Having finally finished my analysis of last year's Cornwall Unitary Authority election results, I will now shift my attention to the local elections to be held this May, with particular attention to Stockport, Portsmouth, Rochdale and my new home of Blackburn.
In Rochdale, the main point of interest will be to see if the Liberal Democrats are able to hold any of the seats they are defending after the last two electoral cycles completely wiped them out; they will be particularly keen to protect their new PPC for Rochdale constituency, Andy Kelly (also their group leader on the council), as he defends the Milnrow and Newhey ward, as well as Peter Rush in Heywood North. I believe they only have any hope of victory in those two wards, the other three are lost to them.
For the Conservatives, they will want to firmly position themselves as Labour's main opposition and to remove the Liberal Democrats as a challenge in their wards. They are under threat from Labour in Littleborough Lakeside and South Middleton wards, but are favourites to gain Norden from Wera Hobhouse (Lib Dem).
Labour will want to finish the Liberal Democrats off - not subtle, but true.
In Stockport, the question will be whether Labour can close the gap on the Liberal Democrats by gaining Offerton (where the Liberal Democrat defected to the Tories), Manor, Heatons North, Bredbury and Woodley, and Davenport and Cale Green (although the sitting councillor, David White, defected to Labour, he is not defending the seat and it would be a Labour gain on 2010). It is a tall order for Labour, and they will need the Conservatives to gain a couple of seats from the Liberal Democrats to make it possible.
For the Liberal Democrats, the test is a simple one, to prove that they have stemmed the tide of unhappiness and to hold onto their seats. Labour have topped the poll in terms of votes cast in both 2011 and 2012 and the Lib Dems would like to reclaim that position.
For the Conservatives, they will want to break out of their Bramhall redoubt and re-establish themselves as a major party in the borough by gaining Bredbury Green and Romiley, Hazel Grove, Cheadle and Gatley, but they are doomed in Heatons North.
In Portsmouth, the issue will be whether the bad publicity surrounding Portsmouth South MP, Mike Hancock, and any perception that the local Liberal Democrats have been overzealous in their defence of him, will finally undermine their remarkable resilience in Portsmouth elections.
Labour will be pushing hard to take seats where they came close in 2012: Cosham - 43 votes behind (where the newly elected Lib Dem in 2012 defected to Labour last year), Hilsea - 74 votes, Nelson (where they gained a seat in 2012). They will also be interested to see if they can improve their positions in Central Southsea, Charles Dickens and Fratton (where the now Independent councillor Mike Hancock is up for election, with no Liberal Democrat opponent). They will want to improve their position in wards that make up the Portsmouth North constituency, which they hope to regain from the Conservatives at the next General Election.
For the Conservatives, they will want to hold on in Cosham, Copnor, Eastney and Craneswater, as well as closing the gap in St. Jude and St. Thomas. They will also want to strengthen their position in both parliamentary constituencies, not lest in Portsmouth South where they will hope to gain from any fallout from Mr Hancock's position.
The Liberal Democrats in Portsmouth are a phenomenon and only a fool would write them off. Labour would be advised to target very narrowly.
In Blackburn, well, I don't know just yet but I am learning.
I look forward to posting about these elections over the next weeks.