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Setting the bar: What would be a good result for the Conservatives on May 2nd?

If there can be any certainty about anything in politics, then the Conservatives will lose a large number of seats on May 2nd. Last time round in 2009 they had a projected national vote share of 38% - that was a 15% lead over the Labour Party who were on 23%. I fear that does not reflect their position in the opinion polls today. It is true that the Lib Dems were on 28% and so they may well fall back rather further, allowing Conservatives to make some gains. It is also true that in 2011 "everybody knew" that the Conservatives would lose seats, and they made overall gains.

Yet it does seem inevitable that there will be a big loss of seats to Labour. It may or may not be  modestly offset by gains from the Lib Dems. It may or may not be exacerbated by UKIP splitting the Conservative vote. But it is difficult to envisage a loss of seats from the Conservatives to Labour not happening. It is simply a question of how big.

A very good result for the Conservatives would be retaining even one of the four counties they gained last time - Staffordshire, Lancashire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. What about Staffordshire where Labour was down to just three councillors last time? Or Lancashire where the Council Tax has not merely been frozen but cut by 2%? A breakthrough by UKIP might deny Labour control but it is difficult to envisage the Conservatives keeping an overall majority.

Even losing those four but nothing else would be a good result. More in line with expectations would be also losing Warwickshire and falling behind Labour in Cumbria.

What would constitute a bad result, in the sense of being even worse than expected? Losing a significant number of traditionally "safe" Conservative seats to UKIP, combined with a strong swing to Labour, might result in further counties being lost. Before 2005 Northamptonshire was run by Labour. Gloucestershire, Suffolk, Worcestershire and Oxfordshire were among the councils under no overall control. Losing territory like this, even if clinging on in coalition or as a minority administration, would be a source of alarm and despondency.


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