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By Bishop of Leeds
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Rishi Sunak Kicks Off Conservative Local Elections Campaign

Rishi Sunak launching the Conservatives' local elections campaign in Derbyshire (Alamy)

3 min read

Rishi Sunak has launched the Conservatives’ local election campaign in Derbyshire, ahead of what is expected to be a difficult test for the party before the General Election.

Voters in many areas of England will go to the polls on 2 May to elect councillors and mayors, as well as votes for Police and Crime Commissioners in England and Wales. 

The last time a lot of these seats were contested was 2021 when the Conservatives made significant gains, which a lot of analysts put down to the success of the Covid vaccine roll-out. 

Speaking in Derbyshire on Friday morning, Sunak accused Labour of bankrupting the largest local authority in Europe, referring to Birmingham City Council.

“In contrast to that you've got fantastic mayors like Ben Houchen in Teesside, Andy Street in the West Midlands, and soon to be Ben Bradley here in the East Midlands, all of whom are delivering for their constituents and that's the difference at these elections,” he said. 

PoliticsHome reported earlier this week that the prospect of Houchen and Street losing their seats in May’s votes could cause another headache for Sunak. Conservative MPs now believe the fate of the pair could have a big impact on how Tory backbenchers respond to the results on the night. Defeat for either, or even a large swing against them, would likely fuel concern among Tory MPs in their regions about what awaits them at the next general election. 

Mayoral contests in London and Greater Manchester aren't giving the Tories much cause for optimism either. Conservative candidate for London Mayor Susan Hall is currently lagging behind Labour incumbent Sadiq Khan by 24 points, according to Savanta polling released on Friday. The numbers indicate that 51 per cent of people intend to back Khan, with Hall scoring 27 per cent. 

In Manchester the former Conservative candidate for the mayoralty defected to the Reform Party on Thursday. Dan Evans will now stand for Richard Tice’s party at the mayoral election, and is expected to make a speech at the weekend to lay out the party’s campaign. 

The defection concluded another difficult week for Sunak, with his Rwanda legislation pushed to beyond the Easter break, rumours of growing unhappiness among his backbenchers and the latest YouGov numbers suggesting that Sunak may only be four points ahead.

The poll for The Times, released on Thursday, showed Reform on 15 points nationally, with the Conservatives on 19. 

Labour had a 25-point lead, with 44 per cent of people saying that they would vote for Keir Starmer’s party. 

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Read the most recent article written by Caitlin Doherty - Persistent Rwanda Deadlock Could Kill Rishi Sunak's Deportation Plans


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