Local elections: Coalition nervous amid tough polls

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David Cameron and Nick Clegg
David Cameron and Nick Clegg could have a battle on their hands in the upcoming elections Photo: Reuters

I am on my way to Derby this morning. Like at Westminster, the power in the local council is shared by the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. Like at Westminster, the two coalition parties are fighting the growing popularity of Labour in the polls. Unlike at Westminster, there is an election here on Thursday where voters can have their say on matters economic and political.

Lots of people will cast their vote here this week purely based on local issues. But many will quite legitimately chose to use their vote to cast an opinion on the performance of David Cameron and Nick Clegg. The polls don’t look good. One of the most recent has the Conservatives 11 points behind Labour (Con 29% Lab 40%).

Elections mid-way through the Westminster political cycle are always tough for the party (or parties) in power. Across Scotland, England and Wales there are 500 seats up for election (128 English local authorities, 32 Scottish local authorities, 21 Welsh councils). The seats were last contested in 2008 when Labour was hugely unpopular under the leadership of Gordon Brown (the Scottish seats were contested in 2007)

Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone
Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone will go head-to-head in the London Mayoral elections Credit: Reuters

There is also a crucial battle for the job of London Mayor. Conservative backbench MPs will be extremely uncomfortable if Labour’s Ken Livingstone manages to defeat Boris Johnson.

The Lib Dems are vulnerable to a Labour advance in the councils they control in Swansea and Cardiff. The Tories might suffer from a swing to Labour in councils Plymouth and Harlow. And the big unknown is how many traditional Conservative supporters will disaffect to UKIP.

Analysts expect Labour to do well but Ed Miliband will have questions to answer if Labour lose control of the council in Glasgow for the first time ever. The SNP are predicted to do well there.

But inevitably, in the month in which the UK returned to recession, in the week in which the Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has been under pressure, the focus will be on the coalition parties.

David Cameron could have as bad a week this week as he had last - both here in Derby and across the country.