep all before it.

The conditions for Sir Keir Starmer to do well are all in place. There is a serious standard of living crisis with people not only unable to see their finances getting better, but in many cases worrying whether to heat or eat. The Prime Minister can’t shake off Partygate and many members of the Cabinet don’t seem up to the job.

And yet support for Labour is nowhere near that golden period in the mid-nineties when Macclesfield was the only Tory authority in the North of England. The other problem for the party is that they already control most of the councils that are up for election. This is principally a poll of London and urban England; the Tory heartlands are not up for grabs.

Most of these seats were last contested in 2018. It was only four years ago but much has happened since then. The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, did quite well because Prime Minister Theresa May was becoming mired in her attempts to get a Brexit deal.

THE BATTLEGROUND

Let’s first of all say that there are no elections in Cheshire, or Liverpool. In the latter case that’s probably just as well for Labour. Following numerous scandals, the city is to have all out elections next year. Meanwhile eight Labour councillors have left to form the Liverpool Community Independents having refused to support budget cuts.

Most elections are for a third of the council, a system that is increasingly being criticised as confusing and not allowing for a definitive test of public opinion. The number of councils adopting all out polls is growing, with St Helens adopting that model this year. All outs will also be held in Rochdale and Bury.

Bury has had visits from both Johnson and Starmer, a sure sign that the town is maintaining its reputation as a bellwether of the nation. Labour is in charge, but Independents have been making gains in its stronghold of Radcliffe

The Lib Dems continue to flatline but have some hopes in Stockport. Their bid to lead the hung authority last year was thwarted by the Tories who preferred a Labour minority administration. If the Lib Dems, under their capable leader Mark Hunter, can make a couple of gains, expect him to seek to lead the authority.

Labour’s main target in Greater Manchester is Bolton where the Conservatives are hanging on with just twenty-two of the sixty seats and the support of three other parties.

In Lancashire Labour are targeting Rossendale and West Lancs and hope to make progress in Burnley. Pendle is always in the balance. This time expect the Tories to lose overall control.

Wirral Council should be a pick up for Labour but Greens or even the Tories could deprive them of full power.

Finally, the most dramatic change will be seen in Cumbria. The county and all six district councils are being abolished next year, so elections are taking place for the new unitary councils that will replace them. Cumberland is difficult to call because of the number of independents whilst Westmoreland and Furness could be a battle between the Labour stronghold of Barrow and the Lib Dems in the South Lakes.

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