By Lord Ashcroft
This article was first published in the Financial Times
There is a ritual, and even a specialised vocabulary, for midterm local elections in the UK. In advance, they are always a “crucial test” of the government’s popularity, and the opposition’s ability to turn poll ratings into votes. Next comes expectation management, when incumbent parties brief that they will lose practically all their councillors, and the challengers claim they expect to gain hardly any, in the forlorn hope of bamboozling political reporters.