All you need to know about this May's local elections
This summary list comes from a number of sources but particularly from analyses by the indispensable Colin Rallings and Michael Thrasher...
This year, with the focus on metropolitan boroughs, sees the smallest set of annual local elections. With a third of councillors up for election in most contests there will not be many big changes in control.
The Conservatives under David Cameron have been steady/ stuck at 27% in the metropolitans.
When Labour last fought this year's seats - in 2004 - they were engulfed by events in Iraq and suffered their worst performance in thirty years. Gordon Brown will be hoping to win a few seats back - particularly from the anti-war Liberal Democrats who rode high then - but Labour's opinion poll rating is now below that of 2004 so the Labour leader might lose a few seats in his nightmare scenario.
The Liberal Democrats face a squeeze from both main parties; Labour inching back in their urban heartlands and the Tories winning a few seats from them through active lovebombing. Team Clegg may lose 100 seats - the second year-in-a-row in which the LibDems would have suffered net losses in local government.
In terms of individual seats the Conservatives are particularly hopeful of winning Basingstoke and the Vale of Glamorgan - a win in Wales that would be a good sign for our General Election hopes in that seat. The Tories fear a reverse in Chelmsford and are vulnerable in Hyndburn. Labour may lose Reading for the first time since 1987.
The Conservatives are hoping for gains on the east side of the Pennines - where, at least until now, the Cameron effect has been weakest. Look out for Bradford (where the BNP has imploded and the shadow cabinet visited last week), Calderdale, Kirklees and Leeds. There'll be no spectacular gains but some new councillors will be an encouragement to the Tory leadership and to Campaign North.
The elections in our northern targets will be the best resourced ever - partly because of Campaign North's promise to spend all money raised in the north, within the north.
The big story of 1st May won't be the local council results but the outcome of Ken Livingstone versus Boris Johnson - a race which Boris currently leads. The Conservatives are expected to remain the biggest party on the GLA but more interesting may be the performance of smaller parties. Is this the year that the BNP makes a breakthrough in London?
The two charts below offer some context for this year's battles: