Local elections May 2022: Why Labour is fighting a largely defensive campaign in Yorkshire

With this year’s local elections falling amid the growing cost-of-living crisis and coming after the severe dent to Boris Johnson’s popularity from the partygate scandal, all eyes are on Sir Keir Starmer to see whether Labour can capitalise with voters.

The Labour leader himself recently urged people to “send a message to the Government they can’t ignore” at next month’s vote. But the make-up of the seats up for election in Yorkshire next month means it will prove difficult for Labour to make noticeable headway in this region.

The political composition of the council seats being fought over means the party will generally be on the defensive in Yorkshire as it focuses on retaining control of a number of local authorities.

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Liberal Democrat hopes are particularly high in Hull, where Labour has 29 seats to their 26 and the loss of just one seat would see Starmer’s party lose overall control.

Keir Starmer was in Dewsbury recently ahead of next month's local elections.

In Leeds and Bradford, the concentration – and expectation – will be on holding on to control of both councils, while the party’s more comfortable majorities in Wakefield and Barnsley mean the prospect of any change of power in either area is remote.

There is some hope of tangible progress for Labour in Kirklees and Sheffield, where winning back overall control of each council is possible.

Equally, Labour are likely to win the region’s most high-profile election this year as Oliver Coppard attempts to replace Dan Jarvis as South Yorkshire mayor.

By far the biggest local election vote will be in true-blue North Yorkshire, where 90 councillors are being elected.

Those voted in will serve one year on North Yorkshire County Council before transitioning to the region’s new unitary authority, which is officially starting in 2023, for a four-year term.

Currently the county council is controlled by the Conservatives, with the party holding 54 of the 72 existing seats.

Labour have just four seats on the existing county council. While the party will not be taking power in North Yorkshire any time soon, any substantial improvement on their current level of representation would truly be “sending the message” Sir Keir is hoping for.

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