Voters in England and Wales will cast ballots for mayors, council members and police commissioners on Thursday. And while the elections will, of course, focus on local issues like garbage collection and public safety, this vote is expected to have broader significance.

Local elections, by their nature, are about who leads communities and ensures the delivery of certain public services. But many analysts believe the results of these elections will also serve as an important bellwether of general public opinion across England and of whether Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s beleaguered Conservative Party has a chance of retaining power in a general election expected this fall.

The Conservatives face a fierce challenge from the opposition Labour Party, led by Keir Starmer.

The Conservatives won a third successive general election in 2019, but the accumulated discontent of 14 years in power — a period that included several changes of prime minister and political scandals — is weighing heavily: Labour has sustained double-digit leads in national opinion polls for more than a year.

About one-third of England’s council seats are being contested on Thursday, and 11 mayoral seats in major English metro areas, home to about a third of Britain’s population, are also up for election.

The big questions are how widely Labour can advance and how far the Conservatives may fall back.

British local elections have plenty of quirks — turnout is often relatively low, and smaller parties and independent candidates can do disproportionately well. But Thursday’s voting includes contests across England and Wales, and if the opposition’s apparent strength is less than opinion polling has suggested, the results should reveal that.

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