I've stayed clear of predicting specifics in local elections, but I thought I'd break tradition this time round. As it currently stands, Birmingham council is made up of 45 Tories, 41 Labour, 31 Liberal Democrats and 3 Respect councillors. It is elected by thirds and we are in the second year of the cycle, with councillors elected in 2007 retiring, giving us 40 wards to play with. Some of them are rock solid safe - Labour isn't hoping for a surprise victory in any of the Tory Sutton Coldfield wards, much as it may disappoint the doughty fighters in that CLP, but I suspect that we are likely to make solid gains this year. It is mathematically possible for Labour to take the seats required to regain control of the City Council this year, but rather unlikely, unless the Regressive Partnership electoral base melts down.
The national polls for the coalition partners aren't brilliant - although YouGov shows a slight revival in Liberal Democrat fortunes, with a high of 12% and the Tories holding firm on a creditable 36% against a solid Labour lead of 41% - but this isn't necessarily relevant to a local election, although voters usually use these elections to give a kicking to the parties in national government. It is very hard to match that across to local performance - Labour voters have typically been more reluctant to come out in local elections, while the Liberal Democrats have been highly efficient in mobilising their supporters to get out the vote.
So, what do I predict for May 5th?
I think we'll see 9 seats change hands to Labour - Hodge Hill, Springfield and Moseley from the Lib Dems (outside chances are Perry Barr and my own home ward of Acocks Green, in both of which I expect Labour to run them very close). Then we can perm some from a selection of Brandwood, Kings Norton, Quinton, Longbridge, Billesley, Weoley, Bournville and Northfield. I'm also expecting Hall Green to fall to the Tories from the Liberal Democrats. That should leave us with 3 Respect, 27 Liberal Democrats, 40 Tories and 50 Labour members.
Then we come back to retake the city in 2012 - albeit with a temporary Tory mayor.