Post by nobodyimportant on Jan 12, 2020 17:10:43 GMT
Two things to bear in mind: 1. The local Conservative party is not quite as unpopular now as they were in May 2019. 2. There are two seats where councillors elected as Conservatives who have since defected are up this year, and both are likely to go back to the Tories.
Incidentally, all three party leaders are up for election this time, although none are at any real risk of being defeated.
Likely Con gains: Finchampstead South (from Lib Dem elected as Con) Loddon (from Ind elected as and effectively acting as Con)
Likely Lib Dem gains: Emmbrook (from Con) Evendons (from Con)
Likely main battleground seats: (first party is the winner in 2016) Charvil - Con/Ind. Depends a lot on whether Nick Ray stands again. If there is no Independent this could be an outside chance of a Lib Dem gain. If there is both an Ind and a Lib Dem then it will be an easy Con hold. Hawkedon - Lib Dem/Con. Probably a Lib Dem hold but the only seat that the Tories didn't win in 2016 which there is any real chance of them gaining this time, so they may choose to target it and if they do it could be close. Hillside - Con/Lib Dem. Most likely of these seats to change hands, although probably by a smaller margin than in 2019. Maiden Erlegh - Con/Lib Dem/Lab(?) Will the Lib Dems squeeze the Lab vote here (they didn't in 2019)? Could this be only the second time the Tories fall to third anywhere in the borough since the 2004 boundary changes? Or will the Conservatives hold on against a split opposition? All three are very much possible in this most unpredictable of wards. Norreys - Con/Lab. If Labour couldn't win in 2019, they'll really struggle to now. That said, it's their most likely chance at a gain. Shinfield South - Con/Ind. Depends on whether there is a strong independent challenger, although it's worth noting that even more of the council's house building is now penned in for this ward than it was before.
It's early days, but I'm expecting the Conservatives to end up with 27-30 seats. Losing overall control is plausible, but Lib Dems gaining overall control is almost impossible. Even the Lib Dems becoming the largest party is exceedingly unlikely, given that they aren't the main opposition in many of the battleground seats - if all of the list above went against the Tories it would still leave it as 26 Con to 19 Lib Dems*.
So I'm expecting a Con hold overall, and am somewhat surprised that I am the first person in the poll to go for this.
*On a rough estimate of likelyhood of seats changing hands, and assuming Lib Dems stand aside in Charvil for a successful Ind candidate, I'd put Finchampstead North as the seat where the Lib Dems become the largest party. The Con candidate there got more than 6 times as many votes as the Lib Dem in 2016 (with the help of a fairly strong personal vote). For the Lib Dems to reach 27 seats (half the council), the party can only afford to not win 3 seats, including any where they stand aside. I can't even come up with a way of that happening.
edit: and now I'm outnumbered by people predicting a Lib Dem gain. Are people thinking this is like 2019 where the Tories were defending every seat, even in such hostile territory as Twyford or Bulmershe? Even 11 Lib Dem wins is hard enough to see. 11 gains on top of the 4 the party is defending? About as likely as a Lib Dem overall majority was in last years general election.