“All the right votes, but not necessarily in the right order…”

So, the 2019 ordinary local elections are upon us. Until last month this was going to be the biggest electoral event of 2019, and in seat terms it still is with thousands of council seats up for grabs across England and Northern Ireland.

For the most part these local elections are to replace councillors elected in 2015, at a time when British politics was a very different place. The United Kingdom was a member of the European Union. The Conservatives had no majority in the House of Commons. Nigel Farage’s political vehicle was beating the Liberal Democrats in the opinion polls. The political classes were reeling from the result of a referendum, and the party system was undergoing realignment. A very different context indeed, I think you’ll agree.

The 2015 local elections were held at the same time as the 2015 general election, which to general surprise returned David Cameron as the first and so far only Prime Minister of a majority Conservative government since John Major. That wasn’t the first time this cycle of local elections were combined with something else; the 2011 local elections were held on the same day as the Alternative Vote referendum, while the polls in 2007, 2003 and 1999 coincided with devolved elections in Scotland and Wales. As can be seen, this is the first year since 1995 that this cycle of local elections has been able to stand on its own. (Which is another thing we can thank the current political deadlock for: had the European Parliament elections not been organised at the last possible moment, these local elections would in all probability have been delayed by three weeks to coincide with them.)

By coincidence, 1995 was a bloodbath for the Conservatives in local government. There are good reasons to expect that not to happen this time; at least, not on the same scale as the catastrophic defeats of yesteryear. Various reorganisations over the last decades, together with the work of the Local Government Boundary Commissions, have steadily reduced the number of councils and councillors up for grabs. Last month alone one county council and nine districts were wiped off the administrative map; their old councillors will leave office at this election and won’t be replaced.

So, the gains and losses aggregated over the country may not be comparable with previous years. The seat aggregates might be misleading as well, because not all districts are the same size. This year a third of Leeds city council, with over half a million electors, will be up for election; as will the whole of Rutland council with under thirty thousand electors. Despite their differing sizes they both count as one council; and it should be obvious that it will take fewer votes to elect a Rutland councillor than a Leeds councillor.

The aggregate votes will be misleading as well (yes, I’m looking at you, Aaron Bastani). Not all of the UK is holding elections this year. Not a single vote will be cast in Wales on 2nd May; Scotland will be represented by just one local by-election, Greater London by two local by-elections. There are no ordinary elections this year in Northumberland, Durham, Harrogate, Doncaster, Rotherham, Warrington, Shropshire, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Birmingham, Stroud, Gloucester, Huntingdonshire, South Cambridgeshire, Bristol, Wiltshire, Cornwall or the seven districts which renew half of their membership every two years. Even in the 248 districts in England (and the eleven in Northern Ireland) which are holding elections this year there are dozens of wards – particularly in deeply rural areas – which won’t go to the polls because only one candidate or slate has come forward. And there are many more areas which don’t have a candidate or slate from the Tories, or Labour, or the Liberal Democrats, or the Green Party, or UKIP. For those new media darlings Change UK and the Brexit Party (and that’s the only time you’ll see the B-word mentioned in this piece; isn’t that refreshing?) there are no or almost no candidates at all. These local elections came too early for them; as this column has pointed out on several occasions, the local election cycle turns more slowly than the 24-hour news cycle.

It’s because of interpretation difficulties like this that we have the Projected National Shares of the Vote, calculated by the BBC and by Rallings and Thrasher as estimates of what might have happened had the whole of the country voted. In 2015, when most of the councillors being elected this year started their terms, the BBC’s Projected National Shares were 35% for the Conservatives, 29% for Labour, 13% for UKIP and 11% for the Liberal Democrats; while last year Labour and the Conservatives were level on 35% each with the Lib Dems on 16%. These are only estimates, but they are at least an attempt to make some kind of comparable aggregate sense of the mass of information which will come out of the ballot boxes on Thursday evening and into Friday.

And “mass” is the correct word here. Democracy Club, who have done a brilliant job in compiling a complete candidate list, have found 25,778 candidates chasing 8,424 seats in 5,269 wards. Around 30 million people will be eligible to vote; depending on turnout, ten million or more ballot papers will be counted. Your columnist will probably take four years to get all of this analysed and recorded into his other website, Local Elections Archive Project. It’s a lot of information.

For that reason this piece is not going to preview every single race. I’d never finish a piece like that and you’d never read it. Instead I’m going to tour the country, touching on the more interesting councils and races and trying to find what are going to be the stories which will lead the news bulletins on 3rd May. If I’ve not covered a council here, it’s probably because this column’s assessment of the election is that it’ll be a boring hold for whichever party runs the council at the moment. Or it might just mean I’ve overlooked it. If you find a mistake in this, let me know (there probably are some mistakes); if you don’t agree with what I’ve written here or left out, feel free to prove me wrong! I’ll love it if you do. Thanks to all my Twitter followers who suggested interesting councils to look at; not all of your suggestions made it here, but most of them did. If you’re following election night this year, keep this guide with you; and remember to expect and to savour the unexpected. And before anybody asks about the maps, they are all from 2015 unless otherwise stated, so they represent the status quo ante. Read on…

North of Tyne

We start in the north-east corner of England with our only metro mayor election of the year. The snappily-named Newcastle upon Tyne, North Tyneside and Northumberland Combined Authority is holding its inaugural mayoral election this year in the latest piece to fall into the jigsaw which is English devolution. The authority will have powers over investment, with economic growth, job creation and transport being major aims: the Combined Authority will have a budget of £600 million to invest in the area, will control the local adult education budget and will have the power to develop land for regeneration.

Important stuff, and apparently this needs an elected mayor to run it. The Mayor of the North of Tyne will be the seventh member of the Combined Authority’s cabinet, which also includes two representatives from each of the three constituent districts: Newcastle City Council, North Tyneside Council and Northumberland County Council. This is a seriously diverse area, running from the urban jungle of Newcastle all the way to the Scottish border at Berwick and the Cheviots. Included here are the Northumberland National Park, the English National Park with the smallest population; and most of the World Heritage Site of Hadrian’s Wall. There are some 880,000 people living within the area, the vast majority of those residing in the south-east corner in and around Newcastle, Tynemouth and the small mining towns. Despite the name, there is some territory here south of the Tyne, including the towns of Prudhoe and Hexham.

The three districts within the North of Tyne area are just as diverse. Newcastle upon Tyne city council has a strong Labour majority, with the Liberal Democrats (who ran the city in the late 2000s) forming the main opposition. Northumberland, on the other hand, last polled in May 2017 which was a disastrous election for Labour in north-east England; in that election the Conservatives came from a poor second to fall one vote and one seat short of an overall majority on Northumberland council. North Tyneside has an elected mayor, currently Labour’s Norma Redfearn, and has seen several very close mayoral elections in the past; however, the council currently has a strong Labour majority like Newcastle to the west. Redfearn is acting as mayor of the North of Tyne on an interim basis pending this election.

At parliamentary level this area is covered by nine constituencies, two in North Tyneside, three in Newcastle and four rather undersized seats in Northumberland; in the 2010 boundary changes Northumberland would have lost a seat had the Boundary Commission not invoked the “special geographical considerations” rule. Over those nine seats Labour polled 54% of the vote in the 2017 general election, to 36% for the Conservatives and 11% for everybody else. The Tories carried the two rural constituencies of Berwick-upon-Tweed and Hexham, with Labour winning the rest. Chi Onwurah in Newcastle upon Tyne Central had the distinction of winning the first declared result on election night; while the most experienced political figure from the area in this Parliament is the Labour chief whip Nick Brown, who has represented Newcastle upon Tyne East since 1983. Readers with longer memories may recall Brown as a particularly hapless agriculture minister in the Blair government, making an awful hash of the official response to the 2001 foot-and-mouth disease outbreak; an epidemic which started in the Northumberland village of Heddon-on-the-Wall. The two Labour MPs for Northumberland constituencies are also high-profile: Wansbeck’s Ian Lavery is the chairman of the Labour Party, a former NUM president and a persistent controversy magnet, while the Blyth Valley MP Ronnie Campbell has been one of the party’s most consistent rebels in the recent Meaningful Votes.

So it would seem that this new mayoralty is Labour’s to lose, although complacency would be a bad idea as it so often is. The Labour candidate is Jamie Driscoll, who would appear from his policies and endorsements to be on the left wing of the party. His ideas include a “people’s bank”, a renewable energy company for the region and a series of housing co-operatives. He defeated for the Labour nomination Nick Forbes, the leader of Newcastle city council; Driscoll is a Newcastle city councillor himself, but has only served in the chamber since May last year after being elected for the city-centre Monument ward.

Driscoll’s Tory opponent is even more of a newcomer to elected politics. Charlie Hoult has made his name in business: he is a manager of a business park and his policies are very business-focused with investment in jobs, “emerging economies” and the Tyne and Wear Metro being major planks of his manifesto. Hoult has been endorsed by Sir John Hall, the property developer who used to own Newcastle United FC.

Three other candidates complete the ballot paper. The Lib Dems have nominated John Appleby, a former Newcastle city councillor and previously head of Newcastle University’s mechanical engineering department. Former Conservative North Tyneside councillor (William) Hugh Jackson, who was suspended by the party in 2008 for suggesting euthanasia as a way of reducing the council’s bill for children in care, is the candidate of that political misfits’ home UKIP, while completing the ballot paper is independent candidate John McCabe who is a former president of the North East England Chamber of Commerce. Whoever wins will be up for re-election in 2024 following a five-year term.

This mayoral election will be combined with elections to a third of Newcastle and North Tyneside councils and a by-election to the Holywell division of Northumberland council. This is the eastern half of Seaton Delaval, a village just outside Whitley Bay which is the home of a large factory making beauty products. The by-election has been caused by the death of Bernard Pidcock, whose daughter Laura was elected two years ago as the Labour MP for North West Durham; he leaves behind a division where Labour led the Tories 50-39 in the 2017 election. It may be a long shot for the Tories to gain this one, but if they can win the Holywell by-election they will get an overall majority on Northumberland county council.

The rest of the North East

For the rest of this piece I’m going to touch on my selection of the more interesting councils in this cycle. For the North East the stand-out council to watch is Hartlepool, where the ruling Labour group is suffering from infighting and has recently lost its majority after multiple councillors defected to Arthur Scargill’s Socialist Labour Party. The Pool has a strange political scene with independent councillors being the major opposition, and further Labour losses could allow the independents to take over here. As anybody who remembers the Monkey Mayor will know, it wouldn’t be the first time that’s happened.

Another Labour versus Independent race appears in Middlesbrough where the Mayor and council are up for election. Labour only gained the Middlesbrough elected mayoralty in 2015 after three terms of Robocop, and then only very narrowly defeated independent candidate Andy Preston in the runoff. Mayor Christopher Budd is standing down after one term of office; Mick Thompson is the new Labour candidate, Preston is back for another go, and there is also another independent and a Conservative in the race.

Redcar and Cleveland is the other hung council in the North East, with Labour narrowly missing out on a majority in 2015 thanks to a combination of infighting in the local party and continuing Liberal Democrat strength in Redcar town. By-elections in the borough have been encouraging for the Lib Dems and the Conservatives.

Sunderland has to be mentioned here because it has a famously quick counting team. The city has a Labour administration which is very locally unpopular while also having a very secure majority; that unpopularity will translate itself into some wild anti-Labour swings which will get noticed and over-analysed because they will be the first results to come in. Try not to read too much into these.

Durham council is not up this year but does have two by-elections. Labour are defending the Shildon and Dene Valley division in the south of the county, covering the mining and railway town of Shildon together with some outlying parts of Bishop Auckland; Samantha Townsend defends against challenges from the Lib Dems’ James Huntington and independent candidate Robert Ingledew, both of whom were not that far off winning a seat in 2017. A few miles to the north is the Spennymoor division which at local level has been taken over by an independent slate; Ronald Highley defends for the Spennymoor Independents, but with three other independent candidates on the ballot (one of whom was top of the Labour slate here two years ago) don’t rule out a split in the vote letting another party in. The Lib Dems ran second here in 2017 and their candidate is Martin Jones.

North West

Cumbria has a large number of councils which look interesting. Labour are defending a small majority in the city of Carlisle, which gets radical new ward boundaries this year with 13 councillors disappearing from the chamber. The party is just short of a majority in Allerdale, with strength in Workington and Maryport balanced by independent- and Tory-voting areas in the northern Lake District and in the rich agricultural land between Maryport and Carlisle.

The elected mayoralty in Copeland, based on Whitehaven and Millom, is the largest single contest in the North West. This was established in 2015 and was a surprising win for independent candidate Mike Starkie, who got into the runoff just ahead of the Tory candidate and then picked up the Tory transfers to beat Labour. Starkie is seeking re-election against opposition from Labour’s Linda Jones-Bulman and the Tories’ Ged McGrath. Since 2015, of course, Labour have lost the Copeland parliamentary constituency to the Conservatives in a famous 2017 by-election, and the Tories performed well here in the 2017 county council elections shortly after that.

In the Morecambe Bay area the Liberal Democrats are defending Tim Farron’s manor in South Lakeland, where the Tories have been making a very slow recovery in recent years; it will be interesting to see whether that continues. Across the sands is Lancaster council, which includes Morecambe and a very large rural hinterland; this was hung in 2015 but now has a Labour majority through defections and by-election gains. With reports of infighting in the local Conservatives the Labour party could be well-placed to make that majority official.

The only other Lancashire council worth mentioning here is Pendle. The Tories have a majority of one seat on Pendle council, and this year they are defending Reedley and Southfield wards in Nelson which both voted over 64% Labour last year, together with Vivary Bridge ward in Colne which was nearly lost to the Lib Dems twelve months ago. If Labour and the Lib Dems can get their act together this could go hung.

In Merseyside, Wirral has a chance of falling into No Overall Control; this has a Labour majority of six at the moment, but the party is defending Birkenhead/Tramnere and Oxton wards which respectively voted Green and Lib Dem in 2018. A Labour loss in Birkenhead/Tranmere would be particularly embarrassing as it’s the seat of the leader of the council. The party is also sitting on a small majority in Pensby/Thingwall ward and has suffered from infighting: a left-wing takeover during the last term has seen several Labour councillors walk out of the party. Sefton council is a happier story for Labour, who broke through to win seats in Southport for the first time in the 2018 local elections and have the chance for further gains this time.

The two big unitary councils in Cheshire are up this year. Cheshire West and Chester was a Labour gain with a majority of one in the 2015 local elections, and that majority has been successfully defended in several by-elections. The 2017 general election was very good for Labour here, as they gained the Weaver Vale constituency and made the City of Chester seat safe. There are new ward boundaries for this council with five seats disappearing. Cheshire East council, running from Crewe to Knutsford via Macclesfield, has a Conservative majority which doesn’t look in serious danger despite reports of multiple police investigations into the council administration.

There are three councils to watch in Greater Manchester, and they tell three contrasting stories. Stockport council will remain hung but could see a change of administration. The Conservatives did very well here in 2015, winning the most votes across the borough and seven wards; but all of those except the two Bramhall wards have since voted Lib Dem at least once, and the defending Tory councillor in Marple South/High Lane has gone independent. The Liberal Democrats, who are the second-largest group on the council with 21 seats (to 25 for Labour, 12 Tories and five independents) will however be on the defensive against Labour in Offerton ward (although the Lib Dems won here handily enough in 2018) and Cheadle Hulme North (a formerly safe ward which Labour gained by two votes last year). Labour’s best chance of a gain is in Manor ward where the defending Lib Dem councillor has gone independent; if they pick Manor up they will almost certainly remain as the largest party on the council. Manor is the only ward of these listed here which is in the Stockport constituency of Independent Group MP Ann Coffey. For the Lib Dems to form the administration, they will need to hold every seat they are defending and gain five seats from the Tories; not impossible, but not easy either.

2018 was the year when the Tory grip on Trafford council was finally broken, with Labour becoming the largest party. They are two seats short of a majority on 30, with 29 Conservative councillors and two Lib Dems and two Greens holding the balance of power. All the indications are that Labour will repeat the large number of gains they made last year to take an overall majority in Trafford, and it could be quite a big one.

Quite a difference from the Greatest Town in the Known Universe. I wrote in this column last year that the headlines on 3 May 2019 would read “LABOUR LOSE BOLTON”. Like every other political commentator over the last year, I was wrong: a catastrophic 2018 for Bolton Labour was capped in November by one of their councillors going independent, which put the ruling Labour group on 30 out of 60 seats and with no overall majority. The Conservatives are the main opposition on 19, with three seats each for the Lib Dems, UKIP and newcomers Farnworth and Kearsley First, and two independent councillors (one elected as Lib Dem, the other as Labour).

In 2015 Labour won fourteen of Bolton’s twenty wards. A repeat of the 2018 results would see them lose five seats nett, with the Conservatives gaining Breightmet, Horwich/Blackrod and Hulton, Farnworth and Kearsley First picking up Farnworth and Kearsley, and a Lib Dem gain in Westhoughton South. Labour are also in trouble in Horwich North East where the Lib Dems fell narrowly short last year, and their one realistic chance of a gain – your columnist’s own Little Lever and Darcy Lever, which was a Labour gain Labour last year but was the only ward in north-west England to vote UKIP in 2015 – is not nailed on, with the local Tories looking to tap into the rampant anti-council sentiment and UKIP councillor Sean Hornby seeking re-election. I’ve had a six-page leaflet off Hornby which barely mentions the B-word, instead focusing on his own record as a councillor. One more seat is likely to change hands: the Lib Dem defector is retiring in Smithills ward and the party should recover that seat without much trouble. The Liberal Democrats may also be tempted to have another go at Astley Bridge, where they came from nowhere to run the Conservatives close in 2018, and are now also the challengers to the Tories in Westhoughton North.

As can be seen there is little chance of Labour getting a majority back in Bolton in 2019, but as there are fewer realistic Tory targets than realistic Labour losses (the Conservative vote in Bolton is inefficiently distributed) the likelihood is that Labour will remain as the largest party on a hung council. It will be interesting to see what happens to the administration after the election, though.

Yorkshire and the Humber

Things are quieter in Yorkshire and the Humber, with fewer councils worth looking at. Yorkshire has nine metropolitan boroughs, all but one of which have Labour majorities: the odd one out is Calderdale, and that may well fall to Labour this year. Calderdale council currently has 24 Labour members, 20 Conservatives, six Lib Dems and two independents; there are six “split” wards with councillors from more than one party, and this May the Tories are defending every single one of them. Two of those split wards are Luddendenfoot and Sowerby Bridge where Labour had big leads last year, so the chances are that Labour will make the two net gains they need for overall control in Calderdale.

The rest of the Yorkshire Mets should see Labour retain their majorities, although there is one interesting coda to note. Steve Wilson, elected as a Labour member of Sheffield city council in 2015, is married to the Independent Group MP Angela Smith; he has joined his wife in leaving the Labour party, and is seeking re-election to the council in East Ecclesfield ward as an independent. With the Independent Group not having registered as a party in time to have official candidates at these local elections, this is as close as you’ll get this week to a Change UK candidature.

In North Yorkshire, York council has been excellently previewed by Pol Maps Info UK, and I commend that piece to you if you’ve not already read it (link). Outside the big city the Conservatives will be looking to gain overall control of the misnamed Scarborough council, which as well as the eponymous resort covers the Yorkshire coast from Whitby to Filey, although boundary changes make things difficult to predict there. There is one by-election to Craven district council from Upper Wharfedale ward: this is an enormous swathe of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, covering Wharfedale from Threshfield northwards. The Tour de France was here in 2014, with the first Yorkshire stage traversing the ward from south to north; before that came the film Calendar Girls, which was largely filmed in the village of Kettlewell at the centre of the ward. Upper Wharfedale is a very safe Conservative ward and their candidate Sue Metcalfe should be favoured.

The most interesting contest in the old Humberside area would appear to be for North East Lincolnshire council, covering Grimsby, Cleethorpes and their hinterland. This has a Labour minority administration at the moment, but Labour and the Tories are tied on 18 seats each with 22 necessary for a majority. Four net gains for either party to gain overall control looks like a big ask, but if the Conservatives become the largest party they may seek to take control of the leadership. That leadership is open at the moment after the previous Labour leader, Ray Oxby, abruptly resigned over a combination of (among other things) personal abuse from his constituents and controversy over a council plan to replace a roundabout in Grimsby. Proof, if proof were needed, that all politics is local.

East Midlands

There is less of interest in the rest of Lincolnshire; but one council which is likely to see a big swing compared to the 2015 result is Boston. The UK Independence Party carried Boston in the 2015 council elections with 34% of the vote; they won 13 seats and tied with the Conservatives for largest party status. Since then a series of by-elections and defections have given the Tories a majority with UKIP down to just six councillors; the Kippers crashed and burned in the 2017 Lincolnshire county elections, and Paul Nuttall (who was leading the party that week) had an appalling result five weeks later in the Boston and Skegness constituency. Now Boston can be a very volatile place at local level (in 2007 a pro-bypass independent slate came from nowhere to win an overall majority) but on recent form we can expect the Conservatives to make their majority official at the ballot box.

The biggest contest in the East Midlands region is for Leicester‘s elected mayoralty. Labour veteran Sir Peter Soulsby (who was first elected to Leicester city council as far back as 1974) is seeking re-election for a third term as Mayor; in 2015 he won in the first round with 55% of the vote, the Conservatives on 19% being his closest challenger. This time the Tory candidate against Sir Peter has government experience: Baroness Verma was a junior energy minister in the Coalition and served in the Department for International Development in Cameron’s second term, but she hasn’t featured in the May governments. Also standing are Stuart Young for UKIP, Mags Lewis for the Green Party, Nigel Porter for the Liberal Democrats, Stephen Score for the Socialist Alternative and independent candidate Sanjay Gogia. Not much else in Leicestershire looks likely to change significantly, although if the Tories are having a bad night Hinckley and Bosworth may be vulnerable to the Lib Dems.

Nottinghamshire, however, has some very interesting contests coming up with independents being at the heart of them. Mansfield‘s elected mayoralty has been in the hands of the Mansfield Independent Forum party since the post was created in 2002; the current mayor is Kate Allsop, who beat Labour 53-47 in the runoff four years ago. She is standing for a second term. The Labour selection had to be rerun twice after the original candidate fell out with the local party and the first replacement candidate was dropped for anti-Semitism; the party has ended up with Andy Abrahams, a former engineer and maths teacher, as their standard bearer. Independent candidate Philip Shields, who was third in the 2015 election, is having another go; another independent on the ballot paper is Stephen Garner, who was elected to Mansfield council in 2015 and Nottinghamshire county council in 2017 on the Mansfield Independent Forum slate. The Tories may hold the Mansfield parliamentary seat, but they don’t usually make a serious effort in the town’s local elections; and this is illustrated by the fact that their mayoral candidate this time is George Jabbour. The only person ever to have sought election in all four nations of the UK, Jabbour has previously contested and lost mayoral elections in Doncaster and Watford.

Next to Mansfield is Ashfield district, which doesn’t have an elected mayor but does have a figure with the profile of one. This column has previously covered the rise, fall and rise of Jason Zadrozny, whose Ashfield Independents won just one seat in the 2015 election – Zadrozny himself in Larwood ward, during his “fall” period. Ashfield’s Larwood ward is named after the great Nottinghamshire and England fast bowler of yesteryear, and like Harold Larwood in his prime Jason Zadrozny (once his recent legal troubles were over) wasted no time in getting the opposition out. He is now the leader of the council thanks to an enormous split in the local Labour party, which had won an overall majority here four years ago. Recent by-elections in the district have been stormed by Zadroznyite candidates, and this column will be surprised if the Ashfield Independents don’t win an overall majority. It could be a very large one.

Further south again is Broxtowe, which includes some ex-mining towns like Eastwood but is mostly Nottingham suburbia. This looks a more conventional contest, with a Conservative majority at the moment and independents almost nowhere to be seen. With one prominent exception: the local MP Anna Soubry, who is one of the three Conservatives to have joined the Independent Group. This is the first poll in Broxtowe since Soubry’s defection, and it will be interesting to see if there is any effect on the party contest here.

Over the county boundary in Derbyshire we have Amber Valley district, which was a top Labour target in the 2018 local elections; but that year saw the Conservatives increase their majority in this two-party state to 25-20. Despite that, Labour have a good shout at gaining control this time: this is the year in Amber Valley’s electoral cycle when the Tory-voting wards all come up for election at once, and Labour are only defending one seat from the 2015 result. The Conservatives are particularly vulnerable in the town of Belper, which is trending sharply to the left and has elections in all four of its wards; if the Conservatives lose three of those four, their majority will be gone.

Things are the other way round in the city of Derby, where Labour did very well in 2015 by winning eleven out of seventeen wards. Six of those wards voted for other parties last year (two going to UKIP!) as an unpopular Labour administration crashed and burned. One of the Labour councillors who lost their seats in 2018 was the leader of the council Ranjit Banwait, who was knocked out by UKIP; Banwait took his result to the Election Court, citing fake news on the UKIP leaflets, but he lost there as well. The Labour cause in Derby is unlikely to have been helped by the recent antics of controversy magnet and local MP Chris Williamson. Despite being the second-largest party on the council the Conservatives now run Derby as a minority, and if there is a further Labour collapse the Tories could become the largest party – although with UKIP and Lib Dem strength in various wards an overall Tory majority looks a big ask.

Finally, spare a thought for the electors of Northamptonshire. The gross financial incompetence of Northamptonshire county council means that the Northamptonshire district council elections have been cancelled, pending reorganisation of local government in the county. Unless there are by-elections in the interim Andrew’s Previews is likely to be next in Northants in 2020, when two new unitary councils are expected to hold their first elections.

West Midlands

The West Midlands region has lots of marginal parliamentary seats but relatively few marginal councils. One which however stands out is the volatile metropolitan borough of Dudley, control of which has seesawed wildly between the two main parties over the last year. Dudley had been Labour-controlled from 2012 to 2016 after the Labour party gained thirteen seats from the Conservatives in 2012, and a UKIP surge in 2014 also spelled trouble for the Tories. However, Labour lost five seats and their majority in 2016, and in May 2018 the Conservatives wiped out UKIP to take half the seats and minority control of Dudley council. Not for long, though: one of the Tory councillors defected to Labour a few months later, and that put Labour back in control of the council. Dudley currently has 36 Labour seats, 35 Conservatives and one ex-Tory independent; the Tories should recover the independent’s seat but there are relatively few easy gains for them in this cycle. Expect another close result.

Things are similarly knife-edge in Walsall, where long-standing Labour underperformance at council level finally fed through to Parliamentary level in 2017 as the Conservatives gained the Walsall North constituency. Walsall council has been Conservative-run since 2014; the party currently has 30 seats to 28 for Labour and two Lib Dems, and holds control on the mayoral casting vote. If the Tories can repeat their 2018 result here, they will gain an overall majority.

Outside the metropolitan county we have a similar story to the above two in Stoke-on-Trent, but with independents in the mix. The days when Stoke had an ever-changing carousel of independent groups on the council are behind us; instead we now have an umbrella independent group called the City Independents who since 2015 have run Stoke council in coalition with the Tories. Recent parliamentary results have not been encouraging for Labour, who lost the city’s South constituency to the Conservatives in 2017. On the other hand, anybody who tries to predict Stoke elections is asking for trouble. Just outside the Potteries conurbation we have a by-election to Newcastle-under-Lyme council in the rural Maer and Whitmore ward; this was 90% Conservative last year, and Graham Hutton should have no problem defending the seat for the party.

Labour are in a better position in Cannock Chase despite defending a majority of one. They hold 21 seats, to 15 for the Tories, three Greens, an independent (who was elected as Labour) and a Lib Dem. The Conservatives gained four seats in Cannock Chase last year but the map this year is far more difficult for them: a repeat of the 2018 results would see the Tories lose two seats (Hednesford Green Heath and Norton Canes) to Labour and Rawnsley ward to the Green Party. The Greens will also be looking to gain Hednesford South from Labour (that ward wasn’t up last year), while if the Lib Dems can gain a second seat from Labour in Rugeley’s Brereton/Ravenhill ward they will get group status back.

In the EU referendum there was only one local government district in the West Midlands which backed Remain. That was Warwick district, based on the Warwick-Leamington conurbation and the Coventry satellite town of Kenilworth. Warwick council has a large Tory majority which looks like it should continue; however, the gain of the Warwick and Leamington parliamentary seat by Labour in the 2017 general election may give Labour some hope of improving their position, if they can get their core vote in Leam to turn out.

Finally, a mention needs to be made for the large Herefordshire council, where the Conservatives go into this election with a narrow lead of 27 seats (one of which is vacant) to 25 for the opposition. The Tory administration in Herefordshire has been controversial and polarising, and so a hard-fought campaign can be expected between the Conservatives and the opposition, which is led by localist party It’s Our County and is particularly strong in Hereford. With large independent and Green caucuses on the council, and the candidate list giving suspicions of an electoral pact between the anti-Tory groups, we could have a chaotic result. The final outcome may not be clear until June when Ross North ward goes to the polls; that contest has been postponed after the UKIP candidate died.

East of England

We enter East Anglia by way of what may be one of the most hotly contested councils in this cycle: Peterborough. This was a Conservative gain in the 2018 election with a majority of just two, 31 out of 60 councillors; but that majority looks in some danger here, as the Tories stand to make a net loss of two seats if the 2018 results are repeated this year. On the other hand, Peterborough Labour (who form the main opposition) have problems of their own, compounded by the disgraceful case of their MP Fiona Onasanya who has now completed her sentence of three months’ imprisonment for perverting the course of justice. If Onasanya had been a local councillor, that sentence would have in and of itself have disqualified her from public office, and we would be having a by-election around now to replace her; instead this sorry figure continues to draw a generous salary at public expense, and the electors of the Peterborough constituency (which is smaller and more Labour-inclined than this district) have been inconvenienced by a recall petition to decide whether their MP should continue in office. Helpfully that petition closes at 5pm on Wednesday 1st May and the result is due to be announced on polling day. The expectation is that the recall petition against Onasanya will succeed; the expectations for the Peterborough local elections may need to be revised at the last moment in consequence.

East Anglia gives us our first scheme of this year’s local government reorganisation, as four district councils in Suffolk have been abolished and two new ones created. The tiny Forest Heath district (which was based on Newmarket and Mildenhall) and the St Edmundsbury district (Bury St Edmunds and Haverhill) have merged into a new larger district called West Suffolk, while there is also a new East Suffolk district which has absorbed the old Suffolk Coastal and Waveney councils and stretches along the littoral from Lowestoft to Felixstowe. Both of these new units should return Conservative majority councils without much trouble.

One other council in East Anglia worth a watch is North Norfolk. This returned a Tory majority in the 2015 general election, but the Conservative group has since fallen apart like a pack of cards and the Lib Dems are in minority control going into this election. North Norfolk is represented in Parliament by the Liberal Democrats’ Norman Lamb, so his party should be fairly well-resourced for the campaign.

Elsewhere in the region the Lib Dems will be looking to retain the Bedford mayoralty. Now, at parliamentary level Bedford is a key marginal which was one of the Labour gains in the snap election; but the constituency is tightly drawn around the town, and the Bedford district also includes a large rural hinterland. You might have expected this to tip the balance in favour of the Conservatives in the Bedford mayoral race, but you’d be wrong: the district’s first mayoral election, in October 2002, was won by local councillor Frank Branston standing for his own Better Bedford Party. Branston died in office in 2009 and the resulting by-election went to Dave Hodgson of the Liberal Democrats who has held the post ever since. In the 2015 election Mayor Hodgson had 31% of the first preferences, to 24% for the Conservatives, 20% for Labour and 16% for independent candidate Steve Lowe; and Hodgson beat the Tories 57-43 in the runoff. Dave Hodgson is standing for re-election for a third full term. His Tory opponent is Gianni Carofano, a Bedford councillor who runs a vehicle repair business; while Labour have selected former Bedford councillor Jenni Jackson. Steve Lowe has not returned, so completing the ballot paper are Adrian Haynes for UKIP, Hugh Nicklin of the For Britain Movement and Adrian Spurrell for the Green Party.

Essex has some interesting contests, starting in the north-east corner with the Tendring district, around Harwich and Clacton and including Douglas Carswell’s old constituency. Tendring gets new ward boundaries this year and will see big changes compared with the 2015 election, when the Tories had 23 seats and UKIP came from nowhere to win 22 on Carswell’s coattails; in an inspired move, the Conservatives offered UKIP a coalition deal and the UKIP group immediately split over whether to accept it. That was only the start of the falling-apart process for Tendring UKIP; there ere are now only eight Kippers left and the Conservatives have a majority on the council, which is likely to become official on 2nd May. But that won’t mark the end of this Tendring election, as one of the Conservative candidates for the new St Osyth ward has died and that ward will now go the polls on 23rd May.

The Conservatives are also the largest party on next-door Colchester council; however, they are one seat short of a majority and all the other groups on the council have banded together to form a rainbow coalition administration. A repeat of the 2018 results would see two gains for the Conservatives and give them overall control.

Tory prospects are also good in Thurrock, where a by-election gain in March left the ruling Conservative group two seats short of an overall majority; they have plenty of opportunities for gains this year from the Thurrock Independents, who won seven seats under the UKIP banner in 2015 and (if the March by-election is any guide) don’t have much chance of holding any of them.

The Liberal Democrats appear to be confident of a good result in Brentwood, which currently has a large Tory majority. The Conservatives did poorly here in 2018 and a repeat of those results would see them lose four seats, although that would still leave the Tories comfortably in overall control on 21 seats out of 37.

To the north of London, there are two councils where the Conservatives are on the defensive. The party has performed appallingly in Welwyn Hatfield district over the last electoral cycle, having won just three of the district’s seven Hertfordshire county council seats in 2017 and gone backwards on the district council in the 2018 election. One net loss for the Conservatives and their majority in Welwyn Hatfield will be gone, and four of the wards they are defending this year voted Labour or Lib Dem in 2018. The map above is from the 2016 Welwyn Hatfield election when the current wards came in.

The Tories are in an even worse position in next-door St Albans, where their ruling group has 30 of the district’s 58 seats to 17 for the Lib Dems (plus a vacancy), 6 Labour, 3 independents and a Green councillor. Again, one net loss and the majority is gone; and this year the St Albans Conservatives have fifteen wards and half their council group to defend. Six of those wards voted for other parties last year: Batchwood and London Colney went to Labour, Marshalswick North, Marshalswick South, St Peters and Verulam to the Liberal Democrats. If the Lib Dems can repeat those results and also gain Park Street ward, which was close in 2018, they will draw level with the Conservatives on the council.

South East

Normally I would continue perambulating around London with Buckinghamshire, but Buckinghamshire’s district councils have had their elections cancelled this year, pending a reorganisation which should see them swept away in 2020 in favour of a Buckinghamshire unitary council. This may be a relief for the Tories particularly in Aylesbury Vale, where the party has lost several rock-solid wards in recent by-elections along the proposed High Speed 2 route.

However Buckinghamshire’s largest settlement, the new city of Milton Keynes, went down the unitary route some time ago and is holding elections this year. Milton Keynes is a hung council and will probably remain so, with all three main parties having sizeable council groups; but major seat changes are likely in this election. The Tories are the largest group on MK council with 23 seats; no fewer than thirteen of those seats are up for re-election this year, and of those only three look completely safe. A repeat of the 2018 results would see Labour gain four seats and the Lib Dems three, which would make Labour (who currently run the council as a minority with Lib Dem support) the largest party on the council by a big margin.

In the Thames Valley, the Tories have a large but not particularly strong majority in the Vale of White Horse district: this south-western corner of Oxfordshire contains lots of high-end high-paying industries (Formula 1 car manufacturing, nuclear research, particle physics, commuters to Oxford University and the Swindon Honda plant) which are likely to be particularly badly affected by any future tightening of immigration rules when and if the UK leaves the European Union. A large part of the district is also within the Oxford West and Abingdon constituency which the Liberal Democrats gained in the 2017 general election. In the 2007 elections here the Lib Dems won twice as many council seats as the Conservatives in the Vale despite polling fewer votes; although the ward boundaries have changed since, it’s not impossible that something similar could happen again.

Moving into the Surrey commuter belt, the Tories have half of the seats on Elmbridge council which covers outer London suburbia on the railway lines into Wsterloo. This borough is a strong area for the Residents Associations, who work closely with the council’s Liberal Democrat group. If the 2018 results are repeated the Conservatives would gain one seat net and an overall majority; but with several wards being close fights this could go either way. A gain for the Residents would give them a second council to go with next-door Epsom and Ewell. That may be the constituency of international laughing stock Chris Grayling but you can’t reasonably put the blame for Tory underperformance in his district’s local elections at his door; the Residents have run Epsom and Ewell for decades and their council majority is in no danger whatsoever.

Further out from Epsom and Ewell is the Mole Valley district, based on Leatherhead, Dorking and associated towns in the North Downs. This has a Conservative majority of one seat, but the administration is a coalition of the Tories and the Ashtead Independents slate, with an active Lib Dem group forming the opposition. The Tories have already lost Bookham North ward in these elections because they failed to get their nomination papers in and will not be on the ballot; that cockup makes an already slim chance of holding their majority even less likely.

Yet another Surrey district where the Tories can only afford to lose one seat is Tandridge, the far east of the county around Caterham and Oxted. In 2015 the Tories won 12 out of 14 seats; since then independent and Residents groups have started to contest elections in Tandridge and are doing very well, so continued gains for them and losses for the Tories can be expected. Tandridge should go to No Overall Control.

There is also a by-election to Surrey county council from Haslemere division on the southern edge of the county. This was safely Conservative in the 2017 election but had been lost in 2013 to independent candidate Nikki Barton who stood down four years later. Malcolm Carter is the defending Tory candidate, and Barton is trying to get her old seat back.

In Kent, a special mention must be made for Gravesham council whose ruling Conservative group has split down the middle; the 13-strong Independent Conservative group is in minority control going into these elections, with Labour on 20 seats and the official Conservatives on 11. Most of the Independent Conservatives are not seeking re-election, reducing the chance of a right-wing vote split; which is important as Labour are not far in vote terms from gaining control. The Gravesham Tories tend to pile up uselessly large majorities in safe wards, so it’s perfectly possible for Labour to win a majority on this council without carrying the popular vote. There is also a county council by-election here in Northfleet and Gravesend West division to replace Labour county councillor Tan Dhesi, who was elected as MP for Slough two years ago; this is a marginal division which Labour’s John Burden will seek to defend from the Tories’ Jordan Meade.

Dhesi’s successor will be making regular trips to Kent county council’s headquarters in Maidstone, whose district council is currently hung; the Tories are the largest party on 24 seats, but the administration is run by a coalition of the Lib Dems (21) and the Independent group (5). With 28 seats needed for a majority, Labour and two other independent councillors hold the balance of power. The Lib Dems’ task in gaining the seats they need for a majority or largest party status has been complicated by the fact that they messed up their nomination papers and will not be on the ballot in their top target of North ward. One suspects that this one will remain hung.

Which brings us to Thanet, the place where Hengist and his wife (or horse?) Horsa landed in Britain according to that excellent history book 1066 and All That. UKIP tried to follow that book’s maxim that those who land in Thanet conquer Britain, but it didn’t work for Nigel Farage or (in the end) Thanet UKIP. Farage lost the South Thanet constituency in the 2015 general election, and the consolation prize of UKIP winning a majority on Thanet council resulted in yet another of the almighty splits which characterise nearly every sizeable UKIP elected group. Of the 33 Thanet Kippers elected in 2015 (to 18 Conservatives, 4 Labour and one independent) only 12 or 13 are still in the party, and the Conservatives are now in minority control. There are only three UKIP candidates for the 2019 Thanet election so major seat changes can be expected, and a Conservative overall majority looks the most likely outcome.

Our final piece of business in Kent is a second by-election to Kent county council, in the marginal Sittingbourne North division. Sarah Aldrdige is the defending Conservative candidate; Labour, who are not out of range if the Tories are having a bad night, have selected Tony Winckless.

Several Sussex councils look worth watching. We start at the northern end of the county with the New Town of Crawley, a two-party state with an interesting situation: there are currently 17 Conservatives opposing an administration of 20 Labour councillors. There are new ward boundaries in Crawley this year which means that all the councillors are up for election; at first sight these changes look good for the Tories in that a Labour ward is abolished and a new ward created in a Conservative-voting area, but the knock-on effects to other wards mean that things may not be quite that simple. This could go either way. Also in Crawley is a by-election to West Sussex county council for the Northgate and West Green division; this is a Labour seat which should be safe enough for their defending candidate Karen Sudan.

The Sussex coast is also interesting thanks to the influence of Brighton. The UK’s largest seaside resort, Brighton and Hove council has been hung since 2003 with a succession of different minority administrations: Labour from 2003, the Conservatives from 2007, and the (in)famous Green Party administration from 2011 which crashed and burned four years later. That 2015 election returned Labour to minority control with 23 seats, to 20 Conservatives and 11 Greens; some recent defections mean that the Conservatives became the largest party in February, but a Tory attempt to take over the council leadership going into this election failed. Labour did extremely well in Brighton and Hove at the 2017 general election, but converting that into a council majority is another matter entirely.

That Labour strength in Brighton has suddenly spilled over into Worthing over the last electoral cycle. Until 2017 Labour had never won a council seat in Worthing; they now have five, having won a by-election and four seats in the 2018 local elections. Worthing is run by the Conservatives and the Tory majority is not in serious danger this year, but it will be interesting to see if the Labour momentum can be maintained.

On the other side of the city, the Green Party strength has spilled over into Lewes district which now has three Greens and one Independent Green; the ruling Conservatives are one seat short of a majority in Lewes but the Liberal Democrats (who held the parliamentary seat until 2017) are eyeing up a gain. There are new ward boundaries here.

Another south coast city with a hung council is one which Andrew’s Previews has never previously discussed: Portsmouth. This is a shame because Portsmouth is a seriously volatile place politically: in the five elections from 2012 to 2018 only three of the city’s fourteen wards voted for the same party on every occasion. The Lib Dems had run the council until 2014, when a UKIP surge wiped out their majority and the Conservatives took minority control. In 2017 Labour gained the Portsmouth South parliamentary seat, and the Labour party followed up on that by gaining four wards in the 2018 election as UKIP were wiped out; that cost the Tories the votes which sustained their administration, and the Lib Dems are back in minority control. At the moment the Conservatives have eighteen seats (one of which is vacant), the Lib Dems are on seventeen, Labour have five and there are two independent councillors (both elected as Labour). The Conservatives are defending ten of their eighteen seats on Portsmouth council this year, so there is little prospect of them improving their position to get the council leadership back. A repeat of the 2018 results would see Labour gain Central Southsea and Fratton from the Lib Dems and St Jude from the Conservatives, while the Lib Dems gain Nelson and St Thomas from the Conservatives; that would mean that the Conservatives would fall behind the Lib Dems to become the second largest group.

The other hung council in Hampshire is Hart district, based on obscure towns like Fleet off the M3 motorway between Farnborough and Basingstoke. This is one of if not the least-deprive districts in England. Here again the Conservatives are the largest party, but the administration is a coalition of the localist Community Campaign party and the Lib Dems. In recent years those two parties have had an electoral pact in Hart district; that pact has been renewed this year, and with over half of the Conservative group up for election we can expect the coalition to increase its majority.

Further down the M3, the Conservatives are in serious trouble in the Winchester district. This includes a large rural area outside the city itself, which provides most of the Tory councillors; but overall the council is finely balanced with 23 Conservative councillors against 22 Lib Dems. If the wards vote the same way this year as they did last year, the Lib Dems would gain six seats and have quite a large majority.

South West

Our final English region is the South West which has been the focus of much reorganisation this year. The present local government structure in Dorset – unitary Bournemouth and Poole councils, a county council and six district councils – is being swept away and replaced by two new unitary councils. One of these is for the Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole conurbation, while the other covers the rest of the county and has been imaginatively named “Dorset“. The old Weymouth and Portland council was a psephological mess which could elect pretty much any party and often had chaotic election results; but all the other old bodies had Conservative majorities and it seems likely that the two new unitaries will follow that. The new Dorset council is intended to have its elections in the county council years in future, and as a result its next two elections will be in 2024 then 2029 to get it onto the right four-year cycle.

Somerset has most of the remaining interesting contests. These include our final new council, Somerset West and Taunton; this is a merger of the old Taunton Deane district with the tiny and deeply rural West Somerset district. The new council is a far-flung area which covers most of the Exmoor National Park. Both of the former districts had Tory majorities, but the Lib Dems are still strong in Taunton town – they held the Taunton Deane parliamentary seat until 2015 – and West Somerset had an independent tradition until not so long ago. A Conservative majority here is not nailed on if they are having a bad night.

Next door to the new district is South Somerset council, another far-flung district based on Yeovil. This is Liberal Democrat-run; the party won 29 out of 60 seats in 2015, one more than the Conservatives, despite polling 36% of the vote when the Tories had 44%. Since then two Tory councillors have defected to the Lib Dems giving them an overall majority; but with shares of the vote like that it can’t be a strong majority. This is one to watch.

Another one to watch is Bath and North East Somerset, the political home of young fogey Jacob Rees-Mogg. His constituency covers the rural North East Somerset half of the district; but the Tories also have seats to defend in the city of Bath which the Lib Dems gained in the 2017 general election on a big swing. If the Liberal Democrats can keep that momentum going the Tory majority on “BANES” council – they currently have 36 out of 65 seats – could be in danger. There are new ward boundaries here.

In Gloucestershire there is a by-election to the county council in Churchdown division, a large village midway between Gloucester and Cheltenham, following the death of Liberal Democrat county councillor Jack Williams at the appallingly early age of 28. Benjamin Evans defends a seat which looks safe enough for the party.

The Forest of Dean, on the west bank of the Severn in Gloucestershire, had a mess of an election in 2015 with the Conservatives finishing as the largest party on just 30% of the vote, Labour coming in second and sizeable UKIP and independent caucuses being elected. Things have only got more messy since: the are now nine different political affiliations on the council, with the Conservatives (19) ahead of Labour (9), “Forest First” (which appears to be a Labour splinter group, 5), UKIP (4), independents (4), non-aligned councillors (3), Greens (2), an “ungrouped Conservative” and an “ungrouped independent”. The council leader is a Forest First councillor who has put together a rainbow coalition of all the small groups to run the council, with support from Labour. As if you thought things couldn’t get any more weird in the Forest, one of the outgoing Green councillors will be left with a permanent reminder of this election after having part of his finger bitten off by a dog while on the campaign trail. (I wonder whether he put the dog down as a “possible”?)

Another area populated by dog lovers – although only 79 of them according to the 1979 general election result – is the North Devon district, based on Barnstaple and Ilfracombe. This is currently run by a coalition of the Tories and the “South Molton Independents”, who between them have 21 seats on the council and a majority of one. With this being a Lib Dem target seat for the next general election the result here should be watched closely.

We finish our tour of the ordinary local elections in England in the city where Rallings and Thrasher, the semi-official collators of UK local election results, are based. This is Plymouth, a city which is closely fought between Labour and the Conservatives; Labour are on top at the moment with 30 seats, to 26 Conservatives and an independent Labour councillor, and if last year’s results are any guide look set to increase their majority. If you watch Plymouth for nothing else, keep an eye on the Pets for Labour Twitter account, run from Plymouth by Labour councillor and diehard Andrew’s Previews fan Jonny Morris; he will inject a bit of animal magic into your life as a respite from these stressful political times. Sadly this election we will be without Morris’ own feline “special adviser” Max, who passed away earlier this year; Max was due to have a starring role in the forthcoming Andrew’s Previews 2018 book, and I know from Morris that Max was thrilled at the prospect.

Scotland and London

That just leaves three local by-elections to consider. Our Scottish by-election is in the North East ward of the city of Dundee, a series of estates on the northern edge of the city; this returned two SNP councillors and one Labour councillor in 2017, and the Labour seat is up in this by-election. The SNP had a big lead here in the 2017 council elections and this should be an easy pickup for their candidate Steven Rome; Jim Malone has the task of defending for Labour.

We finish in London, which sees two by-elections to Lewisham council. The high councillor attrition rate of Evelyn ward means that its electors are participating in a fourth by-election in six years; down by the riverside, this ward is named after the seventeenth-century diarist and former resident John Evelyn and covers the core of Deptford. At the far end of the borough is Whitefoot ward on the Downham estate, which has been vacated by Janet Daby following her win in the Lewisham East parliamentary by-election last year. Both of these are rock-solid Labour wards which should elect the party’s candidates (respectively Lionel Openshaw and Kim Powell) without any trouble.

A final mention goes to Northern Ireland, whose eleven district councils will hold their second election this year. As this column explained last year Northern Ireland uses proportional representation for its council elections, so seat changes are likely to be small and by-elections are rarer than hen’s teeth. There has been just one poll in Northern Ireland since the 2017 general election, a council by-election in Carrickfergus in which the DUP picked up a seat vacated by an independent councillor. This column does not claim to be expert in the politics of the province and so I shall not trouble you with profiles of the eleven Northern Irish districts; but there are other bloggers and experts you can check out if you are that way inclined. Recent local government reorganisation in the province means that Northern Ireland’s last council elections were in 2014, and the current members of the province’s local councils are the last local councillors remaining who were elected in that year. Once these local elections are over, the Coalition era will finally pass into political history.

The Britain Elects team will of course endeavour to keep you updated with the election results, cutting through the Wild Twitter Rumours from the counts to bring you solid hard facts. Get ready for what’s likely to be a bumpy Thursday night and Friday which will most likely confound whatever expectations you might have. And once you’ve digested it all, before you know it Andrew’s Previews will return next week with the first by-elections of the 2019-20 electoral year, which take place in East London and East Lothian on 9th May in what might be a very different political context. Stay tuned.

Andrew Teale