THE local government elections are now less than a month away, with nominations closing yesterday.

Deadlines being what they are I’m writing this before the nominations are announced, but a full report will be elsewhere in this fine publication, so you can see just how wrong my predictions are.

Both Labour and the Conservatives will no doubt put in a good showing in Newport and across Gwent, with a mix of veteran councillors defending their seats and new faces stepping up to the plate.

Plaid Cymru have put on a brave face about their chances in Newport and the surrounding area, but the party has always struggled to make gains in the city and, in a press conference yesterday morning, Caerphilly was the only Gwent local authority mentioned as one in which Plaid expects to do well this year.

The Lib Dems have always talked a good game and have a representative on Newport council in the shape of Carmel Townsend, who won the seat in a by-election in July last year following the death of her husband Ed two months earlier.

But the group has lost of two of its most vocal campaigners, Paul Halliday, who is currently keeping his head down after allegations of misconduct - allegations he has repeatedly denied - and Michael Enea, who, left the party last November to join the Conservatives.

Meanwhile who knows what Ukip will do, although with the party’s decent showing in last year’s Assembly election you would expect them to at least put up a fight in Gwent, and probably gain at least a handful of seats.

And in Newport we have the newly-formed Independent Party, which could well cause some ruptures with some popular figures joining its ranks who could well win seats based on personality alone.

And of course the Greens and the other usual fringe groups will have a whack.

So it’s anyone’s game in Newport. Labour could be successful in winning back control, but matching their current count of 34 seems unlikely.

The Tories will have to pull of something only just short of a miracle to win majority control, but I wouldn’t count them out. To me it seems more likely the vote will be split by the Independents and other smaller groups, and we end up with another coalition.

Monmouthshire being what it is - it would be a shock if the Tories lose power, especially in the current political climate, but stranger things have happened.

And elsewhere in the more deprived areas of Gwent will be where I expect to see the biggest gains for Ukip. It would be a surprise to see them win overall control anywhere, but, again, coalitions could be on the cards in places like Blaenau Gwent.

It’s going to be a close thing, and it’s all to play for.

l As Article 50 was triggered last week, Carwyn Jones teamed up with former prime minister Gordon Brown, Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale and, in a surprise guest appearance like when one of the characters from Cheers would pop up in Frasier, ex-deputy prime minister John Prescott.

The group all agreed Brexit was a very, very bad thing indeed and it was about time someone stepped up to the plate to make sure Wales and Scotland didn’t lose out as a result of the process.

After spending an hour or so going back and forth about something called a people’s constitution I suspect a lot of attendees were left wondering what exactly the point was.

Granted, the event took place an hour or so before the Article 50 letter was released, but it seems all we’ve heard from Labour and other non-Tory politicians since last June is “here’s what we would do”.

But with Labour in Westminster hardly providing an effective opposition, for reasons far too complex to go into here, and Theresa May’s government having little incentive to acquiesce to the demands of the Welsh Government, let alone the SNP-dominated Scottish Parliament, it seems likely these calls will fall on deaf ears.

While working to ensure the negative impact of Brexit on Wales is as minimal as possible is a laudable goal, it has to be asked just how much influence on the process these opposition politicians are really going to have when all is said and done.

l Question of the week - which high-ranking AM did yours truly spot parking their shiny motor in a bus stop near the Senedd so they could pop into the shop yesterday morning?

Answers on a postcard to the usual address.