The UK’s Conservatives are suffering a “terrible” night of local election losses

  • First major election test for Prime Minister Sunak
  • The Conservatives could lose 1,000 seats – polls
  • The Labor Party says it is on its way to winning the next general election

LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Conservatives face a grim set of local election results on Friday as voters punish his party after a year of political scandals, high inflation and stagnant economic growth.

And while ruling parties often struggle in mid-term elections, the results of the Assembly in England will be the biggest, and perhaps the last, test of voter sentiments before the next general election, which is expected to take place next year.

The count was only made in about a quarter of the 8,000 council seats in local government authorities, which have responsibility for the day-to-day provision of public services such as bin groups and schools.

Preliminary results, which do not affect the government’s majority in Parliament, showed the Conservatives suffering a net loss of 218 seats while the main opposition Labor Party added 118 seats and the Liberal Democrats gained 57 seats.

The Labor Party said in a statement that, based on the results of the local elections, it is on course to win the next general election by an eight-point margin over the Conservatives.

Sunak’s party suffered losses to Labor in key target seats in the north and south of England, while the Liberal Democrats had a lead in the wealthier parts of the south.

The prime minister told reporters that the results so far have shown that people want his ruling party to fulfill their priorities, but it is still too early in the process of announcing the results to draw firm conclusions.

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John Curtis, Britain’s most popular pollster, said that based on the results so far, the Conservatives faced a “major electoral problem” and could face a net loss of around 1,000 seats, which was in line with the party’s most pessimistic forecast.

The full picture of the state of the parties will not become clear until later on Friday, when most of the councils will announce their results.

battlefield areas

Sunak has tried to restore the conservatives’ credibility since becoming prime minister in October after months of economic chaos and strikes.

The Conservatives changed prime ministers three times in the past year after ousting Boris Johnson in part over parties held in government buildings during COVID-19 lockdowns, and Liz Truss was brought down after gambling on tax cuts that shattered Britain’s reputation for financial stability.

Labor has been making gains in some of the areas that supported leaving the European Union in the 2016 Brexit referendum which the party will need to win if it is to secure a majority in the next general election.

In the early hours of Friday, Labor won control of the councils of Plymouth, Stoke-on-Trent and Medway, three key battleground areas seen as important to the party’s hopes of winning the next general election.

Sunak’s party lost control of at least eight councils.

Johnny Mercer, MP for Plymouth, said it had been an “awful” night for the Tories.

The last time most of these local election seats were contested was in 2019 when the Conservatives lost more than 1,300 seats which was expected to help limit losses in this election.

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Gavin Barwell, a former Conservative minister and member of the House of Lords, said the results reflected the political and economic chaos of the past year.

He told the BBC that Sunak was “working on improving the situation, but he started miles late and he has a hell of a job to do to try and bridge the gap”.

Reporting by Andrew MacAskill. Editing by Michael Berry

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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