Could spring’s council elections trigger an early exit for May?

Theresa May PM meeting with European Parliament President

A bad showing in upcoming local authority elections could lead to the prime minister’s downfall.

On the 3rd May 2018, all seats in all 32 London boroughs are up for grabs, as well as a third of seats for 34 metropolitan boroughs, a third of seats on 17 unitary authorities and a third of seats in 68 second-tier districts, according to Gwydir.Demon.

Labour won 2,048 of the available seats the last time these councils were up for election while the Conservatives won just 1,302. The Liberal Democrats won 409, UKIP 154, the Greens 33.

Before last year's election, British politics was not playing by the rules, and instead of the main opposition party making major gains at expense of the government, the Conservatives were winning in local elections and even won the Copeland by-election, setting a major record.

However, last year’s vote has reset the system. Jeremy Corbyn increased Labour’s share of the vote by almost ten percentage points, closing the gap with Theresa May’s Conservatives. The government and Theresa May are struggling while Labour is maintaining its place in the polls.

Jeremy Corbyn campaign in West Kirby

With political norms back in play, one expects that the local elections will deliver largely bad results for the Conservatives with Labour set to make gains. Playing into this narrative, the Evening Standard has reported that election expert Lord Hayward said that the Conservatives could suffer major losses in London, even in seats once regarded as safe. Resultantly, Labour will likely play down expectations of big wins in case things do not go as well as expected while the Conservatives will emphasise that they have governed for almost eight years and that heavy losses are expected.

The question is: how much will the Conservatives lose, and could that have an impact on Theresa May’s future at the helm of the party?

Much will depend on how expectations are managed and how badly the party actually fairs. Big losses in areas with MPs in marginal constituencies will do little to quiet murmurs that Theresa May should go. Furthermore, according to Birmingham Mail, "Westminster insiders" have said that the elections could be key to whether May stays in power.

The local elections could be the straw to break the camel’s back, but would anyone want the job at a time when the Conservatives are on the down and Brexit dominates government policy?