Parties prepare for election battles in 2017

The thought of trudging to the ballot box once again may not be appealing, but that's exactly what millions will do in 2017, with a significant set of local and mayoral elections in May.

Given the uncertainty surrounding Brexit, an early general election will also likely be speculated on next year, although the prime minister has ruled this out, and the Fixed Term Parliaments Act would make it hard to arrange.

Next year's polls, on May 4, will be watched keenly to see how the main parties perform, with all of them facing specific challenges.

None of the leaders of the six main political parties that took the bulk of the votes in the 2014 elections were still in place at the end of 2016.

The leaders of the main six parties in 2014 were gone by 2016. Credit: PA

David Cameron, Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg, Natalie Bennett, Alex Salmond, and Nigel Farage have all left leadership posts within the two years.

Since May 2014, voters in Scotland have voted in an independence referendum, and everyone in the UK has gone to the polls for:

  • The May 2015 general election, which the Conservatives won

  • A set of elections for different authorities in May 2016, including the London Mayor and Assembly, Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly, Northern Ireland Assembly, and police commissioners in England and Wales.

  • The EU referendum of June 2016 that delivered a vote for Brexit

Additionally, party fortunes have shifted in English local elections: in 2014, Labour and Ukip gained seats; in 2015, Tories and Ukip were up; and in 2016, Lib Dems and Ukip gained.

Now all eyes are on May 2017, when there are full elections for 34 English councils, and for all 32 Scottish and 22 Welsh councils, as well as polls in England for directly-elected mayors.

Most of the English council seats are Tory-held, and any losses or gains will be regarded as significant as the government struggles to deliver Brexit.

Any losses or gains by the Tories will be seen as significant and linked to Brexit difficulties. Credit: PA

The polls will also be seen as another test for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn after he won party leadership again in 2016.

In Wales, Labour would be looking to build upon gains made in council seats, facing off challenges from Plaid Cymru, Tories, Lib Dems, and Ukip.

The Lib Dems, boosted by their recent by-election victory at Richmond Park and a string of local by-election successes, will be looking to show they are serious contenders after their popularity plummeted, leaving just eight MPs.

Ukip, under new leader Paul Nuttall, will be attempting to brush the party's divisions under the carpet and build on previous local election success.

The SNP will look to reassert political dominance north of the border by taking a bigger share of the vote and more council seats.

Next year will see Tim Farron, Lib Dem leader, fight to win more seats for the party. Credit: PA

Voting is set to take place in England for directly-elected mayors in new devolved regions for the first time: Cambridgeshire & Peterborough, Greater Manchester; Liverpool City Region; Sheffield City Region; Tees Valley; West Midlands; and West of England.

Additionally, mayoral elections will take place at North Tyneside and Doncaster, which last saw elections for mayors in 2013.

Among the prospective regional mayoral candidates selected so far by the main parties, Labour has picked Andy Burnham for Greater Manchester, Steve Rotherham for Liverpool City Region, and Sion Simon for West Midlands.

Conservative choices include Sean Anstee for Greater Manchester, and Andy Street for West Midlands.

Quite apart from the polls themselves, political pundits will be looking at new plans to redraw the boundaries of Westminster constituencies that will cut MPs from 650 to 600 at the next general election in 2020.