Local elections 2024: Polls open in England and Wales as millions to cast votes in major test ahead of general election

POLLS are now open in the local elections that will see parties face off in hundreds of contests across the country.

Both Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer will be desperate for good results to carry them into the all-important General Election later this year.

There is a particular focus on several battlegrounds across England

ReutersA lady enters a polling station during local elections in Keele[/caption]

GettyA polling station in Yarm prepares to open ahead of voting in local elections[/caption]

It is also a chance for smaller parties like Reform and the Lib Dems to prove themselves a credible electoral force.

Polling stations opened at 7am and will close at 10pm – with voters needing some form of ID to cast their ballot.

Elections are taking place for regional mayors, councils, and police and crime commissioners.

A separate by-election is also underway in Blackpool South to replace the scandal-hit ex-Tory Scott Benton.

The seaside seat is being closely watched to see if Labour can make inroads back into the Red Wall.

Other key battlegrounds include the West Midlands and Tees Valley mayoral races where the Tories are trying to cling on.

Downing Street fears a double defeat could reignite disgruntled Tory plotters to move against the Prime Minister.

Meanwhile in London Sadiq Khan is trying to hang on as he comes under fire for his “dismal” record these past eight years.

The main parties will spend the day trying to “get out their vote”, knocking on doors ensuring their supporters get down to polling stations.

Experts say the Conservatives could lose between 400 and 500 councillors and their two most popular mayors — Ben Houchen and Andy Street.

Senior Tories have been managing expectations ahead of the elections to brace people for a bruising night.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt told Sky last night: “We are expecting to see significant losses. That often happens in local elections.

“But what we say to people is, look, this may be a moment when you want to express a view about the national picture, but actually the local services you depend on will be decided by how you vote.

“And if you want better public services as independently audited time after time and lower taxes, then you should vote Conservative tomorrow.” 

IF GENERAL ELECTIONS ARE A PRIZE FIGHT- LOCAL ELECTIONS ARE MATCH WEIGH IN

By Jack Elsom, Chief Political Correspondent

IF this year’s General Election is shaping up to be a prize political fight, then Thursday’s locals are the all-important pre-match weigh-in.

Both Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer are desperate to show they are a force to be reckoned with – and will be carefully sizing up their chances based on the results.

As a final test for the main parties before the race for No10, they will prove crucial in setting the political weather for the next few months.

While hundreds of skirmishes will take place for councils, mayoralties and police commissioners, there is a particular focus on several battlegrounds.

Mr Sunak wants to show voters – and restless Tory plotters – that he still has scope to close the gap on Sir Keir a shot at reelection.

Whereas the Labour leader will be hoping for the colossal Blair-style swings he needs to overturn the party’s 2019 thrashing.

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