On the 5th May voters across the UK will be heading to the polls to cast their vote on the politicians who will shape their community for the next four years.
As ever, these elections will also be observed through a national lens, giving voters an opportunity to express their views on the national parties, the surging cost of living, partygate, and a myriad of other issues – all outside the control of local councillors.
Within the West Midlands, 15 authorities are facing elections. Birmingham – Europe’s largest local authority – is amongst the few to be fighting all-out elections with all 101 councillors fighting for votes.
The Conservatives have enjoyed a slow creep across the former industrial heartlands of the West Midlands in recent years. Parts of the Black Country, Coventry, Staffordshire, and Warwickshire have all turned blue – some for the very first time.
However, with the Conservative Party in Westminster stealing the headlines will the ‘Blue Creep’ now end?
Pundits and analysts have already predicted that local elections could be damning for the Conservative Party, with predictions that this could be their worst local election performance in decades. In the West Midlands, years of steady progress look set to be lost.
Labour – the only challenger to the Conservatives in the two-party region – is hopeful of reclaiming lost territory. In Wolverhampton, Dudley, Walsall, Sandwell, and Nuneaton the Labour Party is seeking to re-assert its dominance over these traditionally industrial areas.
With elections taking place in thirds across much of the region, change is unlikely to be seismic. More likely, we will see a reversal of recent Conservative gains in areas already controlled by the Labour Party – rather than huge swings and new Labour councils.
Elsewhere, the Liberal Democrats will be looking to capitalise on voter uncertainty and build on their sole holding in Cheltenham and in Solihull, the Green Party will challenge the Conservatives.
However, across the West Midlands generally the choice is simple: Labour or Conservative – there are no shades of grey.
West Midlands watchers are likely to be more interested in what happens after the elections as electoral warfare makes way for internal strife. Historically, Leaders – particularly Labour Leaders – are more likely to be toppled by their own members than residents at the ballot box.
The perception of a poor result – even a winning result – or internal politics, could yet be career ending for a politician or two.
Cllr Ian Ward in Birmingham is probably safe, with the Commonwealth Games only months away. But, in Labour heartlands political power could still yet shift without a vote being cast.