Metro Mayoral Elections

Competitive Parties

On 4th May 2017, England will hold its first round of elections for regional mayors. After postponement and cancellation of several potential regions, the regions which will be voting for their first metro mayor will be:

  • Cambridgeshire and Peterborough
  • Greater Manchester
  • The Liverpool City Region
  • The Tees Valley
  • The West of England
  • The West Midlands.

Given that these elections are the first of their kind, it is difficult to work out how their respective electorates are going to vote. So rather than trying to predict the victor for each of them, we are instead framing each race in terms of which parties are competitive.

In this case, we are defining a party as competitive if in either of the two Police and Crime Commissioner elections, or in any of the past three general elections aggregated over the relevant combined authority’s area, it won or came within 15% of the vote of winning.

Our diagram below highlights the competitive parties for each region. The definition we use means that we can account for the volatility of small regions electing an individual in a potentially more personality-dominated election whilst still offering some insight into likely outcomes. It would be a surprise if a candidate for a party not marked as competitive in the below diagram won any of the regional mayoralties.

These elections will take place using a two-round instant runoff electoral system, as used in London mayoral elections, other mayoral elections, and PCC Elections. Despite this, the winner of the first round usually goes on to win the second round. There is only one example of major parties exchanging places in the second round, when the Labour candidate beat the Conservative candidate in the 2005 North Tyneside Mayoral Election despite having lost the first round. The other examples are the Stoke-on-Trent, Copeland and Mansfield Mayoralties, where local Independents rallied anti-Labour votes to beat the Labour candidate in the second round despite coming second in the first round.

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Cambridgeshire and Peterborough

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough presents a fairly safe victory for the Conservative Party, who have won more than 40% of the aggregate vote across the region in all three General Elections we considered, with no other candidate coming within 15% of them. However, in both PCC Elections, the Labour candidate has come within ten percent of them, and in the most recent PCC Election, the Ukip candidate came within 15%.

Greater Manchester

Greater Manchester is about as safe for the Labour Party as Cambridgeshire and Peterborough is for the Conservative Party. Here the Labour Party has won more than 40% of the vote aggregated across the region in all three General Elections we considered, and the Labour candidate Tony Lloyd won the PCC Election in 2012 by 51% to 16% in the first round. Greater Manchester did not hold a PCC Election in 2016 as the role will be subsumed by the new metro mayor. Despite this security, the Conservatives won 27.4% of the vote in 2010, within 15% of Labour’s 40.4%, making them competitive by our definition.

The Liverpool City Region

For PCC Elections in the Liverpool City Region, we use the Merseyside Police elections, which saw Labour candidate Jane Kennedy win an outright majority in the first round both times, with no other candidate coming within 15% of her.

In General Elections, Labour has won an outright majority of the vote in all three we considered. No other party has come within 15% of Labour’s vote-share, meaning that no other party is competitive by our definition. The Conservatives came closest to meeting this definition in 2010, where they won 22.1% of the vote compared to Labour’s 51.6%.

The Tees Valley

For PCC Elections in the Tees Valley, we use the Cleveland Police elections, which have seen Labour candidate Barry Coppinger win both times, with no other party coming within 15% of him.

In General Elections, Labour has won a plurality of vote aggregated in all three we considered. However, in both 2010 and 2015 the Conservatives came within 15% of Labour’s vote-share, hence meeting our definition of competitiveness.

The West of England

In each of the past three General Elections, a different party has come in first, second and third in the West of England region. In 2005, Labour won, the Liberal Democrats came in second and the Conservatives third. In 2010, the Liberal Democrats won, the Conservatives came in second, and Labour third. In 2015, the Conservatives won, Labour came in second, and the Liberal Democrats third. In all apart from 2015, all three parties came within 15% of one another. In 2015, the Liberal Democrats only won 14.4% of the vote, compared to the Conservatives’ 36.7%. The PCC Elections in the much larger Avon and Somerset region are consistent with these results, making the West of England the most closely competitive region electing a mayor in 2017, with the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats all very serious contenders. The region also saw the highest vote-share for the Green Party in a General Election, with 9.4% in 2015. However, this is not enough for them to count as competitive in the region by our definition.

The West Midlands

The West Midlands have seen Labour win a plurality of the votes in each of the past three General elections, albeit with the Conservatives only 3.3% behind in 2010. The Conservatives have never been more than 15% behind the Labour Party in General Elections in this area. However, in Police and Crime Commissioner elections, Labour candidates have won comfortably both times.

Local Authorities in Britain

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Across Great Britain, there are 206 unitary authorities, county councils, London boroughs and metropolitan boroughs. These are what we call ‘councils’ in this post. Northern Ireland has a different system of local government, and it is impossible to map both non-metropolitan districts and non-metropolitan counties where there is a two-tier council structure. We have also mapped the Council of the Isles of Scilly and the City of London Corporation, but we do not count them in the following tallies.

Of these, Labour has majorities in 103 councils, and the Conservatives in 46. Independents hold majorities in six, the SNP two and Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats each control one with a majority. The remainder of the councils are run by minority administrations or by coalitions, as shown on the map above. Paler colours represent minority councils and striped patterns show the composition of coalitions.

There are local elections every year. In 2017 every English county council, seven unitary authorities and Doncaster will hold elections, with each putting every seat up for election. In addition, all of the Welsh and Scottish councils will be holding their elections. The local elections in Scotland will be the first succeeding the 2014 independence referendum. The local elections in 2017 will also mark the first elections for the new metro-mayors. The winning parties for these are mostly straightforwardly predictable, apart from the West of England and the West Midlands, both of which are tossups between the Labour and Conservative candidates, with a slight preference for the Conservative and Labour candidate respectively.

Our local authorities map does not reflect geography very well, in favour of having area proportional to population. The regions of England are contiguous but local authorities which border each other geographically may not in our map. This is in part because the geographical areas of local authorities has very little relation to their total populations.

Opinion polling in the UK

Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 20.18.11Opinion polls have been taken in the UK since 1943. Mark Pack has compiled almost every opinion poll taken in his publicly available database, and we have used this database to graph the results of these opinion polls.

Given that polls have a margin of error and that so many polls are taken, we took polling averages to make this graph clearer. We produced three polling averages, using different techniques to calculate them. In order to see which was most predictive of election results, we compared the averages from each election since 1950 with the actual result. All three produced similar results, but the most predictive was the linear average, which is illustrated below.

Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 20.24.46Whilst polling for the 2015 general election has been criticised as being unusually unpredictive, our linear average only gets the results wrong by about 1.6% per party. Whilst this is worse than 2005 and 2010, it is better than almost every other general election.

The issue with 2015’s polling is that its error was almost entirely between the Labour and Conservative Parties. It overstated Labour’s support by 3.6% and understated the Conservatives’ support by 3.0%. This was a similar effect to the polling error in the 1992 general election, though in 1992 the effect was much greater.

In general, general election results have given Labour a lower voteshare than our polling average would predict, and the Conservatives a higher voteshare. If we start from 1959, when this effect first became as pronounced as it has been in recent years, our linear average shows an average understatement of Conservative support of 0.9%, overstatement of Labour support of 3% and overstatement of Liberal/Liberal Democrat support of 0.5%.