Conservatives hit by big council losses in latest test ahead of general election

  • By Sam Francisco
  • Political reporter, BBC News

The Conservatives have suffered one of their worst local election results in a decade in the last big test of public opinion before a general election.

The Conservatives lost almost half of the seats they contested, leaving only a handful of council and mayoral results pending.

By contrast, Labor won key councils, regional mayors and a decisive victory in the Blackpool South by-election.

The Prime Minister called the results “disappointing” but denied that Labor was on course to win the general election.

In a rare positive moment for the Conservatives, Ben Houchen was elected to a third term in Tees Valley, with a razor-thin majority.

At a press conference at Teesside International Airport, Sunak said the results shown in the general election to voters “will stay with us”.

Sunak said Labor “knew they had to win here to win a general election” but said voters know “the Conservatives are building a better future for Teesside and a brighter future for Britain”.

In total, the Conservatives lost 10 councils in England and ended the day with more than 400 fewer councillors.

Labor emerged as the biggest beneficiary, gaining 169 new councilors and making progress in areas the party says point towards a general election victory.

The party also won the three newly created regional mayors in East Midlands, North East and York and North Yorkshire.

Speaking at Northallerton Town Football Club in North Yorkshire, Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer said the result was a “historic victory” for Labor in “the heart of Conservative territory”.

The newly created York and North Yorkshire mayoralty includes Mr Sunak’s Richmond constituency.

He said: “We have had a positive campaign here and I am very, very proud to be here as leader of the Labor Party to celebrate this historic victory.

“And it’s a historic victory – these are places where we wouldn’t normally have had a Labor Party success, but we’ve been able to create that success and persuade people to vote for us.”

The local election results so far have yielded a wealth of results for parties to pore over: around 2,600 seats contested across 107 councils, 37 police and crime commissioners, and 11 local mayors.

The results will continue to arrive on Saturday and Sunday.

Research by Sir John Curtice for the BBC estimates that if the entire country had had elections on Thursday and behaved similarly to places that had them, the result would be Labor on 34% and the Conservatives on 25%. %.

Meanwhile, national polls put Labor up to 20 points ahead of the Conservatives in general election intentions.

Both Labor and the Liberal Democrats are now calling for Sunak to call a general election.

video subtitles, Watch: Local elections in England and Wales… in 60 seconds

With almost 100 new councillors, the Liberal Democrats said they have shown they can benefit from the Conservatives’ difficulties.

The Green Party barely met its goal of taking over Bristol City Council, but continued to gain ground and gained 66 new seats.

Reform, meanwhile, averages 12% of the vote in the wards it contests and came third in the Blackpool by-election, 117 votes behind the Conservatives.

Despite the poor results, there are no signs of an internal revolt against the prime minister’s leadership. There are only two MPs who have publicly called for a change of leader, and no new voice is joining that band in response to these results.

Retaining the Tees Valley mayoralty may have provided Sunak with a lifeline.

But as noted elections expert Sir John Curtice noted, Lord Houchen’s success was “very personal” and the results were not reliable indicators of Conservative prospects in a general election.

The results of the remaining votes could still prove decisive for the two main parties.

Sir John Curtice said the Conservatives could be on course to lose 500 councillors, making it “one of the worst, if not the worst” performance by the party in 40 years.

There are still five municipal elections to be held, but all eyes will be on the seven remaining mayoral elections due to be announced at the end of Saturday – they include London, Greater Manchester, Liverpool City Region, Salford, West Yorkshire, West Midlands and North Yorkshire. South.

The results in London and Greater Manchester, currently in the hands of two of the Labor Party’s most senior national figures, Sadiq Khan and Andy Burnham, will be crucial in gauging public support for the party.