Conservatives Set To Lose 800 Seats In Local Elections, Says Tory Polling Guru

Robert Hayward predicts Labour and the Lib Dems are on course to make big gains.
Voters across England and Wales will go to the polls on Thursday.
Voters across England and Wales will go to the polls on Thursday.
Victoria Jones via © 2023 PA Media, All Rights Reserved

The Conservatives are on course to lose 800 council seats at Thursday’s local elections, a Tory polling guru has predicted.

In a blow for Rishi Sunak, Lord Robert Hayward told HuffPost UK he expected both Labour and the Lib Dems to make major gains.

Keir Starmer’s party will see their number of councillors increase by 550, while Ed Davey’s will gain 250.

But it is unclear whether the scale of Labour’s success will be enough to indicate the party is on course for power at the general election.

Hayward said it could actually be Lib Dem leader Davey who ends up the happiest of the three main party leaders.

“As the third party in local government the Lib Dems will probably increase their share of council seats by more than Labour,” Hayward told HuffPost UK.

More than 8,000 seats and 230 councils in England are up for grabs on May 4.

The Tories currently hold 3,290, with Labour on 2,062 and the Lib Dems on 1,205.

Independents and others make up the remaining 1,600 seats.

The elections are the first big electoral test for Sunak since he took over as prime minister six months ago.

Starmer will be hoping for a strong showing to help him build momentum ahead of the general election, which is expected to take place next year.

Labour’s huge poll lead has narrowed in recent weeks as Sunak has managed to steady the ship following the chaotic end of Boris Johnson’s time in Downing Street, followed by Liz Truss’s disastrous time in power.

Hayward said Labour needs to be 10% ahead of the Conservatives when the national vote share is calculated after the elections to feel confident of staying comfortably ahead of the Tories as the polls are tighten further.

For weeks the Conservative Party chairman Greg Hands has been setting expectations that the party could lose 1,000 seats, citing a prediction in March from election experts Colin Rawlings and Michael Thrasher.

Losing fewer than that benchmark would likely see the Tories try and claim they had a good night.

Labour meanwhile have pointed to analysis from Electoral Calculus that it could pick up over 400 seats - suggesting it expects to do better than that.

The seats were last contested in 2019, two months before Theresa May was forced from office amid bitter Tory in-fighting over her Brexit deal.

At those elections, the Tories lost lost over 1,300 seats. But Labour - then led by Jeremy Corbyn - also went backwards, losing over 80 seats.

The Lib Dems made huge gains, picking up 700 seats, while the Greens gained almost 200.


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