No Tory safe seats any more, warns Kwarteng

The West Midlands is one region under a particular spotlight in these local elections. Much of the political and media attention has been focused on the mayoralty – specifically whether the Conservative incumbent, Andy Street, can buck the national trend of Tory obliteration and offer the party a tincture of hope for the rest of the year – but Labour has been looking to seize control of blue areas all over the place.

The result of the mayoral election won’t arrive until Saturday afternoon, so for now the question is how well Labour can do in the 15 councils counting results in the West Midlands today. A glum omen was cast for the Tories overnight: the first of those results saw Labour take back control of Redditch Borough Council after six years of Conservative leadership.

It could be a long Friday for Rishi Sunak, but here in Walsall, where a result is expected at a very civilised 12.30pm, the clouds are the most cheerful shade of grey we’re expecting all day. The mood at the industrious and warren-like Walsall Civic Centre seems chipper, if nervous. 

Currently, the Conservatives hold a majority in Walsall, with 37 out of the local authority’s 60 seats, while Labour has 12. A newly formed Independent Group (six of whom resigned from Labour in November over Sir Keir Starmer’s stance on the conflict in Gaza) holds nine, while another independent and one of no political party makes up the remaining two. One seat in each of Walsall’s 20 wards is up for grabs. 

Labour have clearly targeted the West Midlands, and particularly the Black Country. Remember (you probably can’t) that just last month, Starmer chose Dudley for his national campaign launch. But can Walsall provide an early buttress against a potential red surge? We’ll know in a couple of hours.

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