Polling stations opened across Great Britain on Thursday for voters to cast their ballots in a set of which could shake up British politics and have profound implications for the future of the United Kingdom.
On what has been dubbed Super Thursday, polling stations opened at 7am across England, Wales and Scotland in the largest test of political opinion outside a general election, with the future of the Labour Party and the state of the Union among the issues at play.
Across the country, ballots were taking place in some unusual places including a converted train and the boot of a car.
In Oxford, people cast their votes in a car boot after a member of the team overslept and did not open the polling station in time.
And voters in Scotland battled through snowy conditions to make it to polling stations.
The impact of coronavirus has meant a bumper set of elections – including contests postponed from 2020 – and logistical difficulties for electoral administrators.
While more voters are expected to cast postal ballots, those going to polling stations are being encouraged to take their own pen or pencil and wear a face covering.
As well as local council and mayoral contests, the Hartlepool parliamentary by-election will indicate what progress – if any – Labour has made in regaining votes in its former northern heartlands.
Hartlepool was held by Labour with a majority of 3,595 in 2019 even as other bricks in the so-called “red wall” crumbled – in part due to the Brexit Party splitting the Tory vote.
Defeat would be a blow to Sir Keir Starmer and provide a rare by-election gain for a governing party.
The Labour leader and his wife Victoria were seen casting their vote in London's Mayoral and Assembly election at a polling station in north London on Thursday morning.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his fiancee, Carrie Symonds, were also seen casting their vote in the London elections.
The PM has sought to manage expectations ahead of the elections, playing down his chances of taking Hartlepool – a seat that has been Labour since its creation in 1974.
With results across England expected to filter through over several days as coronavirus restrictions slow the counting process, it could be a difficult long weekend for Labour.
Sir Keir said it would take time to rebuild his party after the worst general election result since 1935 under Jeremy Corbyn, adding: “I never thought we would climb the mountain we have to climb in just one year.”
The Conservatives hope to achieve a “hat trick” of successes, winning Hartlepool and retaining the mayoralties in Teesside and the West Midlands.
For Labour, success is expected in the form of Sadiq Khan winning a second term in London.
Mr Khan, his wife Saadiya and their dog Luna were seen arriving at the polling station in South London on Thursday morning.
While the results in England will determine who runs key authorities and give an indication of the state of politics ahead of the next general election due in 2024, the contest in Scotland could have a far greater impact.
Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon’s push for a second independence referendum means the stakes are high in the Holyrood contest.
The SNP is certain to emerge again as the largest party in the Scottish Parliament after the election, but it wants to win an overall majority of MSPs as it pushes for a second independence referendum – something which polls suggest remains in the balance.
Mr Johnson has refused to countenance another referendum, setting up the potential for constitutional fireworks over the coming months or years if Ms Sturgeon gets the outcome she desires.
The SNP leader insisted her focus would be on tackling coronavirus and rebuilding the economy.
In Wales, Mark Drakeford hopes to maintain Labour’s grip on the Senedd – but he may find himself forced to forge a new coalition to stay as First Minister.
That could mean talks with Plaid Cymru, whose leader, Adam Price, has committed to an independence referendum within five years if his party wins a majority.
Votes in the Hartlepool by-election will be counted overnight, with a result expected in the early hours of Friday, while Holyrood votes will be counted on Friday and Saturday.
In Wales, the make-up of the Senedd should become clear on Friday.
It could be Sunday night before all the results in England’s local contests are known, while the final results in Police and Crime Commissioner elections may not come until Monday night.