Britain’s Tories suffer losses in Rishi Sunak’s first election test

LONDON: Britain’s ruling Tories suffered high-profile losses as results poured in from the Prime Minister on Friday Rishi Sunakfirst big electoral test since coming to power last year.
In the depths of the worst cost of living crisis in decades, local council elections held across swathes of England on Thursday have shed light on the position of the main parties ahead of the UK-wide general election planned for next year.
Vote counting will not be completed until later on Friday, with 230 English districts electing more than 8,000 council seats, just as Britain prepares for Saturday coronation of King Charles III.
But the main opposition Labor party hailed that the trend was already clear.
“These results have been a disaster for Rishi Sunak as voters punish him for the Conservatives’ failure,” said Shabana Mahmood, Labor’s national campaign co-ordinator.
“These results show that we are on the right track for a majority Labor government,” she added.
By 07:40 (06:40 GMT), 60 councils had announced their results. Sunak’s Conservatives had lost 209 seats, a third of the total they had defended so far.
The trend would put the centre-right party on course for its worst local election defeat since the mid-1990s, before Labor took power nationwide in a landslide under Tony Blair.
Transport Minister Huw Merriman has indicated his party is paying the price for a chaotic few weeks last year when it dropped Boris Johnson and then Liz Truss as leader in quick succession.
Local voters ‘talked about older news about former prime ministers – but to say your current leader seems to have what it takes,’ he told the BBC, insisting Sunak was on the right path.
“He seems to be changing things for us, but it’s an opportunity for the electorate to cast their vote on where we were before,” Merriman said.
Labor won 110 seats and took control of popular targets in Plymouth in the South West of England, Medway in the South East and Stoke-on-Trent in the Midlands.
Extrapolating to a national result in the next general election, Mahmood said Labour’s lead over the Tories stood at more than eight per cent – enough for leader Keir Starmer to become prime minister.
In national polls, Labor built a double-digit lead over the Tories and staged a referendum on Thursday on “13 years of Conservative failure”.
The party is particularly targeting its former strongholds in the north of England, the so-called ‘red wall’, which Johnson turned conservative in the 2019 general election by promising to ‘get Brexit done’.
The smaller Liberal Democrat party was winning 56 seats and making inroads into wealthy conservative neighborhoods on the outskirts of London which are represented nationally by members of Sunak’s cabinet – the ‘blue wall’.
The centrist opposition party took over council in Windsor and Maidenhead, west London, an area represented in Westminster by former prime minister Theresa May.
“We are exceeding all expectations,” said Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey.
“We have hammered the Conservative Party into the blue wall ahead of next year’s general election.”
Polls suggest voters are deeply concerned about decades-high inflation and the crisis engulfing the National Health Service, as doctors and nurses strike for better pay.
Sunak had already conceded on Wednesday that his conservative party faced a “tough” trial with voters.
“I have only been prime minister for six months, but I believe we are making good progress,” he said.
Sunak also defended a change introduced by his government for this election requiring voters to show photo ID for the first time, a move denounced by Labor and others as an attempt to suppress voting.
The Electoral Reform Society, one of the critics, said on Thursday it had seen “countless examples of people being disenfranchised because of these new laws.”


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