How to read Thursday’s election results

Understanding what would be a bad, average and good result for the major parties in the local and regional elections

Britain goes to the polls on Thursday, 5 May in the biggest set of elections, outside of a general election, for some years. These include elections to the Scottish parliament, Welsh assembly, Northern Ireland assembly and local council in England. And in London, voters elect a new mayor and members of the London assembly. So how can you judge how the parties have done? Dr Robert Ford, professor of politics at the University of Manchester, takes a look at what would constitute bad, average and good results for the major parties.



Scotland All constituency seats lost. Well behind Conservatives in vote share.

Wales Record worst performance on vote share. Fall below 2007 low of 26 seats. Lose multiple constituencies to Conservatives and Plaid Cymru, serious Ukip threat in South Wales.

Local elections Projected vote shares close to worst performances over past 20 years. Loss of 300-plus seats, and a range of important councils.

London Sadiq Khan goes down to shock defeat. Labour finishes behind Conservatives in assembly seats.


Scotland Nearly all constituency seats lost. Finish in third, behind the Conservatives on both vote share and seat totals.

Wales Vote shares fall sharply, to around the record lows of 2007. Key marginals lost to Plaid and Conservatives; large vote loss to Ukip too. With 27 seats or less, little prospect of governing alone.

Local elections Sharp decline in projected vote share, and losses of 150-300 seats. Labour loses control of key councils.

London Sadiq Khan barely scrapes home in mayoral election, despite double-digit poll leads. Labour lose ssembly seats.


Scotland Substantial constituency seat losses to SNP, but somewhat offset by list seat gains. Finish clear second ahead of Conservatives.

Wales Vote shares a little below 2011. Limited seat losses.

Local elections Significant projected vote share decline on 2012, reflecting rise of Ukip; 50-150 seat losses, lose some councils.

London Comfortable win for Sadiq Khan in mayoral election. Retain all assembly seats won in 2012, remain largest party in assembly.


Scotland Stablise vote shares above 25%, below 2011 but suggesting some recovery from lowest ebb.

Successfully defend most or all remaining constituency seats from SNP, perhaps regain one or two ultra-marginals.

Wales Vote shares at or a little above 2011. Finish at or a little above 30 seats, so able to govern alone.

Local elections Projected vote share a little down on 2012, but under 50 seat losses, well below some forecasts. Retain key councils.


Scotland Vote share at or above 2011 level, suggesting party has definitively “turned the corner”. Defend constituency seats and win back some marginals from SNP.

Wales Vote shares well above 2011, clear majority in assembly, best ever performance in Wales.

Local elections Vote shares close to or above 2012 levels with net seat gain.

London Big win for Sadiq Khan in mayoral election. Pick up at least one assembly seat, enabling majority control of assembly.



Scotland Sharp decline; loss of constituency and list seats. Poll recovery under Ruth Davidson proves false dawn.

Wales Sharp decline in votes, lose several seats to Labour and Plaid Cymru, fall behind Plaid in seats.

Local elections Major (100-plus) seat losses across country suggesting broad popular turn against David Cameron and party. Large losses to Lab, Lib Dems and Ukip. Safe-looking councils lost.

London Zac Goldsmith thumped by Khan in mayoral election. Assembly seat losses. Conservatives becoming marginalised.


Scotland Further stagnation or slow retreat, continuing long trend of decline.

Wales Sharp drop in support. Loss of constituency seats to Labour and Plaid; evidence of large scale vote loss to Ukip too.

Local elections Vote share down on 2012, with significant loss of seats (50-150). Loss of support in multiple directions: to recovering Lib Dems in suburban south; Labour in north; Ukip in east & blue-collar areas.


Scotland Modest gains in vote share and add one or two seats.

Wales Stable vote share and seats, remaining clearly second largest party.

Local elections Modest recovery in projected vote share on 2012, some seat gains. Recovery of control in some tightly contested councils.

London Defeat but not disgrace in mayoral election. Stability but not advance in London assembly.


Scotland Significant vote share advance, at or above best showings in 1999-2003. Wins in some marginal battles at constituency level. Closing on Labour in votes and seats.

Wales Win some key marginals from Labour, increase vote share on 2011.

Local elections Significant improvement in projected vote share on 2012, 50-150 seat gains. Win control of a number of councils.

London Narrow defeat in mayoral election. Increased vote share in London assembly.


Scotland Best ever vote shares and seat totals. Overtake Labour to become largest opposition party.

Wales Vote share up significantly; claim a number of Labour seats on significant swings. Wales begins to look competitive?

Local elections Major improvement in projected vote share and more than 150 seat gains. Exceptional performance for party in government.

London Shock win in mayoral election; multiple seat gains in assembly.



Scotland Vote down sharply again, lose all remaining seats.

Wales Lose all remaining seats, well short of regional list thresholds.

Local elections Further decline in projected vote share, and seat losses.

London Lose both assembly members.


Scotland Lose one of their constituency seats, lose ground on regional lists. Down to 2-3 MSPs.

Wales Kirsty Williams loses last constituency seat. Lose all regional seats, out of Welsh assembly for first time.

Local elections No recovery in projected vote share, little or no net seat gain.

London Vote share declines, lose one assembly member, well behind Greens.


Scotland Hold on to their remaining two islands constituency seats, and enough regional votes to pick up regional seats in several areas. Stabilisation after 2011 collapse.

Wales Leader Kirsty Williams holds on in last Lib Dem constituency seat. All regional seats lost as Ukip advances.

Local elections Modest gains in projected vote share and recovery of up to 50 seats. First green shoots?

London Vote share recovers enough for party to hold both its assembly list seats.


Scotland Hold on to both constituency seats, recover enough vote share to pick up a seat in most regions, meaning a net gain of seats.

Wales Hold last constituency seat, and recover another. Hold on in regional lists as Ukip advance proves smaller than expected.

Local elections Healthy rebound in projected vote share and 50-100 seat gains suggesting party recovering in its traditional local government strongholds.


Scotland Major rebound in vote, outperforming polls and making significant seat gains at the regional-list level.

Wales Gain two seats at the constituency level, hold off Ukip challenge and retain regional seats, or even gain extra ones.

Local elections Major recovery from the trauma of coalition; 100-plus seat gains.

London Rebound in vote share takes Lib Dems past Greens as the leading “third party” in London.



Scotland Nowhere near contention for seats. Vote share no better than 2011.

Wales Win only a couple of regional-list seats after underperforming polls. Fail to provide credible challenge at constituency level.

Local elections Handful of scattered seat gains. Projected vote share below 2015 despite EU focus. Ukip in decline?

London Barely a flicker of life, limited to outer East End. Challenge no more credible than George Galloway.


Scotland Fall well short on regional lists everywhere.

Wales Win 3-5 regional-list seats, under-performing polling expectations. Fail to mount credible constituency level challenges.

Local elections Modest (15-30) seat gains. Disappointing given recent successes, and current context.

London: Well short of the regional-list threshold.


Scotland In running for at least one regional-list seat.

Wales Win regional-list seats in all regions. Become local opposition to Labour in range of constituency seats.

Local elections Significant seat gains (30-60), though less than in 2013 and 2014 – enough to point to another advance in local representation.

London In contention for a regional-list seat.


Scotland Win multiple regional-list seats.

Wales Win eight or more regional list seats. Become genuine threat to Labour in several South Wales constituencies.

Local elections 60-100 seat gains, and projected vote share close to 2013-14 highs. Party can point to another major advance in local government presence.

London Win a regional-list seat, and score above 7% on vote in a demographically difficult region.



Significant decline in vote shares on 2011. Lose a wave of constituency seats back to Labour. Well short of majority in Scottish parliament.


Small decline in vote share on 2011. Loss of some ultra-marginal seats to Labour. Narrowly lose majority in Scottish parliament.


Modest increase in vote share. Gain some constituency seats from Labour. Retain majority in Scottish parliament.


Big increase in vote share, to near 50% on both constituency and regional list.

Gain most remaining constituency seats from Labour, make gains from Conservatives and Lib Dems too. Increased majority in parliament.


Above 50% in constituency and regional polls. SNP wins in all or nearly all constituency races.

Total dominance of Scottish parliament; 76 plus seats.



Significant decline in vote share, suffer constituency seat losses. Drop into fourth place, behind Ukip.


Modest decline in vote share. Fail to win any constituency seats. Finish well behind Conservatives and in fight with Ukip for third place.


Modest increase in vote share. Gain Llanelli from Labour. Behind Conservatives in votes and seats.


Substantial increase in vote share. Gain constituency seats from Labour and Conservatives, finish narrowly ahead of Conservatives to become second party in Wales again.


Large increase in vote share. Constituency gains on big swings and evidence of emerging strength outside traditional heartlands. Begin to look like a genuine future challenger for power.

Seats to watch

Scotland If the SNP advance strongly as expected, Coatbridge and Chryston; Glasgow Provan and Renfrewshire South are the seats to watch – they are Labour’s safest remaining seats with majorities of about 10%. The Liberal Democrats will be trying to hold on in their two traditional islands strongholds of Orkney Islands and Shetland Islands.

Wales Llanelli is the most marginal Welsh seat, swings back and forth between Labour and Plaid Cymru. Currently, Labour hold it by a razor thin margin. Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire is a tight three-way contest between Conservatives, Labour and Plaid. The Liberal Democrats will hope to defend their sole remaining seat of Brecon and Radnorshire, and try to win back Cardiff Central where Labour have a tiny majority. On a good night, the Conservatives will hope to challenge Labour for Cardiff North; on a bad one they face threats from Plaid in Aberconwy and Labour in Preseli Pembrokeshire

Local councils Big English councils where Labour defend small majorities include Southampton (1 seat); Dudley (3 seats); Derby (4 seats) and Cambridge (4 seats). Big councils where the Conservatives have a precarious grip on power include: Amber Valley (2 seats), Swindon (4 seats) and Winchester (5 seats). The Liberal Democrats will be looking to begin their recovery in current or former strongholds – Eastleigh, Cambridge and South Lakeland are worth watching for signs of life, post-Coalition. Ukip will look to make further gains in their traditional east coast strongholds such as Great Yarmouth, and struggling blue collar areas such as Thurrock. Norwich is worth watching closely - Labour hold a narrow 2 seat majority, but if the Greens take 4 seats they will gain control of a council for only the second time in their history.

Mayor and London: The key “swing” seats in the assembly are Ealing and Hilling (Labour lead Conservatives by 2 points); Havering and Redbridge (Conservatives lead Labour by 3 points); and Croydon and Sutton (Conservatives lead Labour by 6 points). If Sadiq Khan wins the mayoral vote in these areas, he will be well on track to become London’s next mayor, while assembly wins for Labour in the latter two could see them take majority control of the assembly (they are one seat short at present). Havering and Redbridge is worth watching for evidence of Ukip strength - they performed well in parliamentary constituencies in the eastern part of this seat in 2015. The Greens, Liberal Democrats and Ukip will all be vying for seats on the city-wide list, so watch their overall vote shares - 5-6% should be enough for one seat while 7-9% should secure two. Currently the Greens and Lib Dems have two list seats each while UKIP have none.

Dr Robert Ford is professor of politics at the University of Manchester.

Rob Ford

The GuardianTramp

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