The UK goes to the polls on 5 May for a set of elections which are closest to ‘mid-term elections’ in scale, even though (with the exception of London) they now always fall just one year after the General Election.
London elects its Mayor, via a top-two instant run-off system, and its 25-member Assembly by Mixed Member Proportional Representation (14 from single-member constituencies and 11 via “top-up” to make the outcome roughly proportional by party) for a four-year term.
In scale, these are the most significant elections taking place on the day – London’s population alone now exceeds Scotland’s and Wales’ combined.
However, it will have little influence on various Leaders’ political future because London is now so politically exceptional – it was the only part of the UK to show a clear swing to Labour last year and is of course home to its new Leader, Jeremy Corbyn.
Sadiq Khan is expected to regain the Mayorality for Labour, by 10-20 points. Labour already began to make gains in the Assembly last time out, and may expect to add one or two more.
Scotland elects its 129-member Parliament by Mixed Member Proportional Representation (73 by single-member constituency and 56 by regional top-up in line with regional party strength) for a five-year term. The Parliament elects a First Minister, who appoints a Cabinet.
Scotland is politically exceptional, having come within half a million votes of outright independence in 2014. Nevertheless, it was Labour’s losses in Scotland which delivered such a crushing overall defeat in last year’s UK General Election, so it would hope to gain some ground to show at least a hint of revival.
The Scottish National Party (SNP) enjoyed a stunning victory in 2011, securing an almost incredible absolute majority of nine. It is expected to retain this, and perhaps even increase it slightly.
Labour will likely be disappointed. There is even the potential, with the rise of the Greens on the regional party vote and a Conservative recovery, for Labour to end up third behind the Conservatives.
Wales elects its 60-member Assembly by Mixed Member Proportional Representation (40 by single-member constituency and 20 by regional top-up in line with regional party strength) for a five-year term. The Assembly elects a First Minister, who appoints a Cabinet.
It also elects its Police Commissioners.
Wales is a significant test for Labour, who declined here at the last UK General Election last year.
UKIP is the big imponderable, having outpolled Plaid in Wales in the UK General Election last year despite winning no seats. It, Plaid and the Conservatives are all polling roughly evenly, with Plaid probably just favourites to emerge second.
Labour, meanwhile, is struggling to maintain the 30 seats which enable it to form a single-party government. It is likely that it will have to form a coalition with Plaid, regardless of who finishes second, to stay in office.
Northern Ireland elects its 108-member Assembly by Single Transferable Vote (from 18 six-member constituencies). The largest party appoints the First Minister and the largest party in the largest other designation (pro-British “Unionist”, pro-Irish “Nationalist” or “Other”) appoints the deputy First Minister, who is equal in stature. Parties are then offered seats in its Executive (Cabinet) in line with party strengths in the Assembly, but are no longer effectively obliged to accept them.
Although four parties form the current Executive, in effect the largest party in each main designation is dominant – meaning the DUP and Sinn Féin.
The complex electoral system means it is impossible to predict the outcome for sure. However, the Ulster Unionists and Alliance seem set to pick up some seats on the margins at the expense of the DUP and SDLP.
UK-wide, this will make little difference.
English voters will elect their Police Commissioners and many will also elect their local Councils.
This is a significant test for Labour after its surprise UK General Election defeat. Further losses seem possible, which would render any sort of comeback before the next UK General Election very difficult.
It is possible these will be the last elections David Cameron faces as Conservative Leader. Some gains, from what was already a strong position for an incumbent government, would ease the pressure a little.