Predicting election results is a fool’s game.
But if one was to spend an hour analysing the forthcoming Peterborough City Council elections (and who among us has not done this) it would appear that despite optimism from the opposition, it is the Conservatives who are best placed ahead of voting on May 3.
Forget that ruling parties tend to do badly in local elections and that we have a Conservative government and a Conservative-led council, out of the six seats being defended by the Tories five are in areas which could be classed as Conservative strongholds.
Those five areas (Eye, Thorney and Newborough, Hampton Vale, Hargate and Hempsted, Orton Waterville and Stanground South) currently have three councillors each, all of whom are Conservatives, which suggests the candidates seeking re-election there will have a good chance of victory.
But nothing is being taken for granted according to Cllr Wayne Fitzgerald, chairman of Peterborough Conservatives, who said the national party is targeting Peterborough as it is under no overall control, with the Tories holding half of the 60 seats. He added: “I’m optimistic we will gain more seats than we will lose.”
One sign the Tories are keen to win Peterborough is the presence of the national party’s chairman, Brandon Lewis, and deputy chairman, James Cleverly, who have been campaigning in the city.
Mr Lewis and former city MP Stewart Jackson have been canvassing in Ravensthorpe where the defending councillor is Ed Murphy, leader of the Labour group and outspoken critic of the Conservative administration.
When every council seat in the city was contested in 2016 Cllr Murphy was only re-elected by 26 votes, and the other councillors in the ward are Conservatives.
Mr Cleverly was campaigning in Park ward where former Tory council leader Cllr John Peach is seeking re-election.
Cllr Peach only won by 10 votes in 2016, and a by-election in Park ward last August saw the Labour candidate Shaz Nawaz win by nearly 350 votes.
Cllr Peach’s successor as council leader, Cllr Marco Cereste, is in the small ward of Hampton Vale, meaning it takes fewer votes to swing an election than elsewhere.
Nevertheless, it is Labour with the most seats to defend as it holds seven of the 18 seats being contested. Of those seven seats only two are in wards where Labour currently holds all the seats.
The Liberal Democrats are defending Gunthorpe and Paston and Walton which in 2016 delivered a clean sweep of Lib Dem councillors. The Lib Dems are predicting the Conservatives will lose seats in this election, as is Labour group leader Cllr Murphy.
The Liberal Party (Dogsthorpe) and Werrington First (Werrington) are also defending seats in wards which they completely control.
Cllr John Okonkowski, one of only two UKIP members, is defending his seat in Orton Longueville which he won by nearly 200 votes in 2016.