Local elections in England were a crucial test of morale for the ruling Tories after the battles over Boris Johnson and Liz Truss – and ended in disappointment. The Labor Party, on the other hand, was able to celebrate.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Conservative Party suffered a crushing defeat in the local elections in England. By evening, the Tories had already lost more than 1,000 local council seats. It made it clear: for the first time since 2002, the opposition Labor Party is the strongest force in the country, winning 500 seats locally. A Labor spokesman said the British had given Sunak a clear rejection.
Some were already comparing the results to the 1996 local elections, which preceded Labor’s landslide victory under former prime minister Tony Blair in the general election a year later. The vote was seen as Sunak’s first temper test – this time with parliamentary elections coming up in a year. Sky News reporter Beth Rigby spoke of a “dream scenario”.
“It’s always disappointing to lose hard-working, conservative local councillors,” Sunak said. However, the Prime Minister said he did not see “massive growth in the movement towards Labour”.
Sunak under pressure
The prime minister, who has re-stabilized the party in his nearly 200 days in office, is under pressure through a bitter defeat. After the scandals of his predecessors Boris Johnson and Liz Truss, Chung was able to restart the conversation, not only about the guys – but also about their misdeeds.
People wanted the Conservatives to deliver, Sunak said in the morning: “Having inflation in half, boosting the economy, reducing health service waiting lists and stopping the refugee boats, that’s what voters want and that’s what we’re working hard for.”
Election results may spoil the good mood now. Critics within the party charge that the 42-year-old lacks the campaigning firepower of his predecessor Johnson. Sunak appears deliberately calm and intelligent. However, in conversations with citizens, the wealthy former investment banker doesn’t come across as naturally as Johnson. In a first reaction, the Prime Minister was optimistic and spoke of good results in some of the hardest-hit districts.
“Disaster for Conservatives”
But observers saw it differently: “Today’s local elections are a disaster for conservatives,” asserted the Byline Times portal. A scene with cabinet member Johnny Mercer reflected the mood almost symbolically: as the Plymouth MP spoke live on the BBC about a “terrible night” for his party, it was announced in the background that Labor would take charge of the southern English port. In future. A loud cheer silenced Mercer.
The question of who is to blame for the electoral disaster will now lead to a new row in the Conservative Party. There are already voices from the right that the ousting of two prime ministers by the Sunak camp will undo the Tories’ mandate won by Boris Johnson in 2019. A clear margin is now the order of the day, but Sunak offers “higher taxes, higher costs, open borders” as former MEP John Longworth criticized.
Truss, the short-lived prime minister, is now speaking out again, since ex-prime minister Johnson was forced to leave Downing Street for a new chance. It has been announced that a grassroots conference will be held next week. Many Johnson supporters have declared themselves. On the other hand, former Brexit minister David Davis has been targeting former prime ministers. “It is clear that we are paying the price for the end of the Boris Johnson and Liz Truss era,” Davis said. The party will now be punished for this.
Labor sees benefits and promotion
A party that won the election clearly, such as the Liberal Democrats, traditionally strong in local elections – managed to win across the country. Not only have the Social Democrats recaptured many old strongholds that are considered Brexit strongholds and have recently switched to the Tories. Some local authorities that glowed Tory blue for decades, such as East Staffordshire in the Midlands, now glow Labor red.
Party leader Keir Starmer sees his party secure a clear majority in parliament. He thanked the campaigners and candidates. “You’ve done well. You’ve not just won, you’ve put Labor back on the field,” said a beaming star in the Medway constituency. “We have got fantastic results across the country. We will have a majority in the next general election.”
Analysts were very cautious. The Sky News broadcast carried the results into a nationwide election. Result: Labor will be the strongest party in parliament, but the party that ruled until 2010 will not have its own majority. Conservatives are trying to capitalize on an already bad outcome. Tory general secretary Greg Hands spoke of a “massive wake-up call” in a newsletter. “If we’re going to stop Keir Starmer, we have to unite.”
With information from Christoph Prössl, ARD Studio London
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