The main question hovering over England's local elections is: how big will Labour's gains be? There are around 9,400 seats up for contention, of which the Conservatives currently hold about 5,000; Labour, 1,600; and the Lib Dems, 1,900. But veteran psephologists such as Colin Rallings, Michael Thraser and John Curtice suggest that the picture will be very different on Friday morning. On their account, Labour should be aiming for a net gain of around 1,000 seats. Labour's Expectations Management Dept. have the number closer to 600.
And what about coalition losses? According to the latest YouGov polling, the Tories are on course to shed around 1,000 seats. And as for the Lib Dems, the number could be 700. For a party that has always excelled in local elections, the thought of losing several hundred councillors in one swoop has to particularly gruesome.
Other things to look out for include the Leicester South parliamentary by-election, triggered after the incumbent Labour MP decided to run for city Mayor. It is, you would think, a safe Labour seat — so the interest, such as it is, lies in whether the Tories will overtake the Lib Dems into second place. And then there are the mayoral elections, of which there are five. The most eye-catching of these is in Bedford, where the Lib Dems' Dave Hodgson is defending his 2,000-vote majority over the Tories. Close enough already, even before you consider that this is not a good time to be a Lib Dem.
Coffee House has carried several posts by Hamish Macdonell on what has been an extraordinary Scottish election battle: almost from nowhere, Alex Salmond's SNP have eroded Labour's hefty poll lead, and turned it into a lead of their own. It is quite an embarrassing counterpoint to the English elections for Labour, not least because they took the extreme action of dispatching the Two Eds — Miliband and Balls — to campaign North of the Border. Here is that embarrassment in graph form:
And then there's the little matter of what happens next. Salmond needs 65 seats, overall, for a majority — and to secure his referendum on Scottish independence. Yet, despite the advances of recent weeks, that total is looking unlikely. One alternative might be a pro-independence coalition with the Greens. Or we might see a continuation of SNP minority government.
It all comes down to how many seats Labour gain. The party currently occupies 26 berths in the Welsh Assembly, and only needs an extra five to gain a majority. Current polling suggests that they will either just manage it, or just miss out. If it's the latter, then the question is whether Labour will govern in coalition again, or chance a minority.
As for the other parties, the one to look out for is Ukip. Strong polling for Farage's brigades — particularly in North Wales — suggests that they might well win their first seat in any national legislature. They could even gain their second and third, too.