'Super Thursday' to see a truly unique set of local elections in the South West

Mayoral, council and police and crime commissioner elections are taking place in the West Country this week. Credit: PA

This Thursday is becoming known as 'Super Thursday' - at least in political circles anyway!

It is because we have a whole host of local elections taking place across the West Country, plus some others which were delayed from last year including Police and Crime Commissioner elections and the Bristol Mayor as well as some in Swindon and Plymouth.

It means politicians across the South West, and indeed the rest of the country, are busy trying to win over last minute voters.

Nerves are building because these elections are proving so difficult to predict and each party is, publicly at least, trying to talk down their chances of success. Some Conservatives worry that as the country has now had 11 years of Conservative-led Governments, that could mean many may choose other parties for the locals. However, many opposition parties point to the speed of the vaccine roll out and the easing of restrictions as reasons why people may be attracted to the Tories.

With so many different types of elections in different parts of the West Country (PCCs, County, City, Borough and District council elections as well as Bristol Mayor and the West of England Mayor) people will be voting for different reasons and in many cases most people have two or more ballots to cast. Politicians think this will mean many will vote for a variety of parties in the different elections. 

For Labour and the Liberal Democrats this is the first electoral test of their leaders, Sir Keir Starmer and Sir Ed Davey respectively, so it will be a judgement on their leadership. Both are hoping to have some success in the South West. Labour is hoping to hold onto Bristol's Council and Mayoral role and looks to gain in Swindon. The party is also becoming quietly confident in taking the West of England Mayor from the Tories.

For the Lib Dems they are keen on taking control of Cornwall Council (where they're currently part of an independent led coalition). The party is also hoping for success in the West of England Mayoral race.

For the Conservatives it is more a case of defending gains made in the past few years, the party is hoping to keep control of Devon, Gloucestershire, Swindon and Wiltshire councils as well as keeping the West of England Mayor a Tory.

However, local elections can often mean smaller parties do well too, especially if voters move away from the major Westminster parties. Cornwall has a number of independent councillors at the moment and there is likely to be a significant number of independents after Thursday. The Green Party is also campaigning hard to make gains, particularly in Bristol, Stroud and in parts of Devon.

Ultimately, as I have already said, it is the unknown and unpredictability of these elections that is causing nerves to build in many politicians.

This is truly a unique set of elections, many people (probably more than usual) will have voted by post, which means its too late to convince them as they'll already have cast their vote. Also in-person political campaigning has only restarted in recent weeks so the parties, especially smaller parties, have not had as much exposure as normal and haven't been able to canvass as much as they would in pre-covid times so are more uncertain of public opinion.

The final cause of nerves is that these elections are the first since we heard the word coronavirus and no one really knows exactly how that will have impacted voters' decisions.

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