Image Credit: secretlondon123, https://flickr.com/photos/secretlondon/6997132774/
Councils are responsible for local public services such as providing care for the elderly, collecting rubbish and promoting tourism in the local area. This month, they will also be able to levy council tax and this marks the first time councils can raise council tax by a margin of five percent. There are a range of county level and lower tier councils up for election in May.
The local elections also serve as a referendum on national parties and leaders. This will be the first time Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, and Liberal Democrat leader, Sir Ed Davey, face elections as leaders of their respective parties. Typically, parties in the opposition are more successful than the governing party at local elections, however that trend could be bucked this year. The Prime Minister’s personal approval rating has been increasing since the start of 2021 and currently stands at 54 percent according to a Politico poll. Whilst this number is merely suggestive of what the local election results could look like, it appears likely that the Conservatives will face few electoral repercussions as a result of the numerous U-turns made by the government last year.
Police and Crime Commissioner Elections
These elections usually get an exceptionally low turnout; the election for the Police Fire and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire in 2016, for example, had a turnout of 22.47 percent. These elections use the Supplementary Vote system, where voters can mark their first and second choice. The Police and Crime Commissioner, or Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner in some areas, is responsible for the Police force (and fire brigade) in the areas for which they are elected. The position is elected so the public can hold the Police Force to account. These elections are increasingly topical this year given that the Police Force has been the focus of multiple protests over the past year. It is important to note that PCC’s are often affiliated with a party, so candidate’s names will appear next to a political party on the ballot paper, but they are neutral and independent officials.
There is an election in York for the Police and Fire Commissioner for North Yorkshire on 6 May 2021. Candidates can be found here - https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-york-north-yorkshire-55995489
Across the UK, there are elections for various mayors taking place. These are directly elected officials, also using the Supplementary Vote system, who lead the area for which they are elected. The powers of each mayor, de jure and de facto, varies greatly depending on where they are elected and whether they are in the same party as the government of the day, given that the government is responsible for allocating a majority of funding. The most prominent of the mayoral elections is in London where Sadiq Khan is running for re-election. Polls suggest that he has the victory already sewn up against Conservative rival, Shaun Bailey. The various Mayoral elections could catapult a new political figure into the national awareness. Whilst Mayors do not have as much political clout as MPs, this is starting to change given that the former Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, is currently Prime Minister.
The first by-election of this Parliamentary term is in Hartlepool. It will be used by commentators as a litmus test for Johnson’s handling of the pandemic and Starmer’s first year as Labour Leader. Furthermore, this by-election will indicate whether the Conservative’s toppling of the Red Wall in the 2019 general election will be long-lived. Many commentators believe that this occurred because of the split vote between Labour and the Brexit party, whereas others believe that it was a long time coming, given that Labour’s vote share in Red Wall seats had been slowly decreasing since the 1997 elections. Hartlepool was kept by Labour in 2019, but they lost 14.8 percent of their vote share from 2017, taking their lead down to 8.8 percent over the Conservatives. In 2019, the Brexit Party won 25.8 percent of the vote, this will not be an option on the ballot and therefore it will be telling to see how their share of the vote will be redistributed. Polls are suggesting that these votes could go to the Conservative candidate, Jill Mortimer, which would be damaging to both Starmer and Labour.
Devolved Administration Elections
Scotland, Wales and London all have elections for their devolved Parliament and Assemblies. These will take place using the Additional Member System where a voter votes for a member to represent their constituency or local area, using First Past the Post, and a second vote to elect a member from a regional list. The Scottish elections will be indicative of the way that Sturgeon has handled the pandemic and will hold great implications in the fight for independence. Furthermore, it is worth watching Alex Salmond’s new pro-independence party to see how it affects the SNP vote share.
The elections for the Welsh Assembly could also hold national significance for future elections. The main thing to look out for is Labour’s seat change. Polls suggest that Labour will still win a plurality of seats, but it will have decreased from 2016. The Conservatives are suggested to come a close second, which could make it increasingly difficult for Labour to secure the majority necessary to govern. To achieve a secure majority, the party will likely have to partner with Plaid Cymru, which is not the most likely of partnerships, or attempt to win votes on a vote-by-vote basis. This also has national significance because, since 1997, Labour has lost its control of Scotland and the Red Wall, if Labour lose Wales as well, then it could be an exceedingly long time before Labour return to Number ten.
All elections mentioned in this article are held on 6 May 2021
Find out which elections you are eligible to vote in here - https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/who-we-are-and-what-we-do/elections-and-referendums/upcoming-elections
The deadline to register to vote is 19 April. Students can register to vote at both their home address and their term-time address. Register to vote here - https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote
The deadline to apply for a postal vote is 20 April. Apply for a postal vote here - https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/apply-for-a-postal-vote
In the local elections, students can vote at both their home and term-time addresses, if those elections are in separate Local authority areas. Find out more about voting as a student here - https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/i-am-a/voter/students