Last Week I looked at the prospects for the May elections in Birmingham; now for predictions for my own local council, Walsall.
Walsall is always a strange place politically. All the parties have their issues and trying to predict anything here is a ‘troublesome’ and very, very difficult. In many parts of the borough we see a large polarisation of the vote based on things other than political lines which adds to the difficulty.
If we based predictions on the recent Rushall and Bloxwich West By elections Labour could have a very good night indeed, for the first time in a decade. With national issues determining the local agenda then we will see some labour gains and maybe a couple of shock results. However, the power of the UKIP vote in Walsall cannot be understated in some seats, which also makes predictions difficult. If the Tory vote is angry they have a natural home to go to- UKIP – and this could hurt the Tories in a couple of seats with no direct benefit to Labour.
So the current state of the parties is:
CON – 33
LAB – 18
LD – 6
IND – 2
Democratic Labour – 1
PREDICTIONS (some are very easy !)
Aldridge Central and South – CON HOLD
Aldridge North and Walsall Wood – CON HOLD
Bentley and Darlaston North – LAB HOLD
Birchills and Leamore – LAB HOLD
Blakenhall – The first of the real difficult ones, a very narrow democratic Labour held seat with a popular councillor who says what he thinks (Pete Smith). I am not confident in predicting a LAB GAIN as not many LD votes up for grab but under certain circumstances cannot see anything else.
Bloxwich East – A split ward with a Tory defending it and I think, with some confidence, can predict a LAB GAIN
Bloxwich West – Another split ward and a recent stunning Labour gain by Fred Westley, think this is another LAB GAIN
Brownhills – Another split ward with the only Labour councillor defending a narrow lead, however given current circumstances a LAB HOLD
Darlaston South – A natural Labour seat but is split with two independents. The ‘Botts’, of which one is up for election after a very narrow win in 97 (11 votes) Their reputation is good but can only see a LAB GAIN
Paddock – The standing Tory councillor is Barry Sanders who was in trouble with the leader Mike Bird a while ago. This is a safe Tory seat BUT Derek Bennett of UKIP could stand here once again and he could gain votes from the Tories. However, in all probability should be a TORY HOLD
Palfrey – who could predict this seat with any certainty! All kinds of issues here – from criminal cases to the vagaries of Asian politics. A split ward with the Tory councillor in 2007 only winning narrowly. In normal circumstances a LAB GAIN, but don’t shoot me if this stays Tory!
Pelsall – TORY HOLD
Pheasey Park Farm – declare an interest! This is my home ward and currently a very safe Tory seat with Mike Bird, the council leader, standing. We, Labour, hope to make large inroads into what have been poor results lately but even with the utmost confidence in our prospective councillor likely to be a TORY HOLD. BUT as part of the Labour campaign team we will do everything possible to overturn this result.
Pleck – Yet another split ward with a shock narrow Tory win in 2007 (it really was a bad year for Labour in Walsall), I have total confidence that this will be another LAB GAIN.
Rushall Shelfield – A fairly safe Tory ward in which the labour vote has decreased recently in the Shelfield segment thanks to a significant BNP vote. However the BNP have become a much weakened force and the highly respected Richard Worrall nearly took the seat in the last by election. He is a prospective candidate for May. This could be one shock for me – LAB GAIN
Short Heath – The first of the solid Lib Dem seats in Walsall with a solid LD majority and the Tories second and Labour third. Difficult to predict how this will go as not sure how the LD vote will go and will the Tories in second try and give the LD a easy run as council likely to go into NOC. Not a confident prediction at all but a LIB DEM HOLD
St Matthews – A Tory held ward but not a safe ward like some of the others in the borough and certainly winnable for Labour with some LD votes up for grabs. This is another prediction where maybe Labour over confidence takes the better of me but predict a LAB GAIN, of all the ones this is the one I’m least sure of.
Streetly – TORY HOLD
Willenhall North – The second of the LD seats and very similar to Short Heath. What I predicted for them stands here. Narrow LIB DEM HOLD
Willenhall South – LAB HOLD
This results with a council in NOC
CON – 27
LAB – 26
LD – 6
IND – 1
So the question will be; how will the LibDems support the Tories? Even though the current leader has been scathing on his blog regarding some of the budget cuts, making it a difficult ‘marriage’, going into partnership with Labour could be even more problematic. I don’t think a Tory minority leadership is viable.
Of course two of my predictions are marginal and Walsall politics, as I said, are not easy to predict but the Tories will lose seats yet could hang on to power with 30 or 31 seats.
Of all the West Midland councils up for election in May, Walsall (even though I am biased) is by far the most interesting one.
Ian Robathan blogs on Labour news here
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