In just under a month, the nation will cast their vote in the last election before Britain leaves the European Union. In recent polls, the nation has not looked as geographically divided as it could do at the ballot box come May 3rd.
All seats in the 32 London borough councils will be up for election, which is likely to only reinforce Labour’s dominance in the capital, recent polls suggest the Conservatives might be lucky to retain the 7 councils they currently control.
Populated by a largely pro-remain demographic, swathes of London are likely to turn red, only reinforcing the overbearing dichotomy between the ‘metropolitan elite’ and the rest of the country.
Much of the interest has been placed, on one side, at the door of Barnet which is seen by many as a ‘winnable’ Labour council. However, with a large Jewish population they are likely to be hampered by recent, consistent and concerning allegations of anti-Semitism against the upper-echelons of the party. Similarly, Labour are closing in on the Conservatives in areas such as Wandsworth, of which the Grenfell Tower tragedy is likely to play a leading role and look to strengthen their hold on councils such as Hammersmith and Fulham.
Over 4,000 seats are to be fought over at these ‘mid-term’ local elections, and it is worth noting that the majority will be contested outside of the capital, but coverage and analysis of these councils have been sparse. That leads to the question, are the media and political parties guilty of neglecting the concerns of the rest of the country?
Launching their local election campaign in the Conservative-led Trafford district of Manchester, the Labour Party have attempted to solidify their stronghold in the North-West and in turn taken their campaign wider than the capital. Endeavouring to consolidate what is anticipated to be a landslide, the Labour Party could be criticised as not reaching as far as they perhaps should do and engaging with areas of the country such as Peterborough that voted overwhelmingly to leave the European Union, protesting against the metropolitan elite.
With pollsters predicting that the Tories could lose as many as 100 seats in London, it isn’t surprising however that much of the attention is focused in the capital. What does a Conservative kicking in the capital mean for the party though? The New Statesman’s Stephen Bush has highlighted that “Voters tend to use local elections partly to send a message to the incumbent at Westminster” and for the most part, this is true. Nonetheless, the optics of losing every council in London, could have a detrimental impact for the Conservative Party when the next general election comes around.
Tasked with navigating the testing waters of Brexit and up against a Labour Party thoroughly energised by having 232 MPs returned in 2017, the Prime Minister and her Conservative Party would be right to feel anxious in the coming weeks. We do know there will be Labour gains across the capital, but we wait to see whether the enthusiasm will spread further afield and do significant damage to Theresa May’s premiership.