Conservatives suffer big losses in local polls


Early results in local elections in England have seen Labour and the Liberal Democrats gain council seats at the expense of the Conservatives…reports Asian Lite News

Early results in local elections in England have seen Labour and the Liberal Democrats gain council seats at the expense of the Conservatives.

Plymouth, Medway and Stoke-on-Trent councils were won by Labour, while the Lib Dems took Windsor and Maidenhead.

The Conservatives lost their majorities in Tamworth, Brentwood, Hertsmere and North West Leicestershire.

Only a minority of councils counted overnight and most results will not be confirmed until later on Friday. The polls for more than 8,000 council seats on 230 councils, and four mayors, across England closed on Thursday.

The vote is the first big test of Rishi Sunak’s electoral popularity since he became prime minister.

Conservatives have acknowledged disappointment at the early results but noted that only 25% of councils have declared results so far. Initial results suggest Labour are making steady if not overwhelming gains, but the party says it is making good progress in the areas it needs in order to win the next general election.

Responding to the overnight results, Sunak said it was disappointing to lose Conservative councillors but added that his party was making progress in “key election battlegrounds” like Peterborough, Sandwell and Bassetlaw.

“I’m not detecting any massive groundswell of movement towards the Labour Party or excitement for their agenda,” he said. Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer travelled to Medway to celebrate his party’s victory in the Kent council with local activists. “You didn’t just get it over the line, you blew the doors off,” he told the crowd.

He said Labour had won in the key battlegrounds and were “on course” to win a majority at the next general election. Liberal Democrat Leader Sir Ed Davey told the BBC he had a “Cheshire-cat” grin on his face following what he said had been a “ground-breaking night” for his party.

The Green Party is hoping to win outright control of its first council in Mid Suffolk. Party co-leader Carla Denyer said her party were benefitting from “a deep dislike of the Tories and Starmer’s uninspiring Labour”.

The first gain of a council went to Labour, who took control in Plymouth, where no party previously had a majority.

Later in the night, the party celebrated other victories including taking Medway, a council the Conservatives had held for more than 20 years.

The Liberal Democrats won control of Windsor and Maidenhead, where their 22-year-old candidate caused an upset by defeating the Conservative leader of the council. Results will continue to be declared throughout Friday, including three mayoral contests in Bedford, Leicester and Mansfield.

In Middlesbrough, Labour’s Chris Cooke became mayor beating the incumbent candidate. Elections are not taking place in London, Scotland or Wales. Council elections in Northern Ireland have been moved back to Thursday 18 May because of the Coronation of King Charles III on Saturday.

John Curtice, Britain’s best-known pollster, said based on the results so far, the Conservatives were in “considerable electoral trouble” and could face a net loss of about 1,000 seats, which would be in line with the party’s most pessimistic forecast.

Sunak has tried to restore the credibility of the Conservatives since he was made prime minister in October following months of economic chaos and strikes.

The Conservatives changed prime ministers three times in the past year after Boris Johnson was ousted partly over parties held in government buildings during COVID-19 lockdowns, and Liz Truss was brought down following a gamble on tax cuts that shattered Britain’s reputation for financial stability.

Labour was making gains in some areas that backed leaving the European Union in the 2016 Brexit referendum which the party will need to win over if it wants to achieve a majority at the next general election.

Johnny Mercer, a member of parliament for Plymouth, said it had been a “terrible” night for the Conservatives.

The last time most of these local election seats were contested was in 2019 when the Conservatives lost more than 1,300 seats which had been expected to help limit the losses in these elections.

Gavin Barwell, a former Conservative minister and a member of the upper House of Lords, said the results reflected the political and economic chaos of the last year.

Sunak is “improving the situation, but he started miles behind and he’s got a hell of a job to do to try and close the gap,” he told the BBC.

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