Local elections nightmare for Rishi Sunak as Tories admit 'terrible' night

Rishi Sunak, with Ed Davey and Keir Starmer inset

Rishi Sunak's Conservatives have suffered 'terrible' losses in the local elections

Dan Falvey

By Dan Falvey

Published: 05/05/2023

- 06:49

Updated: 05/05/2023

- 11:45

Labour has won in a number of constituencies which are expected to be crunch general election battlegrounds

Conservative MPs say the party has had a "terrible night" in the local elections, with the Tories on course for heavy losses.

In Rishi Sunak's first electoral test since becoming Prime Minister, both Labour and the Liberal Democrats have made significant gains across England.

The Conservatives have lost control in areas of the country seen to be key to winning the next general election with Labour gaining control of Plymouth, where the Tories had run a minority administration and in Stoke-on-Trent.

In Hertsmere, where Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden is MP, the Tories lost control of the council, with 13 councillors voted out while Labour gained seven and the Lib Dems six.

Keir Starmer with Labour supporters

Labour has won a number of seats in crunch general election battlegrounds


Tamworth, Brentford, North West Leicestershire and East Lindsey also fell from Tory administrations to no overall control.

Labour replaced the Tories as the largest party in Hartlepool and Worcester.

Conservative minister and Plymouth Moor View MP John Mercer said: "It’s been a terrible night in Plymouth as we lost every seat we stood in.

"We lost some outstanding friends and colleagues who have given decades of service to Plymouth."

Greg Hands on GB News

Greg Hands admitted it had been a 'disappointing' night for the Tories

GB News

Rishi Sunak

Rishi Sunak has downplayed the losses

GB News

Meanwhile, Conservative party chairman Greg Hands admitted to GB News that it had been a "disappointing" night.
"It was always clear we were going to have a difficult night," he said.

"The Conservative party had a difficult year last year - the whole country had a difficult year - but Rishi Sunak and the team are getting on with the job, delivering on the five priorities of halving inflation, restoring growth, cutting the debt, reducing hospital waiting lists and stopping the boats."

Speaking to broadcasters outside the Conservative campaign headquarters in central London, Sunak downplayed the losses, saying: “Actually we’re making progress in key electoral battlegrounds like Peterborough, Bassetlaw, Sandwell.”

The party has sought to manage expectations by pointing to forecasts which suggest they could lose more than 1,000 seats if things go badly.

With the prospect of a general election in 2024 there are concerns that they have suffered losses in the north, south and the Midlands.

Critics of the Prime Minister with the Tories have warned that a failure to offer "Conservative policies" was to blame for the bad night.

"Many former Conservative voters stayed at home in protest at high taxes, lack of control of our borders, and too much local and national government interference in their lives," said former Cabinet minister Sir John Redwood.

"If the PM wants to win back lost Conservative voters he should try offering some Conservative policies.

"Cut taxes, get better value for state spending and go for growth."

More than 8,000 council seats were up for election on Thursday across 230 local authorities, while mayors were being chosen in Bedford, Leicester, Mansfield and Middlesbrough.

The last time the same council seats were contested was in May 2019, when the Tories performed poorly under Theresa May as she struggled with Brexit and Labour under Jeremy Corbyn also suffered.

The Conservatives lost more than 1,300 council seats and majority political control of 44 councils, meaning they had less to lose on Thursday than they might have done.

A Labour source said of the results so far: “Tory MPs will be very worried. This is supposed to be Rishi Sunak’s political honeymoon, but on these results they would have lost a bunch of seats — including one they’ve held for over 100 years.”

Liberal Democrat deputy leader Daisy Cooper said: “I have knocked on countless doors in recent weeks and heard real anger and frustration from voters who are sick and tired of being taken for granted by this Conservative government.”

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