- By Joshua Nevett & Brian Wheeler
- BBC Politics
The Conservative Party’s crushing defeat in local elections represents “clear rejection” of Rishi Sunak in his first election test as prime minister, Labor has said.
Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer has announced his party will win the next general election, expected next year.
The Tories lost 48 councils and more than 1,000 councilors across Britain in Thursday’s polls, exceeding their worst predictions.
Labor says it is now the largest party in local government, overtaking the Tories for the first time since 2002.
A Labor spokesman said: “The British public has sent a clear rejection of a prime minister who has never been on duty in the first place.
The Liberal Democrats have achieved what leader Sir Ed Davey says is their “best result in decades”, taking control of 12 councils, mainly in central Tory regions. The party gained 405 new councilors, compared with Labour’s 536.
The Greens won 241 seats – their best-ever result in local elections – and won their first majority in an English council, in Mid-Suffolk, despite although they were overtaken by Labor in Brighton and Hove as the largest party.
Mr Sunak admitted the results were “disappointing”, but said he had not detected “a huge wave of movements towards the Labor Party or excitement over its agenda”.
Sir Keir claimed the “excellent” results showed his party was well positioned to oust the Conservatives from government in a general election, expected next year.
He told cheering activists in Medway in Kent, one of the councils his party won from the Tories: “Make no mistake, we are on track to win a Labor majority in the general election. next.
‘Less lack of disaster’
Labor has taken control of councils in areas that will be key battlegrounds in the general election, including Medway, Swindon, Plymouth, Stoke-on-Trent and East Staffordshire.
The BBC’s projected national vote share puts Labor on 35%, the Tories above 26% and the Lib Dems above 20%.
Labor’s projected nine-point lead is the largest over the Conservatives on the measure since the party lost power in 2010.
Pollster Sir John Curtice said this year’s results were “only slightly disastrous for the Conservative Party”.
But the BBC’s political editor, Chris Mason, said the results showed it was unlikely the Conservative Party or Labor would be confident of winning a majority in the next general election.
Labor shadow cabinet member Peter Kyle has denied results showed the Lib Dems won as many new councilors as Labor, being an anti-government, rather than pro-Labour, vote.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I don’t think you can read too much about it.”
He added: “In all the areas where the Labor Party was targeting, where we focused our resources, that we really wanted to reconnect with voters, we did.”
He said Sir Keir Starmer had “led from the front” and Labor had carried out a “disciplined” campaign, winning back voters in “important places” such as Stoke and parts of Kent, which This shows they are “moving towards government.”
In Swindon, where Labor took control of the county council for the first time in 20 years, ousted Tory council leader David Renard blamed “the cost of living and government operations over the past 12 months” for his party’s woes locally.
Mr Renard said while the prime minister had “started to stabilize things”, for voters in Swindon “what happened before that was something they didn’t like”.
The Conservative mayor of the Tees Valley, Ben Houchen, who is running for office next year, said the Conservative Party’s poor performance was partly the result of “chaos and upheaval over the past 12 months”.
He said Labor had “successfully turned this into a referendum on government”, adding that “people don’t feel like they can vote for us”.
Nigel Churchill, a former Tory councilor who lost his seat on Plymouth Council – another Labor target – said “I think we can safely say” the Conservatives will lose the general election. next election.
“The general public doesn’t trust them at the moment,” he said.
However, Education Secretary Robert Halfon said this year’s local elections were always “tough” for his party.
He said divisions within the party “didn’t help”, but claimed the damage was caused by external factors, such as the cost of living crisis and problems within the NHS.
“Every midterm government, especially the one that has been in power for 13 years, has always suffered defeat in local elections,” he said.
Other Tory MPs told the BBC that apathy – conservative voters at home – was also a big problem for the party.
Key results at a glance:
- Labor won 536 councilors and 22 councils – including the key battlegrounds of Swindon, Plymouth, Medway and Stoke-on-Trent, where the party is hoping for success in the next general election
- conservatives lost 1,061 councilors and 48 councilors, but gained control of Torbay and Wyre Forest
- Liberal Democratic Party won 12 councils and 405 councilors, including former Conservative strongholds Windsor and Maidenhead, and Stratford-on-Avon
- Nearly 250 Green councilors were elected and the party won an outright majority in a council for the first time in Mid Suffolk
The election seats mainly belong to county councils, which are responsible for services including garbage collection, parks, public housing and planning applications.
The remainder of the elections are for the combination of municipal councils and units – the single local government that handles all local services – and for the four mayors.
This is the first UK election to see voter ID checks at polling stations. Some voters told the BBC they were turned away at polling stations, prompting critics to call for the ID rules to be dropped.