Wales goes to the polls with elections across all 22 local authorities
Wales will go to the polls today with elections in wards across all 22 local authorities, with polling booths open between 7am and closing at 10pm.
As in last year’s Senedd election, the rules have been changed so that anyone over the age of 16 can vote, as can foreign nationals living in Wales and registered to vote. They can be a British, Irish or Commonwealth national, an EU citizen or a foreign national who is permitted to be in the UK.
Councils in Wales will begin counting their votes tomorrow, Friday, so we are unlikely to know who has taken specific wards and who controls councils until tomorrow afternoon.
There are a number of specific wards to watch in Wales as well as a number of councils which could see some interesting results.
Across the UK the story is expected to be one of something of a rebound for the Labour party against the Conservative party. But that dynamic could have knock-on effects in a number of Welsh wards.
They include the councils of Anglesey, Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire – where Plaid Cymru have no overall control but governs in coalition with a number of independents.
In Cardiff, Labour will be hoping to tighten their grip on the council but Plaid Cymru and the Greens have set up an alliance in an attempt to make inroads there.
Labour will also be hoping to take back control of Bridgend, where the Conservatives made inroads in 2017 before taking Westminster seats in 2019. They will also be looking for a good showing in the ‘red wall’ councils of Flintshire and Wrexham for the same reason.
Meanwhile, the Conservatives will be hoping not to lose overall control of Monmouthshire and perhaps regain control of the Vale of Glamorgan, having lost control due to an internal falling out following the 2017 council election.
At Westminster, the narrative will be whether Conservatives will be made to pay the price for the so-called partygate saga in Downing Street, which has seen Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak fined for breaking coronavirus laws.
Oliver Dowden, the Tory Party chairman, looked to emphasise to the electorate the local choice they are making amid reports that some candidates had attempted to distance themselves from Westminster during campaigning.
In a statement to mark polls opening, Mr Dowden said: “The elections today are about one thing: who do you want running your council?
“The choice couldn’t be starker – between Conservatives who keep council tax down and offer good services, or the opposition parties who waste money on political games and vanity projects.”
Education minister Michelle Donelan argued that Mr Johnson was “an asset, not a liability” in elections.
Ms Donelan told Sky News she could “understand” why councillor hopefuls wanted to show they are “going to be working hard on all of those things that impact daily life” rather than focusing on what is happening in Westminster.
Environment Secretary George Eustice acknowledged that “all prime ministers will always be very conscious of the mood in their parliamentary party”, in response to speculation that poor results on Thursday could lead to more letters of no confidence from Tory MPs.
Mr Johnson, during a visit to Southampton Airport on the last day before polls opened, stressed that he was “absolutely confident” he had the “right agenda for the country”.
Tory supporters are likely to anxiously be watching out for results in true-blue London local authorities such as Wandsworth – under Conservative control for the past 44 years – Westminster and Barnet where pollsters YouGov believe Labour could cause an upset.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer used his election rallying call to highlight the “constant drip-drip of sleaze and scandal” in Mr Johnson’s administration.
As well as partygate, the Tories have been hit with a string of controversies, including former Wakefield MP Imran Nasir Ahmad Khan being found guilty of sexually assaulting a teenage boy and veteran MP Neil Parish quitting after admitting he watched pornography in the Commons.
Sir Keir said the Government had broken the Covid regulations they had put in place “over and over again” and said the Tory “failure” to tackle the cost of living crisis had been a “disgrace”, along with the Chancellor’s decision to hike national insurance last month.
Writing in the Daily Mirror, Sir Keir said: “The British public shouldn’t have to put up with a Government that refuses to take seriously the very real issues facing you and your family.”
There have been Tory calls for Durham Police to look into whether the opposition leader broke Covid rules while campaigning before the 2021 Hartlepool by-election.
But Sir Keir said it was a “smear” to suggest he breached the regulations while having “a takeaway and a beer while I was working late at night”.
Sir Ed Davey, leader of the Liberal Democrats, said voters on Thursday have a chance to “send Boris Johnson a message he can’t ignore”.
“The Conservatives have failed to deal with the cost of living crisis, voted to pollute our rivers and abandoned our ambulance services,” he said.
“Whether it’s Somerset or Stockport, Winchester or Wimbledon, St Albans or South Cambridgeshire, I’ve spoken to lifelong Conservative voters who feel utterly taken for granted by a law-breaking Prime Minister and a tax-hiking Chancellor.”
The Lib Dems are hopeful of causing an upset in Hull by dislodging it from Labour’s control, while also vying for victory against the Tories in places such as Wokingham and Sutton.
In England, more than 4,000 councillors in 146 councils will be standing for election in major cities including Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham and all 32 London boroughs.
All 32 councils in Scotland and all 22 in Wales will also be holding elections, with polls open between 7am and 10pm.
Meanwhile, tensions were high in Northern Ireland ahead of Stormont elections where voters will go to the polls across 18 constituencies to elect 90 MLAs.
Opinion polls have suggested Sinn Fein is likely to top the poll, and the Alliance Party is tipped to have a surge in support.
Support our Nation today
For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.