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Local election results 2022: Tories face Labor challenge — follow latest | News

The polls have closed and counting is underway in a crucial set of midterm local elections.

Yet for Labor and Sir Keir Starmer, the polls will also be a barometer of whether his party can regain ground in Scotland and key red-wall seats which, if anything, have moved further towards the Conservatives since they were last contested in 2018. For the Liberal Democrats, the local elections will show whether the party is finally re-emerging as an electoral force.

In Northern Ireland, Sinn Fein is expected to become the largest party for the first time, with expected results from lunchtime.

Johnson was accompanied by his dog, Dilyn, as he voted this morning. Starmer and his wife, Victoria, cast their votes at a polling station in north London.

The prime minister brought his dog, Dilyn, to the polling station

TIMES PHOTOGRAPHER JACK HILL

The Labor leader was joined by his wife, Victoria

The Labor leader was joined by his wife, Victoria

AARON CHOWN/PA

Results begin to trickle in

Labor has retained control of Sunderland city council after seeing off challenges from the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats.

The local authority was seen as a potential banana skin for Sir Keir Starmer’s party after its majority was cut to only six seats in the last two elections.

This time round it lost only one further seat to the Liberal Democrats, leaving it with 41 councilors out of 75. Labor has controlled the local authority since it was formed in 1974.

Graeme Miller, leader of the council, celebrates keeping his Washington South Ward seat

Graeme Miller, leader of the council, celebrates keeping his Washington South Ward seat

IAN FORSYTH/GETTY IMAGES

Graeme Miller, the council’s leader, held off a 7 per cent swing from the Conservatives to keep his seat in Washington South Ward.

Elsewhere Labor has held South Tyneside, Wigan and Halton, while the Conservatives have held Harlow, Brentwood, Redditch and Broxbourne.

Most eyes are now on Westminster, where Labor are hopeful of gaining a majority. The result is expected at about 3am.

Polls close — the counting begins

Polls across the country have now closed, and the counting begins. There will be several results overnight — including the London councils of Westminster and Wandsworth, which could swing from the Tories to Labor — with other councils declaring throughout the early morning and all day on Friday. Some areas will not return results until Saturday.

Boris Johnson voted in Westminster and appeared in good spirits, despite predictions that the Conservatives could be headed for heavy losses.

He later tweeted a video in which he said he voted for his party because “it’s Conservatives who deliver, Conservatives who get the bins collected”.

Keir Starmer also tweeted after voting, saying: “Today is our chance to send the Tories a message they can’t ignore: Britain deserves better”.

As polls closed, Ed Davey, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, said he was hopeful about making inroads in Tory-held areas of southern England — the so-called “Blue Wall”.

Across England, more than 4,000 councilors in 146 councils are standing for election in major cities including Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham and each one of the 32 London boroughs.

All 32 councils in Scotland and all 22 in Wales are also holding elections.

In Northern Ireland, voters are electing a new 90-seat Assembly, with polls suggesting Sinn Fein could win the largest number of seats, and the post of first minister, in what would be a historic first.

Why are the Northern Ireland assembly elections so important

The most important elections taking place today are the ones that most people in Britain are paying the least attention to (Oliver Wright writes).

This is because alongside the local council elections in England, Scotland and Wales, people in Northern Ireland are voting in what are expected to be the most consequential elections in two decades.

Against a backdrop of deep Unionist divisions caused by Brexit, Sinn Fein is likely to become the largest party in the province for the first time, with the right to nominate Northern Ireland’s prime minister.

That in turn could trigger a collapse in power sharing, amplify calls for the government to rip up the Northern Ireland Protocol that was signed as part of the Brexit deal and lead to a period of significant political and diplomatic upheaval — in London, Brussels and Belfast .

Results from Northern Ireland are expected to be announced from lunchtime on Friday.

Divisions among the Unionists have opened the door for Sinn Fein to possibly become the largest party in Northern Ireland for the first time

Divisions among the Unionists have opened the door for Sinn Fein to possibly become the largest party in Northern Ireland for the first time

MARK MARLOW/EPA

What will a good result be for the main parties?

As ever, the contests across the country come together to form a strange political patchwork. It can be difficult to impose a national narrative on results that are often highly localized (Henry Zeffmann writes).

That said, the most important context in which these local elections are taking place is Boris Johnson’s waning popularity. This will be the first real opportunity to test whether the “partygate effect” that is highly evident in opinion polling is indeed hurting the Conservatives at the ballot box.

Tory campaigners are especially worried that the announcement that Johnson and Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, have been fined by the Metropolitan Police, came just as postal votes were beginning to be delivered, meaning that they might face an especially intense backlash at the ballot box.

The key comparison for Johnson is not necessarily when the seats were last contested in 2018, or even the 2019 general election — but the 2021 local elections, when the Conservatives were far ahead of Labor in the national vote share and did especially well in places where they had previously not had much of a foothold.

That showed that the red wall realignment process did not end in December 2019. But if the Conservatives go significantly backwards, some in the party will draw the conclusion that Johnson’s unique appeal has been extinguished.

The results will therefore play a big role in determining whether Conservative MPs leave Johnson in place as their leader.

Conversely, Sir Keir Starmer must demonstrate to the Labor Party that its relatively positive polling does indeed mean that some of the voters who abandoned the party in recent years are returning to the fold under his leadership.

However, Labor strategists are concerned that expectations are sky-high. While they hope to stride ahead of the Conservatives in vote share, they do not believe they are likely to gain large numbers of councillors. This outcome would therefore risk a narrative that Starmer is not making as much progress as his supporters would wish.

• Local elections 2022: What are the key battlegrounds?

What to watch out for as results are announced

When are the results due in England?

Overall, more than 5,000 council seats are up for grabs across 197 councils. The first few declarations from 2am tomorrow will begin to paint a picture for Labor in its former strongholds.

Sunderland has been under Labor control since 1973 and the party does not expect that to change, but the fear is that the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats could make significant progress in the city that backed Brexit in 2016.

Bolton could be the first scalp for Labor and it is seen as having potential for an early boost if the party can take the only Conservative-run borough in Greater Manchester.

The biggest tests for the Tories

Some of the most severe judgments for the Conservatives will come in London from about 3am.

Westminster has been held by the Tories continuously since 1964, but in key wards only a few votes could be decisive. On the campaign trail, canvassers hope voters focus on local issues rather than national scandals, while Labor admitted it would be tough to take the council.

There will be a big fight in Wandsworth, though, where Conservatives are relying on low council tax as a vote-winner as it is the only authority in the capital to have cut rates.

Conservatives recognize that if they lost Wandsworth — Margaret Thatcher’s favorite council — it would be a huge blow. Activists have been told the area is a priority for door-knocking and results are expected from about 5am tomorrow.

When will results come in from Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales?

The first signs from Northern Ireland assembly elections will appear at lunchtime, where Sinn Fein is likely to become the largest party in the province for the first time.

Results from Wales and Scotland will also start to filter in at about this time. There are not many surprises expected in Wales, but Labor hopes to win back some votes from the SNP in Scotland.

The polling station at Gilling East Village Hall near Helmsley, Yorkshire, continues to operate as Bill Sharp of The Ryedale Society of Model Engineers tests his Peppercorn A1 mini steam locomotives

The polling station at Gilling East Village Hall near Helmsley, Yorkshire, continues to operate as Bill Sharp of The Ryedale Society of Model Engineers tests his Peppercorn A1 mini steam locomotives

TIMES PHOTOGRAPHER JAMES GLOSSOP

A polling station at Stockwell Primary School.  Some of the key tests for the Conservative Party will be in London

A polling station at Stockwell Primary School. Some of the key tests for the Conservative Party will be in London

TIMES PHOTOGRAPHER JACK HILL

A dog stops for a rest at the Merchants Tavern pub in Newcastle upon Tyne, as people continue to indulge in the recent trend of taking pictures of their pets outside of polling stations

A dog stops for a rest at the Merchants Tavern pub in Newcastle upon Tyne, as people continue to indulge in the recent trend of taking pictures of their pets outside of polling stations

NORTH NEWS AND PICTURES

The bellwether council

Back in England, from 3pm an all-out fight in Newcastle-under-Lyme in Staffordshire will be a bellwether. The council has no overall control and the town’s Conservative MP, Aaron Bell, has called for Johnson to go.

It is also an area where Labor is hoping, perhaps expecting, to see some green shoots after a drubbing in the national polls in 2019.

By this point, there should be a clearer picture of how the parties have fared, although some counts will still be taking place.

Conservative strategists claim the Tories could face losses of up to 800 seats. More sensible estimates put the damage at between 200 and 300.

Labor has suggested the wins and losses will balance out.

In reality, low voter turnout will mean making national predictions in the post-election analysis will be problematic.

Voters head to the polls across UK

Welcome to The Times’s live coverage of the 2022 local election results. Polling is well under way across the country, with the first results due in the early hours of Friday. Results will continue throughout Friday and into Saturday, and you can follow all the results live here.

On Times Radio you can listen to live coverage of the results, plus full reaction and analysis through the night. Things kick off at 10pm with Carole Walker, followed by Matt Chorley at 1am and then Calum Macdonald at 3am.

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