Parties manage expectations as local election voting begins | Local elections 2022

Polls have opened in local elections, with both major parties frantically living up to expectations as a Tory mayor, Boris Johnson, warns he will need to step up to help those struggling with the cost of living.

The results will be seen as an important test for Johnson and Keir Starmer, who will supposedly come halfway through the British government’s tenure. A total of 146 English councils, and all those in Scotland and Wales, are up for grabs – as well as seven mayors.

In Northern Ireland, voters will also elect 90 members to the devolved assembly in a contest that could see Sinn Féin become the largest party.

Now that the Prime Minister and Chancellor have been fined for violating Covid laws, there is pressure on Conservatives to make some profit on councils across the country.

The last time these seats were contested in England was 2018 and in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales it was 2017 – one of the lowest periods of the Conservative Party’s popularity, given deep divisions over Theresa May’s handling of Brexit. .

Tory MPs have expressed mixed reactions at the front door, with those in the party’s traditional southern heartland worrying voters will stay at home.

Some even plan to use a poor result as an excuse to launch another leadership challenge against Johnson.

Liberal Democrats’ deputy leader Daisy Cooper accused Johnson of not visiting many of the towns in the south of England that have come to be known as the ‘blue wall’. She said: “Your no-show in this election is an insult to millions of people.”

Meanwhile, Tory peer and election expert Robert Hayward said the vote count was “quite” lower compared to 2018. He added: “My expectation is therefore that turnout will be hard pushed to reach 30% by 2022.

“I don’t think this will benefit any party, but more that the electorate is saying ‘a plague to all your homes’.”

Hayward told the Guardian he was stunned by the “range of expectation management by the two major parties” as Tory insiders fear the party could be on track to lose up to half of the seats it defends and some Labor insiders. numbers have downplayed the odds of many winnings.

“It’s a greater range than I’ve ever experienced before,” Hayward said.

Andy Street, the conservative mayor of the West Midlands, said people would vote mainly on “local issues” such as bin collection, schools and transport.

He acknowledged the cost of living crisis was a “real issue” and said Sunak had taken “some good first steps” but said the government should move further to mitigate the effects of rising energy bills before it price ceiling is raised again in the fall.

Street told The Guardian: “I expect movement for the autumn and unfortunately it now looks like it will be necessary as we seem to be heading for another price hike. So I expect further steps.”

Despite some candidates labeling themselves as “local conservatives” and urging voters not to punish them for “mistakes made at Westminster,” Street said there was “unbelievable goodwill” among people towards Johnson, and that he was an electoral asset. Remained.

In his closing pitch, Starmer tried to divert attention from questions about his having a beer with colleagues in April 2021 and emphasized that voters would be motivated primarily by the cost of living.

When asked if Durham police had contacted him in recent days, the Labor leader said: “I have not had any contact with Durham police and I think people are getting tired of the mud-throwing going on.”

“This relentless focus on mud-slinging rather than the problem the Conservatives have in their hands means they don’t have an answer to the real question that so many people want to answer, which is, ‘What are you going to do to help me with my bills? ?’

“We have a clear answer to that, which is a windfall for oil and gas companies, and we use that to help people pay their bills, up to £600 off their bills.”

Johnson also tried to downplay concerns over the Partygate scandal, insisting that he would still be the Conservative leader in the next general election.

The prime minister said he was “absolutely confident that we have the right agenda for the country”, adding: “I have a big mandate to fulfill.”

However, Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey said Johnson’s leadership was a factor in encouraging some people to join his party because the prime minister was not a “decent man”.

He said: “That’s a group of lifelong Tories telling us they will never vote for Tory again while the Prime Minister is Boris Johnson, and many of them are switching over to us.”

Polling stations are open across the country from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Some results are announced overnight, but others may not come until much later the next day.

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