Three Things to Watch in Britain’s Local Elections

Will the SNP win an absolute majority? Will Labour’s Red Wall hold? How well will Labour do in Wales?

Bristol England
Aerial view of Bristol, England (Shutterstock)

Scotland’s will be the most closely watched election, but voters across the UK go to the polls on Thursday.

In addition to the 129 seats in the Scottish Parliament, all sixty seats in the Welsh Assembly, all 25 seats in the London Assembly, thirteen mayoralties and thousands of seats in 143 English councils are contested.

There is also a parliamentary by-election in Hartlepool, which has voted Labour since the constituency was created in 1974.

Polls opened at 7 AM local time and will close at 10 PM. Due to coronavirus restrictions, many localities won’t start counting votes until Friday. Full results aren’t expected until the weekend.

Here are three things to watch:

  1. Scotland: The ruling National Party (SNP) is hoping for an absolute majority in the devolved parliament to press its case for another independence referendum. Polling suggests it may need to do a deal with smaller separatist parties: Alba, led by former SNP leader Alex Salmond, and the Greens.
  2. Red Wall: Longtime Labour voters in Northern England and the Midlands switched to the Conservatives in 2019. Can Keir Starmer, the new and more moderate Labour Party leader, win them back? Or has Brexit fundamentally redrawn the political map of England? A Conservative victory in Hartlepool would suggest the latter.
  3. Wales: Will Labour, long the dominant party in Wales, win an absolute majority in the devolved parliament? (It’s two seats short.) Or will it need the support of the Welsh nationalist Plaid Cymru?