Local election victory could see Tories ramp up efforts in Labour heartlands

35 councils will announce results today35 councils will announce results today
35 councils will announce results today
Conservative gains in crucial local elections in Doncaster tomorrow could see the party step up its efforts to target seats in Labour's South Yorkshire heartlands next month.

Results for the town’s mayoral and council elections are being seen as a key test of Labour support in the region, and a fresh indication of the likely result on June 8.

Labour members maintain that the party can hold its ground, with some even suggesting they will make gains in the Tory strong-hold of North Yorkshire.

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But with recent reports showing the party is on track to lose 75 seats across England, the Tories are poised to seize on today’s result as proof they are making headway in key battlegrounds.

Jonathan Carr-West, chief executive of the Local Government Information Unit, said Labour is likely to win in Doncaster but the result is expected to be close.

He told the Yorkshire Post that if the party “can’t hold” the town “they may be in real trouble”.

“This would indicate a real disconnect from a traditional northern industrial vote – similar to what’s happened recently in Scotland,” he said.

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“North Yorkshire should be a solid Conservative retention... Both of these results are probably quite good General Election indicators.”

North Yorkshire and Doncaster councils are among 34 English local authorities publishing election results tomorrow, alongside the results of six mayoral elections.

The votes have largely been overshadowed by news of the snap general election, next month but will be closely watched by the major parties for any sign of a shift in their favour.

The latest national polls from YouGov now give the Conservatives a 19-point lead over Labour, putting them at 48 percent.

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The same survey found Theresa May’s “strong and stable leadership” mantra is cutting through to voters more than any other slogan.

The immigration minister and incumbent MP for Scarborough and Whitby, Robert Goodwill, said the issue of party leadership has emerged as a key concern among voters when door-stepping.

He also said that many of the traditional Labour supporters he was meeting “didn’t really recognise the Labour party as representing what they wanted”.

“It’s difficult to draw straightforward parallels between local elections and the general election... but it will be a clear indicator of what people are thinking,” he added.

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“We are very optimistic that the seats we currently hold will get increased majorities... [And] I think if we took Doncaster it would be unprecedented.”

The Labour leader on North Yorkshire council, however, claimed today that the party could get its numbers into double figures.

Labour currently only has seven councillors in the county, but councillor Eric Broadbent said he was hoping for a total of 10-15.

“Looking at what’s going on with regards to the Labour party, a lot of people do like our policies,” cllr Broadbent said.

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“I was door-knocking this morning and people seem pretty buoyant – it’s clear that someone is finally speaking up for us.”

Nationally, research by the Political Studies Association (PSA) has predicted Labour will lose 75 seats in England today, while the Conservatives are on track to gain 115 and the Lib Dems could win up to 85.

PSA member and professor of political sciences at the University of Manchester, Rob Ford, pointed another key party to watch will be Ukip.

“In much of the country this is semi-rural, county shire elections – so places where the Conservatives start very strong and where we had quite a few big bumps in the Ukip vote four years ago,” he said. “A lot of the story might end up being about movement from Ukip to the Conservatives.”