‘Super Thursday’ elections: what to expect in England, Scotland and Wales

With elections taking place for parliamentary seats, councils, mayoral roles and PCCs, here’s what you need to know

On Thursday voters in every part of the UK apart from Northern Ireland go to the polls in the biggest democratic outing since the 2019 general election. Here is an indication of what to expect and when.

Scottish parliament

What is the election? This is for the devolved parliament, which in turn selects the Scottish government. Those aged 16 and over are voting for 129 MSPs in all – 73 elected on a constituency basis, by first past the post, and 56 more by the party list-based additional member system, with seven members elected for each of eight Scottish regions.

Who is expected to to win? This is a potentially crucial result for the future of Scotland and the UK more widely. If the SNP wins a clear majority, it will give the party a mandate to push for a new independence referendum – which the UK government has said it will refuse. Immediate pre-election polls have been mixed, with some predicting an SNP majority of about seven, while others have said the party will fall short by about six seats. The Conservatives are polling higher than Labour, while one imponderable is the impact of Alba, the new party launched by the ex-SNP leader Alex Salmond.

When will we know? The initial constituency results should start to arrive as early as Friday lunchtime, with a majority being counted that day, with the other seats, and the regional MSPs, being announced across Saturday.

Welsh parliament

What is the election? For the devolved Welsh parliament, the Senedd. Like Scotland, there is a mix of constituency members – 40 in all – and 20 chosen by regional list, with four picked across five Welsh regions. Those aged 16 and over can vote.

Who is expected to win? Labour has led the devolved administration, whether alone or with other parties, since the first election in 1999. It is leading in the polls again, even though the Conservatives made gains in Wales in the general election. Labour is helped by the prominence of its leader in Wales, Mark Drakeford, the incumbent first minister, whose handling of Covid has been generally praised. But coronavirus is also seen as making the election hard to predict, not least regarding turnout.

When will we know? Counting begins on Friday, with results from constituencies mainly arriving in the afternoon, and the regional ones slightly later.

London mayor and assembly

What is the election? It is just one of 13 mayoralties being contested on Thursday, but forms the biggest vote for individual candidates anywhere in the UK. There are 20 hopefuls, the bulk of them independents and other outsiders. The choice is made using supplementary vote – voters can pick both a first and second choice candidate, with their vote being transferred if their first choice is not in the top two. In the parallel London assembly vote, people also get two votes, for one of 14 constituency members, and 11 London-wide members.

Who is expected to win? Sadiq Khan, the Labour incumbent. Some earlier polls suggested Khan could even win more than 50% of first choice votes, not needing a runoff with the second-placed challenger, who will almost inevitably be the Conservatives’ Shaun Bailey. The polls have tightened a bit, but for all Team Khan’s expressions of worry about complacency, victory seems assured in what is, these days, a firmly Labour city. Other things to look out for include how well the Greens and Lib Dems perform, and whether the actor turned politician Laurence Fox does less well than the novelty candidate Count Binface.

When will we know? The mayoral result is expected on Saturday, but it could be Sunday. The constituency assembly seats are likely also be declared on Saturday and Sunday.

Other English mayors

What are the elections? There are seven for so-called combined authority mayors: Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, Greater Manchester, Liverpool City Region, Tees Valley, West Midlands, West of England, and the new role for West Yorkshire. There are also five single-authority mayors being elected: Bristol, Doncaster, Liverpool, North Tyneside and Salford. The bumper crop is because this covers elections due both this year and in 2020, when they were postponed due to Covid. These mayors are also elected using supplementary vote, as in London.

Who is expected to win? In many places, the result seems fairly clear, but several races will be closely watched. Labour had hoped to unseat the Conservatives’ Andy Street as West Midlands mayor, but that now seems less likely. The Tories’ Ben Houchen seems set for easy re-election in Tees Valley, highlighting the shifting election loyalties there. Labour is more hopeful about West Yorkshire, where its candidate is the MP Tracy Brabin, and potentially even West of England, currently Conservative-held.

When will we know? It varies. Doncaster is likely to be first, as early as Friday morning. Others will be spread out over Friday and Saturday, while in West Yorkshire the count is not even due to start until Sunday.

Hartlepool byelection

What is the election? For a new MP for Hartlepool. It was triggered after the Labour MP Mike Hill resigned amid a parliamentary investigation into an allegation of sexual harassment, which he denies.

Who is expected to win? Labour has held the seat since it was created in 1974, but there is increasing expectation that the Conservatives could take it. This would both be another sign of the Tories’ increasing strength in former Labour heartlands, and a notable achievement after 11 years of Conservative government, as well as a serious blow to the Labour leader, Keir Starmer. A poll on Tuesday, albeit one with a small sample, said the Conservatives were 13 points ahead, while Labour internal data has also suggested a defeat.

When will we know? Probably not before at least 4am on Friday, as the counting will only start after the verification of votes for other local elections.

English council elections

What are the elections? There are a lot – the combined 2020 and 2021 elections. They total more than 4,600 seats across 143 councils, taking in metropolitan, unitary, county and district councils.

Who is expected to win? The obvious answer is: it depends where you look. The elections expert and Conservative peer Robert Hayward has highlighted a series of possible indicators to keep an eye out for, such as whether the Conservatives win any councillors on currently Tory-free northern councils such as Gateshead, Knowsley and Rotherham, or hold councils they took control of in their successful 2017 local elections, such as Derbyshire and Lancashire. Labour will also be looking to see if it can make gains in traditionally Tory southern towns such as Worthing, Crawley and Southend.

When will we know? Again, it depends. The majority of councils are due to start counts on Friday, but some will not do this before Saturday or Sunday.

Police and crime commissioner elections

What are the elections? There are 39 taking place in England and Wales. Police and crime commissioners (PCCs) are elected officials with oversight of their local police forces. In place since 2012, these exist for every English and Welsh police area apart from London and Greater Manchester, where the mayor is responsible. They are elected using the supplementary vote system.

Who is expected to win? It will – obviously – vary. In the last set of elections, in 2016, there were 20 Conservative PCCs, 15 for Labour, two for Plaid Cymru and three independents. The voter turnout was low, at just under 27%.

When will we know? PCC elections could bring the longest waits. Five are expected to declare at some point on Friday, with others on Saturday and Sunday, but 15 counts are not even starting until Monday.


Peter Walker Political correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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