UK: What the experts predict for gains and losses in local elections

LONDON (Parliament Politics Magazine) – The results of a poll published last month by the Daily Telegraph suggested that the Conservatives are on track to lose almost 800 council seats in the local elections. Despite the fact that it was based on an analysis by Electoral Calculus, a political consultant, and the polling firm Find Out Now, the report was generally derided as a Conservative-friendly exercise in expectation management. According to the same projection, Labour is on track to gain over 800 seats.

Conservative losses were brought down slightly by Electoral Calculus this week, but the party was still on track to lose about 550 seats. It also predicted that Labour would gain 819 seats.

Ben Walker, a data specialist at the New Statesman, released his seat forecasts based on current polling yesterday. His numbers are quite unique. He predicts that the Conservatives would lose slightly over 200 seats, while Labour will gain roughly 150. According to him, on election day, the Conservatives will lose more than 200 council seats across the United Kingdom (Thursday 5 May). They will lose 63 in London, 38 in the rest of England, 83 in Scotland, and 22 in Wales.

Labour, on the other hand, will gain 35 council seats in London but lose 16 across the rest of England. However, the net loss will be more than made up for by net wins of 41 and 87 in Wales and Scotland respectively.

Yesterday, Steve Fisher, an Oxford University scholar who is part of the team that produces the BBC’s election results analysis, released an alternative seat projection. His projections are similar to those of Walker and Electoral Calculus, with 304 Labour gains and 281 Tory losses.

In all three nations, the Conservatives are predicted to lose seats. They are defending a solid 2017 foundation in Scotland and Wales, and have fallen in the polls since the English seats were last contested in 2017 and 2018.

The biggest beneficiary of Conservative losses are expected to be Labour. Labour is expected to recoup the majority, but not all, of the losses it experienced in Scotland and Wales in 2017. In England, Labour is attempting to capitalise on successes made in 2010, 2014, and 2018. This year, they already have over half of the seats acquired. Labour’s poll support is no higher than it was in 2018, with 40 percent. Labour is expected to gain council seats in England mostly due to a reduction in the Conservative vote, rather than by winning more voters. However, last year’s experience demonstrates that there are a number of reasons why this may not be the case.

In an interview yesterday, Prof Sir John Curtice, the country’s leading psephologist (and a Fisher colleague), stated that counting seats gained or lost is not always the greatest way to analyse how parties do in local elections. The national share of the vote is given equal or more weight by experts, although it takes longer to compute.

What’s up for election today?

In England:

  • 144 councils
  • 4,411 seats
  • Elections for most seats were last held in 2018

In Wales:

  • All 22 councils
  • 1,234 seats
  • Elections were last held in 2017

In Scotland:

  • All 32 councils
  • 1,226 seats
  • Elections were last held in 2017

In Northern Ireland:

  • 90 members of the assembly
  • 18 constituencies



  • Elections were last held in 2017
  • Across the United Kingdom, millions of people are voting in elections.
  • There are 4,360 seats on 146 councils up for the taking in England, and a few mayoral elections.
  • Over 1,800 of those seats are in London, where every borough seat will be contested.
  • The next Stormont assembly will be chosen by Northern Ireland voters.
  • There are elections for all 32 Scottish councils and 22 Welsh local bodies.
  • Polls are open until Thursday at 22:00 BST, with results due in the next two days.

Eleni Kyriakou

Eleni is a journalist and analyst at Parliament Magazine focusing on European News and current affairs. She worked as Press and Communication Office – Greek Embassy in Lisbon and Quattro Books Publications, Canada. She is Multilingual with a good grip of cultures, eye in detail, communicative, effective. She holds Master in degree from York University.