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Fri, 19 July 2024

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By Ben Guerin
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Bruised Tory MPs Want Ministers To "Wake Up And Smell The Coffee" After Local Election Losses

Conservative candidates in Windsor and Maidenhead, which was won by the Liberal Democrats (Alamy)

3 min read

Conservative MPs are bracing themselves for a catastrophic day for their party as initial local election results suggest they could be on course to lose 1,000 seats. 

Around a third of results from Thursday's votes had been announced at the time of writing, with the Tories suffering a number significant losses across the country.

The party has surrendered councils in Medway and Plymouth to Labour, and lost control of Windsor and Maidenhead and Stratford-upon-Avon to the Liberal Democrats. Both Labour and the Lib Dems expect to deliver further blows to the Conservatives as the rest of the results come in on Friday.

“Clearly, this is not good, no matter how you look at it," one senior Conservative MP and former minister told PoliticsHome.

“I was told [by the Conservative party] to expect the results through the night to be better than those in the day, but I’m not sure about that now."

Justin Tomlinson, the Conservative MP for North Swindon, said: "No spin, no gloss. This is a dreadful set of results. Good Councillors, and for me good friends, have lost."

Tory MP Rehman Chisti, whose Gillingham and Rainham parliamentary seat includes newly Labour Medway, said the government “needs to wake up and smell the coffee”, and pinned the blame on ministers neglecting the South of England.

Chisti worried there are working-class communities in Medway who have not received their “fair share” of levelling-up support from Tory ministers, and argued that the current policy focuses too much on the North and the Midlands at the expense of people in areas like his. 

“We need to look again at how we fairly allocate resources,” he told PoliticsHome.

“Levelling up is great but we need to make it inclusive to the South East, too. We have urban areas with high deprivation and health inequalities.”

While the majority of results from Thursday's votes are still yet to be announced, Conservative MPs are taking some heart from what they say is a failure by Keir Starmer's Labour to make the sort of gains it needs to go into the next general election with confidence. 

Professor Michael Thrasher, elections analyst for Sky News, said this lunchtime that based on the results announced up to now, Labour's national vote share was 36-38%, while the Tories were on 28-30%. Repeated at the next general election, which is expected to take place in Autumn 2024, this lead would be enough for Labour to be the largest party not but win overall majority, according to Thrasher.

Speaking on the BBC's Politics Live this lunchtime, former Cabinet minister Andrea Leadsom said while the Tory performance on Thursday night had been "incredibly disappointing", she had not identified "a huge breakthrough for Labour" in the results so far.

"It doesn’t suggest to me anything like Tony Blair experienced in the run up to the general election in 1997," said Leadsom.

Polling expert Sir John Curtice, who was also on the show, said that while Starmer wasn't performing at the same level as Blair before his landslide general election victory, the current Labour leader doesn't necessarily need to do so to win the keys to No. 10 next year.

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