The Conservative Party has lost 48 councils and more than 1,000 council seats in England’s local elections, leaving them in a vulnerable position ahead of next year’s expected general election.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said that the results, which exceed their worst predictions, were “disappointing” but he did not detect “a massive groundswell of movement towards the Labour Party”.
Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour is now the largest party in local government, outperforming the Tories for the first time since 2002.
He described the results as “fantastic” and claimed his Party were well-placed to oust the Government in the next general election.
Speaking in Medway in Kent, where Labour gained overall control, he said: “Make no mistake, we are on course for a Labour majority at the next general election.”
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The elections in 230 English councils were Mr Sunak’s first electoral test since he took office last October.
The results show that the Conservatives are still suffering from high inflation and the economic and political upheaval caused by Liz Truss’ short premiership and the scandals which resulted in Boris Johnson’s resignation last summer.
Polling expert Sir John Curtice said this year’s results were “only a little short of calamitous for the Conservatives”.
In defence of the outcome, Conservative Party chair Greg Hands said: “What I’m hearing on the doorstep is that people are giving Rishi Sunak a chance.”
Similarly, Tim Bale, professor of politics at Queen Mary University of London, said: “I think most Conservative MPs have decided that it’s basically Rishi or bust, and they’re going to get behind him.
“I also think they will take some comfort from the fact that although they have done quite badly, Labour hasn’t done exceptionally well, at least not anything like as well as before the 1997 election.”
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