Week Ahead: Local elections a Westminster bellwether, VE Day anniversary and Yorkshire's Festival of Debate

Local elections take place followed by the anniversary of VE Day, while big names join a debate festival. John Blow looks at the week ahead.

Bellwether Ballot

Westminster will get a sense of which way the political winds are blowing as the country heads to the polling stations for local elections.

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They will be held on Thursday, some a year later than expected due to the pandemic.

Ballots being counted. Picture: Tony Johnson.

Elections take place in 143 councils, as well as various mayoral elections - including one in West Yorkshire.

There are also elections for police and crime commissioners in 39 areas of England and Wales, including in North Yorkshire, South Yorkshire and Humberside.

Although the elections are by their nature local, meaning that councils across the country and region could change hands, they have historically also been seen as a bellwether for how parties are a performing on a national scale and in Westminster.

This allows people to cast protest votes in order to send a message to the Government or the party to which they are usually faithful.

MP and Tribes author David Lammy. Picture: Kevin Brady.

It comes after a period of sustained pressure on Prime Minister Boris Johnson

It will also indicate whether the so-called Blue Wall - a number of traditionally Labour areas in the North of England moved to Conservative hands in the last General Election - is set to remain after Mr Johnson pledged to repay their faith.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said: “We’re fighting for every vote and we know we’ve got to earn every vote.”

VE Day anniversary

The 76th Anniversary of Victory in Europe Day falls on Saturday.

On May 8 1945, the Second World War Allies accepted the unconditional surrender of the armed forces of Nazi Germany, spreading joy throughout the country.

Millions of people took to the streets to celebrate peace after years of conflict.

Unfortunately last year’s 75th milestone anniversary was muted due to the coronavirus pandemic, and this year’s commemorations will be affected too.

Debate time

Big names are scheduled to appear at the Yorkshire-based Festival of Debate.

The event takes place online from from Tuesday in the coming week to June 6, and is due to welcome renowned economist Yanis Varoufakis, Labour MP and Tribes author David Lammy, and writer Maya Goodfellow.

Other well-known figures featured include columnist and author Santham Sangera, former Green Party leader Natalie Bennett, former Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, veteran politician David Blunkett, and Jackie Weaver, the parish council clerk who became an Internet sensation earlier this year, who will host a ‘Festival of Debate Does Question Time’ event.

All events, organised from South Yorkshire, will be presented on a ‘pay what you feel’ basis.

“Covid-19 has impacted our communities in so many ways we don’t yet understand, but it has also highlighted the inequalities in our society that have always existed,” Joe Kriss, programmer at Festival of Debate, said last week.

“Moments of crisis create the possibility of change. We must take this opportunity to bring people together to discuss the kind of society we want to live in.”

At the first event on Tuesday, Sathnam Sanghera joins Desiree Reynolds to discuss his new book, Empireland: How Imperialism Has Shaped Modern Britain, between 5.30pm and 7pm.

People can register online to watch the discussion.