"Terrible" Night For Tories With Major Local Election Losses
Rishi Sunak leaving CCHQ following major local election losses. (Alamy)
The Conservative Party is on course to lose hundreds of seats after early local election results paint a "terrible" picture for the party.
The Tories have lost control of a number of target councils, and so far have lost 434 council seats while Labour won an extra 289 seats. The Liberal Democrats gained 213 while the Green Party picked up 90 more.
The party ceded ground in key 'Red Wall' constituencies where they had made gains in the 2019 election, and that would be needed to stay in government at the next general election. Labour made key gains in areas such as Bolton, Hartlepool and Stoke-on-Trent while the Tories lost control of Tamworth, North West Leicestershire and East Lindsey.
Meanwhile the Liberal Democrats took control of Windsor and Maidenhead from the Conservatives, gaining 13 seats after a 20 percentage point swing. The area is considered to be a Tory stronghold, with its parliamentary seat held by former prime minister Theresa May.
Labour so far hold the most council seats in the United Kingdom, having control of 51 councils compared to the Conservatives 23.
But Prime Minister Rishi Sunak insisted that while it had been a "disappointing" night for the Conservatives, there were still a number of positive results for the party. The Conservatives have retained control of council in Thurrock, Essex – even though the council leader lost his seat to Labour – as well as Dudley, Redditch Borough Council, while they made gains in Peterborough, Sandwell, Bassetlaw.
Tory Party chairman Greg Hands told LBC that the blame could partly be placed on Russian president Vladimir Putin for the worsening economic weather in the country as a result of his invasion of Ukraine, which had paved the way for heavy defeats across the UK.
"In many cases it's local factors, in many cases it is classic Government unpopularity," he said. "Clearly last year was a very difficult year for the country... after Putin's invasion of Ukraine, the spike in energy prices and the spike in inflation. People are still dealing with the consequences of that."
Labour Keir Starmer said early results suggest Labour is "on course" to win a majority at the next general election.
"We have changed our party, we have won the trust and competence of voters. And now we can go on to change our country," he said in a statement in Medway, where one of the historically Tory councils has switched to Labour hands.
Shabana Mahmood MP, Labour’s National Campaign Coordinator, said: "These results show that we are on course for a majority Labour government.
"We have spent the whole campaign talking about Labour’s plan to tackle the Tory cost of living crisis which is the number one issue for voters. Rishi Sunak can't talk about it because the Tories crashed the economy and they don’t know how to fix it.
Based on the aggregate vote, Labour would have won constituencies such as Hartlepool, Stevenage, Dudley South, Ipswich, West Bromwich East, Great Grimsby and Aldershot.
A Labour source said Tory MPs will be very worried after the losses last night.
"This is supposed to be Rishi Sunak’s political honeymoon, but on these results they would have lost a bunch of seats — including one they've held for over 100 years,' they said.
Conservative MP and veterans minister Johnny Mercer said it was a "terrible night" for the party after Conservative councillors lost their seats in his constituency Plymouth.
Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey said it had been a "groundbreaking night" for the party after taking key seats in the Blue Wall.
“The message from voters is clear: they are sick to the back teeth of Rishi Sunak and his out-of-touch Conservative Government. At this election, it is the Liberal Democrats who are defeating the Conservatives and delivering the fair deal people deserve,” he said in a statement.
So far the results show the opinion polls have been roughly accurate about how much ground the Conservatives have lost in the last year, according to a spokesperson from Opinium.
They added that the willingness to vote for a anti-Conservative candidate was strong in many areas of the country.
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