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UK local elections: How to watch like a pro



2 a.m.: Labour strategists hope to unseat the Tory Avon and Somerset police commissioner and make gains in Tory North East Lincolnshire, where Labour ex-MP Melanie Onn is standing in the general. Lib Dems are talking down the odds of taking Portsmouth despite only needing four gains. Hart is a three-way fight between Tories, Lib Dems and a veteran community group.

3 a.m.: Labour is fighting for control of Harlow and Redditch, both Tory but with slim majorities and all seats up for grabs. Labour is also confident of gains on no-overall-control Thurrock, which has long flipped red-blue, went bust and is raising council tax by 8 percent. Stockport and Hull are two rare Lib Dem-Labour battles. Watch for whether Reform UK makes progress in Lincoln, red for most of four decades.

4 a.m.: Between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. is the Blackpool South by-election result. Red through Blair, Cameron and May then blue in 2019, Labour’s Chris Webb expects to win it back after gambling (um) enthusiast Scott Benton was ousted. But Labour campaigners fear awful turnout, which is low in Blackpool at the best of times (56.8 percent in 2019). Reform UK have claimed they could come second. Reform also has its eye on Labour-run Plymouth council, standing in 17 out of 19 seats.

5 a.m. onwards: Results dry up until lunchtime and the spin wars begin. The ruling Lib Dems hope to strengthen their hold over the Tories in Winchester, which has one of their big general election target seats.

Friday, noon: The Tories or Labour will each seize on the Tees Valley mayor to set their narrative if their candidate wins. Labour activists have had jitters about the North East mayor, which would be a shoo-in if not for independent Jamie Driscoll. In council-land, red Blackburn had Labour councillors quit over Gaza, but it shouldn’t swing control of the council. Same deal in Walsall, which is Tory-run but has a Labour target seat at the general.

1 p.m.: Labour aides privately reckon they’ve a chance of unseating the Tory NottinghamshireHumberside, and Cambridgeshire & Peterborough police commissioners. Lib Dems and Labour are neck-and-neck with a strong Green presence in studenty Sheffield, whose Hallam seat is a rare yellow-red Westminster marginal. Labour is gunning hard for the three extra seats it needs for a majority on Cannock Chase, whose Westminster seat is a bellwether since 1997. Burnley is a party rainbow, but watch three wards where Labour is standing against its own former members. The councillors quit the party over Starmer’s stance on Gaza.

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