Election 2021: A Horizon Scan of English County Council Elections, Scottish Assembly Elections, and Welsh Parliamentary Elections since 1997


Introduction

Thursday the 6th May 2021 will be the Christmas Day equivalent in the calendar of British psephologists, pollsters and electoral analysts. No, it is not a day where research funding is handed out by a jolly man with a beard, nor where other gifts of tenure or professorship are freely distributed. This being said, there will be games and a feast – games of the political kind and a feast of elections to ponder. Indeed, May 6th is the first Thursday of May and that means election day. Unlike other years, 2021 is a year in the electoral cycle where the metaphorical stars align, so to speak. Across the United Kingdom (UK) 21 county councils, 124 borough and unitary councils, 13 Mayoral offices, a parliamentary by-election for Hartlepool, 39 Police and Crime Commissioners, the London Assembly, and all the respective 60 and 129 seats of the devolved Welsh and Scottish assemblies, will undergo their first election since 2019, 2018, 2017 or even 2016 – a passage of time that, given the COVID-19 pandemic and ‘Brexit’, perhaps make these previous elections feel as if a lifetime ago, both socially and politically. Take the Welsh and Scottish devolved parliamentary elections as an illustration, taking place before even the ‘Brexit’ referendum and closer to the October 2014 Scottish Independence referendum than the present. How different the political landscape appears today, and how much the volatility of voter attitudes have saliently adapted since then.[1]

May the 6th, subsequently, will be the electoral feast of the UK’s political system for 2021. Due to the sheer number of potentially significant political changes that might arise from this banquet of elections, it is only fitting that the recent statistical history of these elections be assessed before the ballots are counted, so that an understanding of these elections may be obtained and perhaps even predictions made. Such an endeavour will be the task of this investigation. Naturally, as there are so many elections to take place on the 6th of May, and in order to avoid an information overload whilst providing a historical summary of electoral statistics, only a handful of these elections will be selected to undergo analysis. Of course, such a choice greatly limits the scope of this horizon scan, but it has been done so to save the reader (and the author) the task of analysing even the most granular level of attitudes and electoral preferences that may be only of interest to certain data scientists and the residents of such localities.

With the above in mind, this piece shall seek to understand, explain and assess the statistical history of three sets of elections that will be held on the 6th of May. These three will be the elections for: (1) English County Councils, (2) The Scottish Parliament, and (3) The Welsh Assembly. The choice to limit the focus of this investigation to just these three ‘sets’ or ‘modes’ stems from a decision to focus the reader’s attention on, arguably, the three most significant elections to be held in the UK in 2021. The Scottish and Welsh parliamentary elections will decide the future of the policy the devolved powers implement. In the case of Scotland, this could be the difference between illustrating a still popular bid for independence, with the re-election of the Scottish National Party (SNP) as the largest – if indeed majority – party in Holyrood, or a greater will not only to remain in the union, but to accentuate a preference for the Westminster government, with a potential increase in votes for the Conservative Party. In Wales, the question remains as to whether or not the longstanding control of the devolved assembly by the Labour Party will continue or be whittled down, alongside that of the status of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), for whom electoral popularity has decreased across Great Britain broadly since the assembly’s most recent election in 2016. As for English County Councils, a great deal of local politics takes place in the 24 county councils up for election, controlling the fate of the majority of services their constituents experience. In most cases, the Conservative party reap the benefit of county council elections, with the previous election in 2017 leaving the party controlling 24 of the then total 27. The question here will be the extent to which four more years of Conservative government may have strengthened or weakened the party’s hold over the bodies that administer public services at the county level.

This is not to suggest by any means that elections of Borough and Unitary councils are less salient or interesting, nor that of Mayoral offices or Police and Crime Commissioners. Nonetheless, at the levels that this investigation will seek to understand and analyse, the events of the past four or five years – be it Brexit, COVID-19, or any of the other spectacles that appear to have steered our political course – can be assessed as to whether or not the actions by specific parties have led to their electoral benefit. As for Borough and Unitary councils, in many ways the issues that will decide their outcomes may be increasingly granular, relating to locality-specific issues and personalities. In order to assess these factors with any form of rigour would require a far greater study than the one I propose to engage here, or that I am willing to dedicate the reader’s time to. At these three sets of elections, the larger, increasingly national, issues at play in our current political discourse will be a key factor in deciding their outcomes, and as such, they are elections that all may ponder or attempt understand without a prior knowledge of local issues that for the smaller councils are essential to grasping why a particular candidate or party has been elected.

Equally, it must be said that these elections come at an interesting juncture. The UK has formally left the European Union (EU) and the effects of this decision are beginning to appear on the surface of enquiry, be they positive or negative. Additionally, central and devolved governments’ decisions as far as their COVID-19 response will be assessed – with the Conservative party having decided for England, Labour holding the lion’s share of responsibility for the response in Wales, and the SNP in Scotland. Indeed, these elections are not only interesting on their own terms, for the control of counties and assemblies, but also as a measure of public attitude towards the status-quo of the day, and the respective governments and parties that administer such a status-quo.

As far as structure is concerned, each set of elections will be explored, analysed and discussed individually. The first of these will explore general British trends at the local level before discussing past English county council elections, here utilising data from 1997 onwards in order to descriptively and analytically engage with the trends and patterns within the data. Following this, Scottish Assembly elections will be placed under the statistical microscope, using data from the first election to Holyrood in 1999 to the most recent election in 2016. Here, after the Additional Member System (AMS) has been clearly unpacked, the data will undergo an inspection and those trends that are of interest shall be highlighted. Lastly, prior to a concluding section, Welsh Parliamentary elections will come into the limelight.

 I.

General Trends and English County Councils

On May 6th 2021, 21 of the 24 English county councils will come up for election. In 1997, the total number of county councils sat at 34, before its decrease in 2009 to 27. Once again there has been another decrease in the number of English county councils. Since the last election in 2017, three more territories have been diffused into multiple unitary authorities: Buckinghamshire, Northamptonshire and Dorset. Equally, Cumbria, North Yorkshire and Somerset county councils have chosen to hold their elections in 2022, following plans to become unitary authorities also by next May, not wishing to confuse the electorate with multiple elections in succession for differing structural authorities and bodies.[2] This brings the number of county councils holding elections in 2021 to the number of the same year – 21 – how fitting.

Throughout this section, the electoral history of unitary authorities does not come into consideration. To many this may be a puzzling choice as a great deal of the British population live under the administration of unitary authorities and not county councils. Similarly, unitary authorities tend to include highly populated and metropolitan areas – favouring the Labour Party historically. As such the data which will be presented on County Councils below leans heavily towards illuminating Conservative party control of local government. The reason why excluding unitary authorities has been a conscious decision is twofold. Firstly, the number of authorities changes not only year by year, as illustrated with the decrease to 21 county council authorities presently, but also, secondly, as unitary authorities operate by different electoral procedures, with some electing the entire council periodically, of which this period can differ, and some electing a fraction of the seats with every passing year – in a similar manner to that of the United States’ Congressional Senate. Subsequently, the variables needed to be accounted for in order to present an investigation of such a magnitude are beyond my own capabilities, and require the mind of an experienced political scientist or psephologist to coordinate. With this therefore, I have chosen to focus my attention on county councils and, specifically, the statistical history of those holding elections in 2021.

Turnout[3]

Generally speaking, turnout has been recorded as decreasing across elections in the UK for some time now. As far as general elections are concerned, 2019 saw a turnout of 67.3%, and although this is far greater than the 2001 low of 59.4%, it was still not as high as the 71.4% of 1997 or even the 68.8% turnout of 2017. If we are to take a look at the turnout for English county council elections over the course of the past 24 years, the trend is clearer and bleaker.



Figure 1a. above details turnout at English County Council local elections between 1997 and 2017. There are a number of significant factors that can be deduced from this graph, the obvious being the noticeable decrease throughout the course of the 21st century so far. 1997 saw a 73.2% turnout, with a low in 2013 of 30.6% (less than 1 in 3) and 34.8% at the last election in 2017. Indeed, if the linear regression (the trendline) is continued to 2021, we should estimate a turnout of around 15-25%. Fig. 1a. reveals an average turnout in the period of 50.67%, and although the trendline, if followed, predicts a turnout almost two standard deviations below the mean [μ-2σ], the probability that turnout will fall below the level of 2017 is only 16.62% [where p = 0.1662], and that it will rise beyond that of 1997 is, sadly, almost half this, at 8.44% [where p = 0.0844].[4] Therefore it should come as no surprise to the reader if turnout is to fall; the question is to what degree, and whether or not this would defy the 83.38% probability of increase from that of 2017 – but this is a probability that takes into account the dataset as a whole, irrespective of trend.

General Trends[5]

Before English county councils up for election in 2021 can be investigated, some general trends of local elections should be detailed and unpacked first, so a general understanding of the lay of land can be grasped before an increasingly focussed analysis is undertaken. Therefore, the question must be asked - how have the major parties faired at local elections broadly over the course of the past two decades in Great Britain?



Figure 1.b. above describes the annual estimated national vote share (%) of the major parties at local elections in Great Britain between 1997 and 2019. There are a few significant trends that require explication. The most salient trend concerns the Labour and Conservative parties, who despite minor parallel trends of decrease across the time period remain somewhat stable between 22-43%. As far as vote share is concerned, the Conservatives have remained roughly consistent with a mean of 35%, a low of 26% in 2013 – the mid-point of the coalition government with the Liberal Democrats – and a high of 43% in 2008; yielding a statistically insignificant decreasing linear regression between time and vote share [where ŷ = -0.109x+254.449 and p = 0.447]. Labour’s historical vote share has been slightly more varied but, on the whole, displaying a similar trend of decrease across the period, if but a fraction more stable [ŷ = -0.057x + 145.99], with a mean of 31%, a high of 42% in 2001 and a low of 22% in 2009; all in all, equally yielding a statistically insignificant relation between time and vote share [where p = 0.766].

This being said, the probability that the Conservatives will increase on their 2019 performance nationally (of 31% [μ-1σ]) is high, at around 84 in every 100 [where p = 0.8413 under a normal distribution curve]. The probability that Labour will increase its vote share as of 2019 is, rather interestingly exactly 50:50, but with only a 4% probability that national vote share will fall outside of its 2009 low (22%) and 2001 high (42%). Therefore, from Labour one would not expect any significant shifts too far from the 2019 vote share. However, probabilities are there to be proved incorrect and the political landscape for Labour has indeed changed since 2019. What is significant, however, are the changes in vote share within this period for the Liberal Democrats, UKIP and all those ‘other’ political parties.

Let’s take a look at the Liberal Democrats (LD). With a mean of 19.9%, the LD share of the vote at local elections regresses across the period significantly [with a linear regression coefficient of ŷ = -0.717x +1460.171 and where p = 0.000064]; reaching their height in 2003 and 2004 with 27% of the vote share, and a low in 2015, at what would be the end of their coalition government in Westminster, of just 8%. Undeniably, although increasing their share of the popular vote from 2017 to 2019, the jury is still out as to whether or not the regression will continue or whether the LD are in fact on an upward trajectory following their 2015 low. Either way, this election will reveal which is the case. Nonetheless, in the period between 2013 and 2019, ‘Other’ parties gained a higher share of the popular vote than the LD, the supposed third largest national party.

At local elections in this period, the Conservative and Labour parties hold a majority of the vote share, with a mean combined vote share of 66%. Nonetheless, in the past decade the dominance of the major parties has not gone unchallenged. In figure 1b., the estimated national vote share of ‘Other’ parties and UKIP are registered. Importantly, it must be noted that UKIP’s vote share appears twice since 2013, being part of the ‘Other’ data series and holding its own sequence alongside this since 2013, so that a greater look can be taken at the party’s decline since then. In 2013, the ‘Other’ category, of parties outside of the usual ‘big 3’, won the greatest share of votes – with UKIP alone gaining 22% of the popular vote, just some 4% below the Conservative party. Although tracing the rise and decline of UKIP, the role that smaller parties have begun to play in local elections is undeniable, holding a greater share of the popular vote than even the LD in 2019, and perhaps even explaining the 11% combined decline in vote share for the Labour and Conservative parties between 2018 and 2019, where ‘other’ parties gained 8% in the same period. This illustrates a sense of the volatility that the inclusion of ‘other’ parties brings to contemporary UK elections.[6] How has vote share translated into the number of councillors elected for specific parties in the same period however?

Figure 1c. presents the party affiliation of councillors in Great Britain between 1999 and 2019. The first important clarificatory point to be made is that this includes all modes and forms of councils, be they borough, county, unitary and so on. As such it gives us a snap shot of party control of local government as a whole in the time period. The first observation that is immediately noticeable is the lack of proportionality between the percentage of votes any given party receives and the number of council seats won.

There are a handful of reasons for this. The first concerns how the electoral system utilised differs from nation to nation, where local government councils in England and Wales use the traditional First Past the Post system (FPTP) in which each voter receives one vote and a simple plurality of votes wins the seat. In Scotland however, the Single Transferable Vote (STV) is employed to give a more proportional translation of votes to seats. Thus, as the number of English and Welsh councillors outweigh those of Scottish councils, the results will appear less proportional. Secondly, not all councillors and councils, as discussed above, are voted for annually, and as such party affiliation of councillors may not swing and change as much as the estimated national vote share at annual local elections. For example, unitary and metropolitan authorities tend to vote for Labour candidates in higher numbers, and as such the years where there are fewer elections for these authorities will perhaps see a reduction in the vote share for Labour but not necessarily a reduction in the total number of Labour affiliated councillors. These two factors in tandem explain why the immediate appearance of Figures 1b. and 1c. differ. What does Fig. 1c. show nonetheless?

The first observation one can make of interest is the initial crossover of popularity between the Labour and Conservative parties between 2002 and 2003. Following the 1997 Labour landslide general election, it appears that Labour won the largest number of councillors annually well into New Labour’s first term in power. Even so, throughout the period the Conservative party indeed overtook Labour, leading to an overall high degree of correlation with the passage of time and the total number of councillors [ŷ = 95.406x - 183277.88, r = 0.5808, p = 0.005766]. If this trend were to continue, we should expect the number of conservative councillors to rise dramatically from its 2019 level, which may be the beginning of a new trend, or an anomaly connected to turnout, voter fatigue or other factors. Indeed, the probability under a normal distribution curve that this will be the case is roughly 81 times in 100 [where p = 0.8137].

For Labour and LD, the trend is undeniably a negative one. This being said, since 2009 Labour have begun to regain a number of the councillors that were lost in the decade prior, repossessing some 1,896 council seats by 2019. Nonetheless, the number of councillors affiliated with the Labour party appears to have been stabilising, all be it with a small negative regression, since 2014. To expect the number of Labour affiliated councillors to overtake the Conservatives is folly, exceptionally so. Alongside this, the sheer drop of Conservative affiliated councillors in 2019 provides space for the Conservatives to regain seats from LD and the other parties, implying the situation by which this blip would be anomalous or thoroughly contextual.

As far as the LD are concerned, between 2006 and 2018 their number of affiliated councillors in Great Britain reduced by over half (a reduction of some 2,850 councillors) before sharply increasing in 2019 to 2,531. Perhaps this is the beginning of a new era for the LD? Equally as interesting are the affiliated number of ‘other’ councillors, i.e., those councillors unaligned to one of the bigger parties. Fascinatingly, since 2014 the ‘other’ category has collected a greater number of councillors than the LD – indicating that on the local level the party system is perhaps shifting somewhat away from the ‘two-and-a-half’ frame we have come to know, any slid towards that of an increasingly multi-party system.[7] In 2019 the reality of this became clear when an increase in the number of councillors for the LD and other parties amounted to an aggregate gain of 1,294 seats, almost collectively mirroring the aggregate 1,595 loss for the Conservative party. This led to the number of non-major party affiliated councillors totalling at 2,655 – its highest in the two-decade long data series. Aside from this interesting upsurge, which can be clearly observed in Fig. 1b. also, the number of non-major party affiliated councillors remained relatively plateaued, sitting between a previous high of 2,362 in 2014 and a low of 1,787 in 2012. If on May 6th this increases, it may be one more indicator that the tectonics of the British party system are morphing, at least on the local level.

Figures 1b. and 1c. lay out the data for counties and local elections in Britain as a whole. What can be observed by looking at just council control in England alone, before honing focus onto the county councils that will be up for election on May 6th?

English Councils[8]

Now that a general idea of the trends in British local elections have been broadly discussed, it is time to adjust our microscope by a single level. The scope of this investigation will begin to concentrate not on vote share of local elections or affiliations of councillors broadly in Great Britain as a whole, but on the number of English councils controlled by party and the share of English council control by party since 2005. Once this has been achieved, the ocular of our focus may be permitted contract even further, so that the county council elections on May 6th may be discussed effectively.

 


 Figures 1d. and 1e. effectually indicate the same dataset in two different formats – the total number of English Councils controlled by a particular party after local elections by an annual measure from 2005 to 2019. What distinguishes each graph is that Fig. 1d. displays the total number of controlled councils, and Fig. 1e. presents this figure as a percentage of the total number of councils.

The first noticeable trend concerns the sheer number of councils that the Conservative party dominate the control of. At their most dominant in this period, the Conservative party held 213 of the total 386 councils, some 55.2%. Even given the large decrease of controlled councils for the Tories (Conservative Party) from 2018 to 2019, a decrease of some 55 councils with a Conservative majority of councillors, there was still a 15.2% difference ahead of Labour – a large buffer in all cases. As for Labour, although initially declining in the number of majority-controlled councils, hitting their lowest number of controlled English councils in 2009 with just 33, the Labour Party have regained much of the loss their experienced in the final years of New Labour, remaining stable and controlling some 25-30% of the councils on offer; despite a small decline in 2019.

What is interesting about Figures 1d. and 1e. is that the major parties remain in their positions, with the Conservatives leading, followed by Labour, the Liberal Democrats, and then the Independents/‘Other’. Thus, despite the sharp decline in the number of controlled English councils by the Conservative Party in 2019, a departure from this order would be a seismic adaptation of contemporary English council electoral outcomes. This, therefore, should not be expected. What is possible, however, is that the number of councils without overall control by any particular party (NOC) rises sharply.

The historical number of English councils without overall control makes for interesting reflection. As the number of Labour and Conservative controlled English councils increases, the number of councils without overall control decreases, naturally. Perhaps there is another correlation that can explain this?



Figures 1f. and 1g. respectively report the total number of English Councils and Councillors in Great Britain as whole. There are two great similarities between the two, recognizably. The first concerns the decrease in the total number of English councils between 2008 and 2009 from 386 to 351 and the mirroring of this decrease by a reduction of 1,402 councillors. The second occurs between 2018 and 2019, where a reduction of 10 English Councils is paralleled by a loss of 463 councillors on the whole. This correlation is a natural one – the fewer number of councils equates to a fewer number of councillors. What is absolutely fascinating, however, is the correlation between the number English councils without overall party control and the total number of councillors. Statistically, the number of English councils without overall party control and the total number of councillors, when analysed, hold a correlation coefficient of r = 0.8169 and as such from 2005-2019 reports a p-value where p = 0.000201. Therefore, with statistical confidence, a ‘null’ correlation between the two can be rejected and it can be deduced that as the number of councillors in Britain reduces as a whole, the number of councils in England without partisan control generally increases.

In this manner, as far as the overall trends for English Councils are concerned over the course of the past fifteen years: (a) the Conservative party holds the lion’s share of councils and by all accounts will continue to do so, (b) The Labour Party remain stable after regaining a number of the councils lost during the New Labour years, (c) despite a small increase in 2019, the LD and Independent/’Other’ controlled councils remain stable, with less than 10% of control, and (d) that as the total number of councillors in great Britain reduces, the number of councils without any overall single party majority increases in a correlative fashion. Now, at long last, we can begin to take a look at English county councils, quietly lurking among the data that has just been presented.

English County Councils[9]

Now that the results of local elections at both the state-wide and English levels have undergone a brief analytical exposition, and some limited grasp of the electoral horizon ascertained, our scope of focus may turn to English county councils.





Figure 1h. details English county council control by party after elections from 1997 to 2017, and Figure 1i. presents the same data as percentage of controlled county councils by party. By observing the trends in Fig. 1h, what can be determined initially, before looking at the number of county councils that parties individually control, is the shift throughout the period in the number of councils. As detailed above, as time has trundled forward an increasing number of county councils restructure their mode of local government to become Unitary Authorities, dividing their territories into smaller administrative zones that are more accountable at the local level. For example, the 2021 election will see a reduction in the number of County Councils by 3 as Buckinghamshire, Northamptonshire and Dorset have undergone such restructuring; the latter, for instance, has been divided into two Unitary Authorities as of 2019: Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council, and Dorset Council. Thus, throughout the contemporary history of English County Councils, there has been a decline in the total number from 34 to 27 in-between the 2005 and 2009 elections, and now from 27 to 24.

Aside from this, Fig. 1h. specifies rather clearly the nature of Conservative dominance over English county councils throughout the past two decades. In 1997 the Conservatives held only 8 of the 34 English county councils, and by 2009 held 26 of 27, and as it stands hold 24 of the 27. Immediately, what can be assured is that the share of councils the Conservatives hold will change, even if the same result is produced as in 2017. This is so as the 3 county councils that have undergone restructuring to become unitary authorities were Conservative controlled assemblies. Thus, even if the same result as 2017 occurs, the number of English county councils controlled by the Tories would decrease from 24 to 21. Despite this, one cannot ignore the Conservative dominance of English County Councils that is clear to sense in Fig. 1h, who since 2001 have controlled at least half of county councils up for election. By focussing attention on Fig. 1i, this dominance can be better grasped in assessing English county council control share by party.

Although the stark increase in Conservative control is as plain as the nose on one’s face, the most statistically significant correlation is the decrease in Labour’s share of county council control. Fig. 1i. details that labour began the period in 1997 with 23.53% of county councils, neck and neck with the Conservatives. By 2009, this was reduced to 0, and after a brief increase on 2009 by 7.41% in 2013, the last set of elections in 2017 left the party once again wanting for control of even a single county council. This decline is statistically noteworthy, with a linear regression of ŷ = -1.249x+2517.986, seemingly insignificant, but with a coefficient of determination of r = -0.894, and as such holds a p-value where p ≤ 0.05. As time goes on, the Labour share of county councils decreases correlatively. If this trend can be predictive, it reveals that we should not expect Labour to increase on their 2017 performance, remaining without control of a single English county council.

Fig. 1i also reveals the negative correlation between the passage of time and the share of English county councils without overall control, or control by the Liberal Democrats (LD). Let’s begin with the latter. The LD only gained control of 2 councils in 1997 and 3 in 2005. This does not mean that the LD share of county council control may not increase at this election, but just that the statistical probability is against them. Indeed, much like Labour, their goal will be to increase their share of county councillors, as opposed to county councils; a more probable achievement. What is fascinating however is the manner in which Conservative share of English County Councils and the share of councils without an overall party control mirror one another. In 1997, 47.06% of county councils were without an overall controlling party – almost half. By 2009, this had been reduced to just a single council, before increasing to where it lies today – at 3. Nevertheless, what unites both the LD and NOC share of English county councils is their variation, and hence a statistical insignificance to reveal any kind of predictive capability. This being said, perhaps Figure 1j. can disclose more.

Even though broadly displaying the same trends as Fig. 1i, Fig. 1j. presents the number of councillors in English County Councils by party after elections for those 21 county councils that will undergo an election come May 6th 2021. Although Fig. 1j. clearly demonstrates a positive linear regression concerning the passage of time and the number of Conservative county councillors. In 1997, there were only 618 conservative county councillors in those county assemblies that will still be operating in 2021. Now, after the 2017 elections, there are 949, a clear increase that even reached 1010 in 2009 – the greatest number of affiliated county councillors in this period. This is a trend that should not go neglected. Conversely, this correlation returned a p-value where p ≥ 0.1, and so is statistically insignificant for being able to confirm a correlation between the two sets of data (time and the number of elected Conservative county councillors). Subsequently, if the trend is anything to go by, and with an average (μ) of 801.833 county councillors across the period, there is roughly a 1 in 7 probability that the Conservative party will increase on its 2017 total [where p = 0.1421 under a normal distribution curve].

Labour, however, have slowly been decreasing their number of county councillors since 1997, beginning the period with 491 and winning just 212 in 2017. This should not come as a shock. Certainly, the overall trend mimics that of figure 1c. above, plotting the total number of councillors by party affiliation in Great Britain after elections annually. In this manner, the relatively negative trend of a decreasing number of Labour county councillors in the period since 1997, with a slight bump in 2013 and then a decrease yet again matches the overall trend that would be expected of the Labour party at this level – given the intensity of overall support for the Labour party at local elections nationally.

Despite this notion that the negative linear regression is overt for the Labour party, what is of greater statistical interest is the correlation between the Labour and Conservative Party’s gains and losses. In calculating a correlation coefficient between the two series of data, i.e. Labour’s number of county councillors after elections since 1997 and the Conservative’s number of county councillors after elections since 1997, one finds that such a calculation produces a coefficient of r = -0.9586, and as such a p-value of 0.0025. What does this mean? Essentially, this indicates that the Labour and Conservative trends are almost perfect mirrors of one another; when one increases the other decreases. The scenario in which both gain or lose a number of county councillors is somewhat statistically improbable. Subsequently, if we are to expect the number of Conservative county councillors to rise, given the current popularity of the Conservative party at national opinion polls, then we should expect the number of Labour county councillors to fall below the current 212 mark.[10]

Although likely to be of no significance in this election. What must be addressed is the position of UKIP throughout the time period displayed in Fig. 1j. UKIP rocked the foundations of local elections when in 2013 won some 123 county council seats of those up for election in 2021 – some 8.5% of the total. Nonetheless, by 2017 this was reduced to a single councillor. The significance of including UKIP in this data series is to show that, in the past two decades, the only real disturbance to the Conservative party’s trend of constant increase came with the rise of UKIP in 2013. There is not a significant trend of correlation throughout the period between the number of Conservative and UKIP county councillors, however, what the rise and decline of UKIP has shown is the manner in which the gains of a small party may shift the ideological or policy currents underlying that of a major party in order to regain its lost seats – as seen with the relationship between UKIP and the Conservative party.[11] Thus perhaps now the Conservative party has shifted a step or two to ‘the right’ in order to regain the seats that were lost to UKIP in 2013. This being said, this a discussion for another day.

The final inferences I would like to discuss, as far Figure 1j. is concerned, are the rather positive trends of the Green Party and the number of those ‘other’ party affiliated county councillors since 1997. In the two decades that Fig. 1j. presents, the Green party went from achieving only 2 county councillors, to the 14 they hold today – a 7-fold increase. Yes, some may say that this is only a slight increase in terms of outcome, i.e. in two decades the Green Party have only gained 12 seats. Be not fooled however, this presents a positive regression of ŷ = 0.85x-1695.45 with a correlation coefficient of r = 0.86, and a such there is a significant correlation between the increasing number of Green county councillors and the passage of time [where p = 0.0280]. This alongside a similar trend for non-major party aligned county councillors, doubling from 1997 and 2017, tells us that there is simply a greater share of the electorate willing to vote for candidates outside of the ‘Big 3’, and perhaps this is one more factor that has contributed to Conservative dominance of English county councils.

To Summarize...

In this manner, all things considered: (a) we should expect the number of Labour county councillors to drop, (b) the number of Conservative county councillors to increase, but (c) without necessarily hugely increasing their share of overall county councils controlled, and (d) perhaps even an increase in the number of Green and non-major party-affiliated county councillors, which, ultimately, if comes to pass, will (e) increase the likelihood of a greater number of councils with no overall party control (NOC). Alongside this, turnout for English county council elections should be expected to fall with some large degree of probability; a result I humbly hope will not come to fruition.

As far as English councils as a whole are concerned: (a) the Conservative party holds the greater share of councils, and by all accounts will continue to do so; (b) The Labour Party remain stable after slowly regaining a number of the councils lost during the New Labour years; (c) irrespective of their small increase in 2019, the Liberal Democrats and Independent/’Other’ controlled councils remain stable, each holding less than 10% of control; and (d) that, significantly, as the total number of councillors in Great Britain reduces, the number of councils without any overall single party majority increases correlatively.

 II.

The Scottish Parliament

The Scottish and Welsh Electoral Systems Explained

With the introduction of devolution into the British constitutional system in the late 1990s, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland formed elected assemblies in order to administer the devolved regions and new powers that Westminster had given them. Part of this constitutional shift was the use of proportionally representational electoral systems where votes are translated into seats in an increasingly proportional manner. As discussed above, at English and Welsh local elections FPTP is employed, whereby each voter may cast a single vote for the candidate of their choice and the candidate with the highest simple plurality of votes wins the seat. Although this is traditional and uncomplicated to adhere to, it favours those parties that concentrate support territorially and are well known, whilst likewise significantly disregarding the proportional aggregation of votes received for smaller parties across multiple constituencies. For example, utilising the illustration of a General Election, in 2015 UKIP returned only 1 MP out of the total 650 in the House of Commons, however received 12.6% of the vote share nationally.[12] This questionably undermines accountability and legitimacy from within the UK’s political system. In order to modernise the British electoral system at its numerous levels, the Scottish and Welsh Parliaments chose to employ the ‘Additional Member System’ (AMS) as opposed to FPTP for assembly elections. The following is a short explanation of the manner in which AMS operates:


“Voters are given two votes on separate ballot papers. One vote is for a constituency member and one vote is for a party list. In Scotland and Wales list members are elected by region. In London there is a single London-wide list. Constituency votes are counted first and the members for each constituency are elected using first-past-the-post [FPTP]. Additional members are then elected by counting the party list votes in each region. The number of members elected from the list is based on the percentage of the votes cast but also takes into account the number of constituency members already elected in the region [utilising the d’Hondt method of proportionality calculation]. This is designed to make the result more proportional to the number of votes cast.”[13]

This leads to a number of differences in the method of calculation for results to the Welsh and Scottish assemblies in relation to that of English councils. In the data that follows, ‘averages’ are weighted by the magnitude of seats allotted to the two kinds of representatives ((i) Constituency and (ii) Regional Additional Member). In Scotland, of the total 129 seats at the Holyrood assembly, 73 are Constituency seats and 56 are seats for Regional Additional Members – creating a weight of roughly 56.5% and 43.5% respectively. All aggregated metrics are devised by employing these weights. Let’s begin by focussing on the turnout of Scottish Parliamentary elections, prior to a brief analysis of the results since 1999, the first of the devolved assembly elections.

Turnout for Scottish Parliamentary Elections[14]


Figure 2a. exhibitions turnout (%) for Scottish Parliamentary Elections from 1999-2016. 1999 saw the first election to the assembly and it has seen four elections since. Turnout for these elections has never recovered from its initial high of an aggregate 58.8% turnout, and saw its lowest point at the following election in 2003, with a collective 49.4%. Since then, turnout has remained within these boundaries. As far as turnout for each branch of the electoral system is concerned ((i) constituency and (ii) regional additional member) neither one of these receives a greater turnout than the other overall, with the greatest discrepancy between them occurring in 2007, where the turnout for the regional list received a 0.7% higher turnout at 52.4%. Although there being a mild-to-insignificant negative linear regression here, there is no significant relation in pattern or correlation between turnout and the passage of time, and as such makes it somewhat difficult to predict.

 Nonetheless, as far as probability is concerned, the average turnout across the period has been 53.2% with a standard deviation (σ) of 3.48. Therefore, the statistical probability that turnout will increase beyond that of 2017’s 55.6% is 24.5 in every hundred, almost 1 in 4. Similarly, the probability that turnout will fall outside of its highest (59.7%) and lowest (49.4%) aggregated measures is 19.4%, almost 1 in 5. Accordingly, we should expect turnout to decrease if we follow the mild trend, but it would be an unexpected surprise if it were to fall below 49.4%.

Scottish Parliamentary Elections (1999-2016)[15]






What are the dominant trends that can be perceived from Figures 2b. and 2d. which detail the number of seats won at each Scottish parliamentary election, and that from Figures 2c. and 2e., displaying the vote share by party? Before we can do this, however, the question must be asked, do any of the parties benefit in terms of vote share or seats due to the differing parts of the AMS electoral system? Let’s discuss this party by party.

The first party to discuss in relation to Scottish Parliamentary politics is the Scottish National Party (SNP). In the past, as far as votes and seats are both concerned, Fig. 2d. and 2.e illuminate that between 1997 and 2007, the party benefitted mostly from AMS and the seats won through the regional party list. From 2007 to 2016, with their growing popularity nationally, their share of Constituency seats grew from 21 to 59 as their share of the popular vote at the constituency level increased equally from 32.9-46.5%. Therefore, as AMS is engineered to award more seats in proportion to the overall vote share, balancing out the overall number of seats to a more proportionate level, it is no surprise that the number of additional member seats the SNP gained from the regional list declined. This being said, even in 2011 and 2016, where the dominance of the SNP at the constituency level was made manifest, their share of the vote at the regional level was still higher than the other parties’, at 44% and 41.7% respectively. In this manner, we should expect to see them benefit mostly at the constituency level if their popularity follows the meta-trend since 1999.

Following this, Labour in Scotland have been the biggest losers across the period, with their combined vote share and number of seats decreasing throughout. Indeed, there is evidence to believe that Labour are experiencing an almost perfect inverse correlation with the SNP in terms of the number of seats between the constituency and regional additional member pools. By this, I mean to suggest that there is a statistically significant positive correlation between the number of constituency seats won by the SNP and the number of additional member seats won by Labour, a rather high correlation in fact [where r = 0.9917 and p = 0.008107]. Therefore, from this initial analysis, it would be statistically fair to claim that if the number of SNP constituency seats rise further than the previous 2016 level of 59, the number of Labour’s additional member seats will increase correlatively. Aside from this, the data illuminates that Labour receives its greater vote share at the constituency level, with vaster popularity within specific localities as opposed to broader regions.

As far as the Conservatives, the Green party and ‘Others’ are concerned, the regional party list provides their most effective mechanism for ascertaining seats in the assembly, with the majority of their seats being won at the regional, as opposed to constituency, level. This being said, on average, the Conservatives receive a slightly higher share of the vote on the constituency level, at roughly 16.9%, whereas this sits at around 16% from the regional lists. Nonetheless, the only differential to this was in 2016, when Ruth Davidson’s Scottish Conservatives received a higher rate of popularity at the regional level than at the constituency, by some 0.9%. This was deemed to be a positive sign for conservatism in Scotland. The question is the extent to which this slight increase in popularity will have changed by 2021.

The last to discuss, as far as whether or not the parties benefit more from one half of the electoral system or the other, are the Liberal Democrats (LD). Between 1999 and 2007, the LD took most of their seats from constituency races, before this changed in 2011 and the back in 2016. If we look at the same period in terms of popularity, the LD return their greatest share from constituency races throughout. Hence, it would be an inaccuracy to claim that the LD benefit overall from either one of the pathways to ascertain seats at the Scottish assembly. So, now it can be asked: what can we learn in terms of trends from the overall weighted averages of seats and vote share from the past two decades of Scottish Assembly elections?

From figures 2b. and 2c., certain trends are observable at just a single glance. The first concerns the SNP and their increasing number of seats. Although a somewhat mild trend, as time passes the share of seats that the SNP win increases. This is not a continuous correlation, as in 2016 the SNP lost 6 seats overall and with it their majority in the assembly, bringing their total to 63. However, as the SNP’s positive linear regression of seat numbers and the passage of time is insignificant statistically, all be it a clear positive correlation [where r = 0.8562 but p = 0.064029], there is little this trend can predict. Nonetheless, in calculating a probability that is blind to the mild correlation, under a normal distribution curve, the probability that the number of seats claimed by the SNP will be less than their 2017 haul of 63 is 82.4%, and in falling outside of their highest number (69 in 2011) and their lowest (35 in 1999) is 29.8%. Thus, although vote share and number of seats are both increasing with a mild degree of correlation, nothing is set in stone for the SNP, even if they do hold a 17.5% probability of increasing their share of the seats.

Throughout the electoral life-time of the Scottish parliament, the most statistically significant trends actually sit with the Labour party, and so it is to them our attention will turn. In both total number of seats and weighted average of vote share, the Labour party has seen a general decrease in popularity across the period. The greatest negative linear regression for the Labour party concerns their total number of seats, decreasing from winning the greatest share of the Assembly in 1999, with 56 seats, to the third most popular in 2016, with 24, decreasing with every election. This rather significant and exceptionally strong negative regression [ŷ = -1.847x + 3750.471, r = -0.983, p = 0.002654], if extended to 2021 would see the number of Labour’s seats reduced to 17. Whatever the case, either the trend continues with Labour losing more seats, or the trend bucks and for the first time in two decades Labour begin to see an increase on a previous election outcome. Either way, we will see the continuation of a two-decade long trend, or its end, and both of these outcomes would be fascinating. As far as Labour’s vote share goes, the trend is one and the same – i.e. as time increases, the popularity of the Labour party decreases. This presents just another reason to assume that the number of Labour seats and MSPs (Members of the Scottish Parliament) will fall at this election in Scotland, irrespective of the trend detailed above that as the number of SNP constituency seats increase, so too do the number of Labour’s regional list seats. Thus, perhaps a good prediction will be an overall decrease in seats, but a small increase in the number of regional Labour affiliated MSPs.

For Liberal Democrat and Conservative trends, their share of votes and seats are far too slight in correlation with time to reveal a statistically significant relation. For the LD, they are the only major party in Scotland to have experienced a reduction in all of the variables detailed above, in terms of vote share (%) and number of seats both for constituency and regional components of the Scottish electoral system. Thus, with such a reduction in popularity, it is difficult to statistically predict a LD resurgence in Holyrood.

Nonetheless, the question really is if the Conservatives can increase their share of seats and continue upon the potential new trend set in 2016 when they doubled their total number of seats – from 15 to 31. Indeed, if in 1999 I was to be told that in twenty-two years the conservative party will be fighting to increase their share of seats as the second largest of the devolved Scottish assembly, I would have told you that you were mad. Today, this is absolutely a possibility, and if this trend continues with the Conservatives gaining more seats, perhaps from Labour or the LD, it will signal a tectonic generational shift in Scottish voter behaviour.

To Summarize…

In summary there are a number of key findings to remember when pondering what the results of the 2021 Scottish election will bring. Firstly, it is important to discuss why this particular election in Scotland is significant. The question of independence is still a popular issue in Scotland, with a YouGov poll from the 4th of May 2021 reporting a 47% preference for an independent Scotland.[16] An SNP majority in the Scottish Assembly would enable the re-engagement of the independence question and perhaps even be the beginning of the journey to ‘IndyRef2’. Thus, the stakes of this election for its constitutional implications are rather high. If the SNP were to get a majority of seats, it would be the first time since the 2016 election that they would have done so, which fell before the Brexit referendum and has become a potential driving force behind SNP popularity. Equally, the ex-leader of the SNP, Alex Salmond, has formed his own nationalist party ‘Alba’. Although it is highly unlikely that the introduction of his party will deal much damage to the SNP, being formed less than three months ago, the question really is the extent of the nipping that will take place at their ankles.

So, the constitutional stakes are high – what can be taken from this horizon scan of Scottish parliamentary elections? As far as these trends are concerned: (a) as the SNP gain constituency seats, despite its widespread losses Labour gain regional additional members. (b) The SNP should be expected to win the largest share of seats, but the extent of their ‘victory’ is not statistically predictable. Despite this, the trend is that the SNP will increase its share of seats and the popular vote. (c) The most statistically significant trend across the time period is the negative correlation between Labour’s number of seats and the passage of time. As time increases, the number of seats Labour hold correlatively decrease, and as such we should expect Labour to have their share of the Scottish Assembly hacked away at even further under Arthur’s Seat, even if they see an increase in regional members. (d) Lastly, the Conservative share of votes and seats will reveal either that 2016 was a statistical anomaly, or rather that generational voter behaviour has undergone a seismic shift in Scotland. Whatever occurs, the outcome may indeed reveal the constitutional future of the United Kingdom. In short – watch this space.

 III.

The Welsh Assembly[17]

I do not want to keep the reader from their daily business much longer, and as such, after discussing English County Councils and The Scottish Parliamentary election, this investigation will finally discuss the Welsh Assembly elections to be held on May 6th, before parting with some concluding remarks.






The first thing that must be discussed concerning the Welsh Assembly (Senedd Cymru) is its electoral system. Coming into being at the same time as the Scottish devolved authority as part of New Labour’s constitutional reforms, the Welsh Assembly elects 60 MSs (Member of the Senedd) using the increasingly proportional AMS electoral system. The same method of weighting averages by the magnitude of Constituency and Regional Additional Members will apply also to aggregate totals.

Since 1999, Figure 3a. displays that turnout is relatively stable between its lowest point (38.1%) in 2001 and its highest (46.3%) from the first election of the assembly in 1999, something that it shares with the Scottish Parliament. In the three elections since 2001, aggregate turnout has remained within this 6.2% difference, persisting relatively stable throughout without any statistically significant regression or correlation, be it positive or negative. As far as the probability of a turnout increase or decrease can be predicted, there is an 82.5% probability that turnout will sit between 38.1% and 46.3%, within the usual span. However, there is an almost 1 in 5 probability [p = 0.1976] that turnout will increase on the 45.4% level of 2016, and far less likely outcome that turnout will drop below the 2001 level of 38.1% with a probability of just over 5% [p = 0.0513]. Therefore, I would expect that turnout will remain at its usual and stable level, more than likely between 40-45%.

Figures 3b.-3e. detail that on the whole only Labour benefits from either one or the other forms of electoral processes involved with AMS. Labour generally takes more seats from constituency level races, and as such less from the regional races. Aside from this, all the other parties benefit in near equal measure from both at varying levels across the five elections.

The data illustrates that the Welsh Assembly elections remain so stable to the point at which any correlations are statistically questionable as to their predictive capability. Labour have always held the greater number of seats, but the number has varied only minimally, with its lowest result in 2007 where Labour claimed 26 seats, and its highest in 2001 and 2011 where it won 30. The other results fall within this small buffer of just 4 seats, and emerging from the 2016 election with 29, almost half the total number of seats but with 33.6% of the total vote. This raises a single concern, being whether or not AMS is delivering enough proportionality in Wales. With this being its raison d’etre, if the electoral system is not delivering proportionally, but returning a Labour ‘bias’ somehow continually, perhaps a review of the electoral system will become a priority for the majority of other parties in the Assembly if Labour win yet another election in Wales.

Aside from this, all the other parties are either in a stable deadlock over a handful of seats, as we can see the Welsh nationalist Plaid Cymru (PC) and the Conservative Party are, or are steadily declining in seats or vote share, as the LD are. The other party that will be of interest to those following Welsh Assembly politics is the status of UKIP. In 2016, UKIP returned some 7 seats with 13% of the popular vote. Since then, there is but only 1 UKIP MSs remaining, with several UKIP MSs joining tear away organisations or sitting as independents, such as Mark Reckless who defected in 2014 from the Conservative party to UKIP when an MP for Rochester and Strood, before losing re-election the following year. For a number of the parties in the Senedd, this diffusion of UKIP presents the opportunity to increase their share of the regional additional member seats, and subsequently perhaps the decline in support for UKIP since 2016 will open the space for greater competition and contestation for the seats within the Welsh Assembly.

In summary, from the May 6th elections for the Welsh Assembly, we should expect: (a) turnout to remain around 40-45%, (b) Labour to win a majority of the seats and votes, and (c) for the number of UKIP seats to dramatically drop, and with that perhaps even the independent MSs who defected from UKIP, but won regional party list races. As for PC, the Conservatives and LD, as there are no statistically significant trends, there is a very low predictive capability from this data as to what we should expect to happen. In this respect, the parties have everything to play for. 

Conclusion

In conclusion, this ‘Super Thursday’ election on May 6th 2021 will reveal a lot about the current state of political behaviour in the UK. All eyes will be sat on Hartlepool as the loss of another Labour seat in the once vast red wall will make concrete the scenario that Labour are simply not connecting with their ‘typical’ voter. If Hartlepool flips blue this will signify a new are because this seat has never returned a Conservative candidate in the whole period since its first contest in 1974, not even in 2019 when the red wall was breached, where similar constituencies such as Workington flipped blue for the first time. For Hartlepool to elect a Conservative something is indeed wrong with the manner in which Labour is connecting with the electorate.

This concern will not end at the boundaries of Hartlepool. Although the unitary authorities that make up most of the red wall were not discussed in this investigation, county councils such as Lancashire and Derbyshire that make up parts of the old Labour heartland are. This election is Labour’s to lose, and if it does so this election will forever appear as the second half of the 2019 general election, where the seismic shifts that categorised this election were made concrete, where more nails were driven into the coffin of Labour hopes to once again take government broadly at both the national and local levels.

This will be a bizarre election for a number of reasons, not only because of the ‘Brexit’ effect on political narrative since the referendum in 2016, which we seem to have absorbed into the nomenclature of discourse, but also because of the effect of COVID-19. The counts will take longer due to social distancing measures but this will only intensify the wait to find out whether or not Boris Johnson and the Conservative government will have of achieved something rare – for a governing party to pinch councils and seats from the opposition whilst in power, and for so long at that.

Therefore, I would like to leave the reader with a summary list of what perhaps to expect from this election in 2021 as a whole. As far as councillors and county councils across Britain are concerned, all things considered: (a) we should expect the number of Labour county councillors to drop, (b) the number of Conservative county councillors to increase, especially with the decline of UKIP and the increase in individual voter volatility since 2015 with the achievement of Brexit, but (c) without necessarily hugely increasing their share of overall county councils controlled, and (d) perhaps even an increase in the number of Green and non-major party-affiliated county councillors, which, ultimately, if it comes to pass, will (e) increase the likelihood of a greater number of councils with no overall party control (NOC). Alongside this, turnout for English County Council elections should be expected to fall with some large degree of probability.

As far as English councils as a whole are concerned: (a) the Conservative party holds the greater share of councils, and by all accounts will continue to do so; (b) The Labour Party remain stable after slowly regaining a number of the councils lost during the New Labour years, but the effect of their unpopularity in their old heartland may indeed reverberate to council composition; (c) irrespective of their small increase in 2019, the Liberal Democrats and Independent/’Other’ controlled councils remain stable, each holding less than 10% of control; and (d) that as the total number of councillors in great Britain reduces, the number of councils without any overall single party majority increases correlatively.

In our discussion of the Scottish Parliamentary elections, we found that we should recall that: (a) as the SNP gain constituency seats, despite its widespread losses Labour gain regional additional members. (b) The SNP should be expected to win the largest share of seats, but the extent of this win is not statistically predictable. Despite this, the trend is that the SNP will increase both its share of seats and the popular vote. (c) The most statistically significant trend across the time period was the negative correlation between Labour’s number of seats and the passage of time. As time increases, the number of seats Labour hold correlatively decrease, and as such we should expect Labour to have their share of the Scottish Assembly reduced, even if they see an increase in regional members. (d) The Conservative share of votes and seats will reveal either that 2016 was a statistical anomaly, or rather that generational voter behaviour has undergone a seismic shift in Scotland. (e) This is a high stakes election, with the SNP potentially opening the way to another independence referendum if they receive a majority that they have not held since before the Brexit referendum.

Finally, from the Welsh Assembly we should expect: (a) turnout to remain around 40-45%, (b) Labour to win a majority of the seats and votes, and (c) for the number of UKIP seats to dramatically drop, and with that perhaps even the independent MSs who defected from UKIP, but won regional party list races.



[1] For a discussion of contemporary voter volatility in the United Kingdom, see: Fieldhouse, EA, et.al. (2020) Electoral Shocks: The Volatile Voter in a Turbulent World, Oxford: OUP; Fieldhouse, EA, Evans, G, Green, J, Mellon, J & Prosser, C (2021), 'Volatility, Realignment and Electoral Shocks: Brexit and the UK General Election of 2019', SSRN Electronic Journal, http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3764477 (Accessed 4th May 2021).

[2] BBC News (23rd February 2021) ‘Local Elections Postponed in Three English Counties’, BBC News, https://w ww.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-56168977 (Accessed 4th May 2021).

[3] The data utilised in this section and in Figure 1a. has been drawn from: House of Commons Library, Elise Uberoi (2020) Turnout at Elections - Briefing Paper - Number CBP8060, London: House of Commons Library, p.4 and p. 15.

[4] Probabilities made by calculating the area under a normal distribution curve using the dataset of Fig. 1a.

[5] The data utilised in this section and for Figures 1b. and 1c. has been drawn from: House of Commons Library, Lukas Audickas, Richard Cracknell and Philip Loft (2020) UK Election Statistics: 1918-2019: A Century of Elections - Briefing Paper – Number CBP7529, London: House of Commons Library, pp. 64-66.

[6] For a good discussion of the rise and decline of UKIP, see: Matthew Goodwin and Caitlin Milazzo (2015) UKIP: Inside the Campaign to Redraw the Map of British Politics, Oxford: OUP; Matthew J. Goodwin and James Dennison (2018) “The Radical Right in The United Kingdom”, in Jens Rydgren (Ed.), The Oxford Handbook of The Radical Right, Oxford: OUP, pp. 521-544.

[7] For a discussion of differing party systems, see: Giovanni Sartori (1976) Parties and Party Systems: A Framework for Analysis, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

[8] The data utilised in this section and Figures 1.d., 1.e., 1f. and 1g. has been drawn from: House of Commons Library, Lukas Audickas, Richard Cracknell and Philip Loft (2020) UK Election Statistics: 1918-2019: A Century of Elections - Briefing Paper – Number CBP7529, London: House of Commons Library, p.68.

[9] The data utilised in this section and Figures 1h., 1i., and 1j. have been compiled by the author from the following sources: BBC News (2017) ‘England Local Election Results 2017’, BBC News, https://www.bbc.co.uk/ news/topics/cmj34zmwx1lt/england-local-elections-2017 (Accessed 5th May 2021); BBC News (2013) ‘Local Elections 2013’, BBC News, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-21828547 (Accessed 5th May 2021); BBC News (2009) ‘Election 2009: Councils A-Z’, BBC News, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/bsp/hi/elections/local_ council/09/html/region_999 99.stm (Accessed 5th May 2021); BBC News (2005) ‘Election 2005: Results A-Z’, BBC News, http://news. bbc.co.uk/1/shared/vote2005/locals/html/region_99999.stm (Accessed 5th May 2021); BBC News (2001) ‘Local Election 2001: Local Council Results A-Z’, BBC News, http://news.bbc.co.uk/ hi/english/static/vote2001/local_elections/atoz.stm (Accessed 5th May 2021); Colin Rallings and Michael Thrasher (1997) Local Elections Handbook 1997, Local Government Chronicle Elections Centre: Plymouth, pp. 1-14.

[10] The Conservative Party currently hold an average 5% lead on the Labour Party in national opinion polls, with 41% against 36%; see: Politico (May 6th 2021) ‘United Kingdom: Poll of Polls – National Parliament Voting Intention’, politico.eu, htt ps://www.politico.eu/europe-poll-of-polls/united-kingdom/ (Accessed 6th May 2021).

[11] For a greater discussion on this topic, see: Tim Bale (2018) ‘Who leads and who follows? The symbiotic relationship between UKIP and the Conservatives – and populism and Euroscepticism’, Politics, 38(3), pp. 263-277.

[12] House of Commons Library, Oliver Hawkins, Richard Keen, Nambassa Nakatudde (2015) General Election 2015 – Briefing Paper Number CBP7186, London: House of Commons Library, p. 36

[13] UK Parliament (2021) ‘Voting Systems in the UK’, parliament.uk, https://www.parliament.uk/about/how/elec tions-and-voting/voting-systems/ (Accessed 6th May 2021).

[14] The data utilised in this section and in Figure 2a. has been drawn from: House of Commons Library, Elise Uberoi (2020) Turnout at Elections - Briefing Paper - Number CBP8060, London: House of Commons Library, p.13.

[15] The data for this section and Figures 2b., 2c., 2d. and 2e. have been drawn from the following sources: BBC News (2016) ‘Scotland Election 2016’, BBC News, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/election/ 2016/Scotland/results (Accessed 6th May 2021); (2011) ‘Vote 2011: Scotland Elections’, BBC News, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/ special/election2011/constituency/html/scotland.stm (Accessed 6th May 2021); (2007) ‘Scottish Elections 2007’, BBC News, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/vote2007/scottish_parliment/html/scoreboard_9999 9.stm (Accessed 6th May 2021); (2003) ‘Scottish Parliament Elections’, BBC News, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/bsp/hi/ vote2003/scottish_parliament/html/main_score board.stm (Accessed 6th May 2021); House of Commons Library and Bryn Morgan (1999) Scottish Parliament Elections: 6 May 1999 – Research Paper 99/50, London: House of Commons Library, p.6.

[16] YouGov (May 4th 2021) ‘A Pro-Independence Majority is Likely’, yougov.co.uk, https://yougov.co.uk/topics/po litics/articles-reports/2021/05/04/scottish-voting-intention-snp-52-con-20-lab-19-2-4 (Accessed 6th May 2021).

[17] The data for this section and Figures 3a. 3b. and 3c., 3d. and 3e.  has been drawn from: House of Commons Library, Elise Uberoi (2020) Turnout at Elections - Briefing Paper - Number CBP8060, London: House of Commons Library, p.13.; BBC News (2016) ‘Wales Election 2016’, BBC News, https://www.bbc.co.uk/ news/election/2016/wales/ results (Accessed 6th May 2021); (2011) ‘Vote 2011: Wales Election’, BBC News, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/ special/election2011/overview/html/wales.stm (Accessed 6th May 2021); (2007) ‘Welsh Assembly Election 2007’, BBC News, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/vote2007/welshasssembly_ english/html/region_99999.stm; (2003) ‘Welsh Assembly Election’, BBC News, http://news.bbc .co.uk/1/shared/ bsp/hi/vote2003/welsh_assembly/html/main_scoreboard.stm (Accessed 6th May 2021); House of Commons Library and Bryn Morgan (1999) Welsh Assembly Elections: 6 May 1999: Research Paper 99/51, London: House of Commons Library, p. 6.