Vote 2021: Five councils to watch – these are good places to measure parties’ fortunes in local elections

The local elections on "super Thursday" will be a big test for the main parties, with Boris Johnson hoping the Conservatives get a COVID vaccine bounce, and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer aiming to improve on his party’s dismal showing in the 2019 general election.

Here are five councils in England worth watching to gauge the public mood towards the different parties:

Derbyshire County Council

2017 was a huge night for Derbyshire County Council, with this Labour majority council unusually turning into a Tory majority council overnight after 19 seats went from red to blue in one go.

All 64 seats are up for election once more, and the scale of Labour’s losses last time mean this is a good place to measure Sir Keir’s progress in a part of the East Midlands known for its Brexit support.

However most 2019 MPs in the area are Tories – meaning it will be a tough fight.

An added bonus: Tory grandee Edwina Currie, one-time cabinet minister under John Major, is also standing in the Whaley Bridge seat.

Nottinghamshire County Council

Since 1973, Labour has proved they ruled the roost here in nine out of the 12 elections.

The Tories have only been in overall control of Nottinghamshire County Council twice out of 12, and never for more than one term.

In 2017, there was a big switch, with Tories gaining 10 seats and Labour losing 11, and with it control of the council, which fell to No Overall Control.

The Tories now control alongside independents.

Labour were within three percentage points of the Tories in 2017: Can they close the gap and point to progress, particularly given the three local MPs are from the Labour Party?

Liverpool City Council

A stand out election – for unusual reasons.

The city mayor since the position was created in 2012, Joe Anderson, who is also the Labour leader, was arrested on 4 December 2020 on suspicion of committing bribery and witness intimidation.

While he denies wrongdoing, he decided not to stand for re-election.

Nevertheless Labour’s candidate is still an Anderson – Joanne Anderson, an existing councillor.

While Liverpool is currently dominated by Labour, the last few months of police investigations and findings of incompetence and corruption has damaged the party – but how much will it benefit the Liberal Democrats?

Bury Council

A Labour council since 2011, with Labour on 29 seats and the opposition on 22 seats.

This council is interesting because the two local MPs are now Tories after the 2019 general election.

In 2019, the Conservatives overturned a 4,375 Labour majority in Bury North to win by 105 votes.

In Bury South, they overturned a 5,965 Labour majority to win by 402. A third of this council is up for election.

Lancashire County Council

The result of the 2017 election saw the Conservative Party taking control of the council from no overall control.

Four years ago, the Tories won 46 seats compared to Labour’s 30.

Three of the Conservatives’ most marginal seats are in Rossendale where there is also a tightly-fought district council election.

However in the 2019 general election, the Tories gained three seats and Labour dropped four seats, suggesting a shift in the region against Labour.

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