The backdrop to next week’s council elections becomes increasingly bizarre with the national spotlight focusing on who paid for the redecoration of 10 Downing Street and whether the Prime Minister had broken the rules about what MPs are required to report.

If you didn’t know who Lulu Lytle is – and full disclosure I didn’t – then the Designgate saga cover provided everything you wanted and probably more than you needed.

Boris Johnson’s interior design choices have been criticized. PA Photo / Stefan Rousseau

The rather opaque statements of Boris Johnson himself failed to end the argument that surrounded him as he sought to move on to bigger questions far from what his taste for upholstery is.

It seemed like a crisis the party couldn’t quite close the door on (perhaps the curtains got in the way) despite repeated ministers that the PM “had been very clear” on how the overhaul of his apartment had been paid for.

Why should that be a factor in this week’s “Super Thursday” election? On its own, it won’t be decisive one way or another, but the party’s inability to shake off the dispute is politically debilitating. What started out as a slight discomfort turned into a throbbing pain.

This shows how quickly politics is changing that the other political crisis for the government – that of consultants with direct access to senior ministers – has not been entirely forgotten but has shifted in the pecking order.

Amid all this bad PR, it looks like the public might not care much: Opinion polls give the Tories a comfortable sideline over Labor.

Prior to Kent’s election, there appears to have been a significant increase in requests for postal votes.

It is difficult to make comparisons with the previous elections. This could mean that there will be an increase in voter turnout next week. Although this may also be due to the fact that voters have been encouraged to use postal voting to limit the risk of transmission of the coronavirus.

Here’s what the boards told us – not all responded to a request for details.

In Folkestone and Hythe, 20,336 people registered for the postal ballot compared to 15,916 in 2017, an increase of 28%.

Dover council said it issued 16,373 postal parcels for the 2021 election, while in the last KCC election in 2017 it issued 14,395, a 14% increase.

It's almost time to go to the polls
It’s almost time to go to the polls

Canterbury City Council received 17,591 requests for postal votes, up from 13,906 for the KCC election in 2017, an increase of 26%.

Tonbridge and Malling council said it issued 19,500 parcel post for the election, up from around 16,000 in 2017.

Direct comparisons between 2017 and 2021 are difficult because four years ago the only election was for Kent County Council.

Those who requested a postal vote this year may have received a dossier covering both elections, whether or not they requested one.

This could suggest increased turnout – conventional wisdom is that mail-order voters are almost certain to vote and may have done so before the last row over whether tax dollars were used to redecorate Downing Street.

The 2017 KCC election turnout was 32%, while the 2016 Kent Police and Crime Commissioner election was just over 20%.

“ They say there are nerves vibrating in strange places like Tunbridge Wells … ”

It would be good to think that these modest numbers will be exceeded next week.

Time to take a look at the crystal ball. Who will be the winners and who will be the losers in the elections?

The idea that the county council will be under new management is rather fanciful. The Conservatives will keep control, but there could be a surprise or two and the majority may not be as high as it is.

They say there are nerves vibrating in strange places like Tunbridge Wells; while Canterbury appears to be returning to a three-way fight in the contested divisions there.

It is hard to look past anything except the Conservatives’ victory in the election of police and crime commissioners. Some think if his candidate doesn’t make it through the first round it could be pretty tight

Head over to our Politics page for expert analysis and all the latest news from your politicians and councils.

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