Thursday, 19 April 2012
Local election review: Exeter
With 19 of Exeter’s 40 councillors, Labour needs just two gains to take outright control of the council. They will get that – and more – or otherwise will feel somewhat disappointed. With only three seats to defend Labour is competitive in up to eight of the remaining eleven contests. Prioritising resources and avoiding overreach in one seat at the expense of another will be critical for the Labour campaign.
Labour looks on course to win its two seats in Alphington and Exwick, seats it took from the Liberal Democrats in 2011, both contests in which the Liberal Democrats slipped from first to third place. Other target seats include St James and St Thomas where the Liberal Democrats held off a Labour challenge in 2011 by as few as 85 and 77 votes. Labour should be confident that it can make the breakthrough this time around, and will be helped by the fact that the sitting Liberal Democrat councillor in St James is standing down.
With six of their nine councillors up for re-election, the Liberal Democrats face a very difficult election. Indeed, there is the very real prospect of defeat in every one of the seats they are defending. The four seats referred to above are all highly vulnerable and they also look shaky in St David’s where Labour needs to close a 200 vote gap. In Pennsylvania the Conservatives must also fancy their chances to regain a seat in a ward that whilst predominantly Liberal Democrat in recent elections, has elected a Conservative councillor as recently as 2006.
But it isn’t just the Liberal Democrats that Labour is challenging in these elections. Labour is also competitive in a number of Conservative held seats in the city, where the latter are the official opposition on the council. Having snatched a seat from the Conservatives in Pinhoe in 2010 by the narrowest of margins (4 votes), Labour are looking to do the same again this time around, but without the tension of a number of recounts. In those same elections two years ago Labour fell short in Polsoe but by fewer than 100 votes and if this is an election in which Labour has momentum locally, then a gain here isn’t out of the question.
The Conservatives have their own target seats and in addition to Pennsylvania, are in pole position to take the seat being vacated by veteran councillor Joan Morrish, the authority’s sole Liberal (as opposed to Liberal Democrat), who retires after 20 years as in office.
Along with Thurrock, Exeter is one of Labour’s most likely council gains this year. With plenty of seats to target it seems unlikely that the party will fail to make the gains it needs to win outright control.
Posted by Stuart King at 08:04