PoliticsHome 2018 local elections rundown

Posted On: 
3rd May 2018

It's polling day in the 2018 local elections. PoliticsHome looks at who's in, who's out and who's lost the plot.

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It's meant to be about bin collections, pot holes and bus routes, but with the major parties rocked by anti-Semitism scandals, immigration foul-ups and the looming spectre of Brexit hanging above it all, the 2018 local elections could have far-reaching national consequences.

Can Jeremy Corbyn rise to the challenge of scooping London for Labour, or will plummeting public confidence rain on his parade?

And a dreadful night for the governing party is always sure to bring the Prime Minister a few days of bad headlines. Does anyone remember the Lib Dems knocking Gordon Brown’s Labour party into third place in 2008? But for Mrs May could a wipe-out prove fatal?

It is also likely that we will see another nail in the coffin of UKIP which is standing in 75 per cent fewer seats than they were four years ago, even failing to find candidates to stand in former strongholds. They are defending 125 seats but may end the night with fewer than a dozen.

In total there are 16,000 candidates duking it out for 4,410 seats across 150 local authorities including all 32 of the London boroughs. There are also mini mayoral elections in Watford, and safe Labour areas like Hackney and Tower Hamlets. Outside of London there are also elections in ultra-safe Labour areas of Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester and Newcastle.

Check out our interactive map to see the current state of play:




But with so many seats up for grabs, which are the ones to watch? Find out as we journey through the key London boroughs ahead of the crunch contests.



This is Labour’s election to lose with a host of target boroughs in their sights and booming polling figures in the capital - but the ongoing row over anti-Semitism, and growing concerns about entryism by the hard-left may have hamstrung their campaigns in certain places.

The Tories lost control of this council before a vote was even cast after a Conservative councillor jumped ship last month, leaving the council under no overall control (NOC). Labour have been working this borough furiously in the run-up to polling day, and their hard work has resulted in the borough being tipped by bookies as their easiest gain of the night. They've managed to mobilise huge campaign teams which has forced the Tories to pull resources from other seats to try and stave off a thrashing.

The wards high density of Jewish residents may help stop a total Conservative wipe out in the wake of the anti-Semitism scandal, but with Labour landing blows over local issues they are in with a chance of turning Barnet red for the first time in the council’s history.



With the council so hotly tipped to turn it would be a serious blow for the Labour leadership and their grip on the anti-Semitism problem if they failed to win this borough.

Set to declare: 4am


The fact that Wandsworth is even on a Labour target list is an indication of the parties confidence in their support within the capital. The Conservatives have held this area for 40 years, and a loss here could put major pressure on Theresa May.

In a bid to defend the borough the Conservatives are pushing hard on local services. They’ve deployed a couple of decent graphics comparing council tax rates, and bin collections between two sides of a street, one which sits in Conservative controlled Wandsworth, the other in Labour held Merton.



But Labour sources on the ground are saying that the local service message is not having much effect on voters who are frustrated with the national political picture and seemingly willing to give the Tories a bloody nose.

One senior Tory source said told PoliticsHome that they thought a slim majority was the most likely outcome. Hardly a confident message to be giving off...

They said: “Wandsworth will be close but I think we shall just hold it.

“The Labour Group are seriously in Momentum hands and I doubt that the current Lab leader will survive whatever happens”.

Set to declare: 3am


Westminster council has been Conservative run since it was created and it would take a poll-busting swing for Labour to take this flagship Tory borough, but they’ve got it in their sights.

A Conservative source told me that the party have been working the ward every weekend for months, and many activists from other areas in London will often pop over to Westminster to lend a hand after they finish up morning sessions in their own areas. A major focus on their record on deliver public services is the backbone to their defensive strategy.

But Labour’s dominant use of social media has allowed them to put together some serious numbers for a strong ground campaign.



There is no doubt that seeing huge numbers of opposition activists in a formerly safe borough will have local Conservatives feeling rattled.

With 44 Conservative councillors to Labour’s 14 it seems unlikely that Labour could take the flagship council, but then again this is not a wise time to be making political predictions.

Set to declare: 2am

Kensington & Chelsea

The Grenfell Tower tragedy and the Conservative’s sluggish response to helping victims have put this area in Labour’s sights. The Conservative’s have dumped their leader, and a majority of their councillors have stood aside to allow a new slate of multi-ethnic, multi-national candidates stand in the wards in a bid to freshen up their image.

But Labour have a fired-up campaign team who are going door-to-door in wards where they would have never wasted resources. Paired with a slick social media campaign and they seem to be making decent progress.

Kensington’s Corbynite MP Emma Dent Coad bucked convention in 2017 by securing the seat for Labour by a mere 20 votes. She has decided to ditch convention by fighting for her council seat while also serving as an MP. She will be hoping to preside over another shock victory against the Tories on Friday morning.



Most pundits believe that the Conservative will hold the council easily but as voters got to the polls, many will be confronted with the blackened stump of Grenfell tower still standing over them. It is tough to tell the effect it could have.

Set to declare: 5am


The Tories are running some serious defensive plays during this election but have got their eyes on a couple of London boroughs and a some Leave-heavy areas in other parts of the country.

Despite this being safe Lib Dem territory, decent results at the national level have buoyed up Conservatives in Sutton after they almost felled local MP Tom Brake. It is also one of the few Leave-backing areas in London - but the Government’s Brexit woes might be hampering the party’s ability to capitalise with Leave voters.

Still, having Conservative party chairman Brandon Lewis and cabinet minister Chris Grayling out on the campaign trail suggests that the Torie's hopes to make decent gains in Sutton are not total straw clutching.

The Lib Dems have been able to muster up a strong group of campaigners who have been on the counter-offensive targeting EU citizens to remind them of their opportunity to vote in this set of elections.



Sutton Conservatives have a small but committed band of young activists who have been taking the fight to the streets, but if we allow reason to regain her throne it seems unlikely the Conservative will be able to sweep out such a massive Lib Dem majority.

Set to declare: 5am

Harrow is a relatively marginal seat that local Conservative’s have been strongly talking up as a possible gain. Two independent councillors stepping down in a Conservative leaning area has put this borough within the Tories' grasp.

The blues have been out in every section of the community with a tough local services message to try and take advantage of a perceived lack of direction by the Labour-led council.



Political commentators seem split on how this one will go so it is certainly one to watch. It declares late in the afternoon and could provide a sliver of good news for the Tories in an otherwise bleak London outlook.

Set to declare: 4:30pm


If we are ever going to see the fabled #LibDemFightback happening then it will be in these elections. Citizens from EU countries living in the UK are allowed to vote in tomorrow's contests and with London serving as a Remain stronghold the Lib Dems need to put in a punchy performance or face total obscurity. They have a couple of key targets in mind.


A monster swing to Vince Cable in Twickenham has given the yellows a real boost in their campaign to take back Richmond from the Conservatives.

The Lib Dems are taking a dual pronged approach to their campaign, with a focus on local issues and a wider focus on Brexit in an attempt to win over voters in the staunchly Remain-supporting area.

It is one of many London boroughs where Brexit and immigration are going to play an important role.



Richmond also offers an example of that thing we either love or hate in UK politics. A deal.

Vince Cable has been very supportive of an agreement in his own borough Richmond which has seen the Greens stand down in all but 6 wards where they are running 1 candidate in a slate with 2 Liberal Democrats. The slate is even putting out joint leaflets. We look forward to finding out what the voters make of this pact. If Richmond goes to NOC it looks all but guaranteed the Lib Dems will then be able to work with the Greens if any are elected, to form an administration.

Set to declare: 4am


South West London’s Kingston also saw strong parliamentary results for the Lib Dems at the 2017 General Election, and this seems like a likely gain for the yellows.

The previous contest in 2014 came at a period of significant turmoil for the Lib Dems as they imploded at the end of the coalition years, so they are working hard to get their message out. Thankfully, they are getting a GREAT RECEPTION ON THE DOORS.



The crux of the Conservative’s campaign has been a comparison of their record over the last four years with the Lib Dem’s over the preceding 12 years. One local Conservative activist told me that the strategy was falling flat. “We haven’t got a positive message - and we are getting skewered over Brexit. It’s not going great.”

A look at the numbers show that very bad night for the Conservatives could see them reduced to just a few wards.

Set to declare: 5pm


Outside the M25

Outside of the London bubble are a number of smaller councils that parties will be trying to scoop.

The reds are targeting Tory marginals like Amber Valley, Swindon and Trafford, while looking to grab NOC councils like Stockport, Newcastle-under-Lyme and North-East Lincolnshire.

The Conservatives will be looking to shore up support in Leave backing areas like Basildon, Rugby, Peterborough and Pendle. The blues are also targeting South Lakeland which falls within Tim Farron’s seat after they almost toppled him in June last year.

A keen eye should be kept on Nuneaton and Swindon which are some of the early Labour-Conservative battles to come in.

Swings in these seats may not have the same political impact as the London boroughs, but they could serve as an important barometer for public sentiment outside of the capital.


Beyond the ballot box

But the story of the local elections will not end when the final results come in on Friday.

Even if Labour fail to win Westminster and Wandsworth they are on track for their best local election results in decades. The figure to beat is 1,221 seats, a result they achieved in 1971.

Many Labour marginals will be much less so on Friday morning with Labour set to take massive majorities in boroughs like Croydon and Hammersmith. But a slew of these new councillors are Momentum supporting Corbynites who will be looking to quickly nab control from the remaining Labour moderates.

A power-struggle between the two factions of the party could result in council leaders being ousted, and moves made to deselect MPs ahead of candidate selections. For Sadiq Khan, the Momentum take-over could spell disaster for housing development plans as councillors block developers from moving ahead with major projects.

And when the dust settles on Friday morning if either of the Conservative strongholds of Westminster and Wandsworth are flying red flags then Mrs May will be under serious pressure. Earlier in the year, with commentators predicting oblivion for the Conservatives, there were rumblings from the backbenches about the Prime Minister’s position in the event of a London drubbing. But her handling of the Syria and Salisbury crisis’, as well as Labour’s anti-Semitism problem allowed her to steady the ship. And then Windrush happened, the Home Secretary fell, and her political opponents can smell the blood in the water.

A Conservative collapse in London could spell disaster for Mrs May.

*This article is part of a series of articles ahead of the 2018 Local elections. Get in touch to find out about our Local Government Information Products and Services.*