UK Conservative Party suffers major setback in early local election results

Britain’s Conservative Party is in trouble on Friday after suffering a notable early setback in local elections seen as a barometer of how the party will perform in the next general election. This is an important test for Prime Minister Sunak.

Only a fraction of the results had been announced by early Friday morning, but they were not unexpected for Sunak’s Conservative Party, which has been trailing the opposition Labor Party by double digits in national opinion polls for 18 months. Already ominous signs were beginning to appear.

To date, the Conservative Party has lost more than 120 seats, including six in Hartlepool, northeast England, where the Conservative Party gained ground after leaving the EU, but has recently lost momentum to the resurgent Labor Party. ing.

Labor also defeated the Conservatives in a special election for the seaside seat of Blackpool South, which held the seat but narrowly missed out on third place behind the small right-wing party Reform Britain. He won by a large vote. . Former Conservative MP Scott Benton resigned in March after being embroiled in a lobbying scandal.

Labor leader Keir Starmer described it as a “huge victory” and the most important result of the day, but there are still many races to be announced, some of which are: If they ultimately survive, it could ease the pain for the Conservatives. victory.

Mr Starmer said: “This is the only contest where voters have had the opportunity to send a direct message to Rishi Sunak’s Conservative Party. And that message is an overwhelming vote for change.”

The Conservative Party said in a statement that the vote in Blackpool South was “always going to be a difficult election given the unique circumstances surrounding the former incumbent”.

Voters went to the polls on Thursday to elect local councilors and 11 mayors in 107 towns and cities across England, including London, the West Midlands and the Tees Valley in northeast England. Further results are expected to be announced from Friday through the weekend.

Mr Sunak’s party is deeply divided and the outcome was closely watched, with time running out before a general election must be held by January next year. Analysts had predicted that the Conservative Party would lose a large number of seats, but if the result was worse than expected, critics of Sunak within the party could move to overthrow him and install another leader. may stimulate.

The Prime Minister’s allies say that notable victories in two local mayoral elections in particular have reassured Conservative Party MPs and stabilized the Prime Minister’s shaky leadership, allowing him to lead the party in a general election expected in the autumn. He hopes to put an end to speculation about whether he will lead.

The results of one of the races, in the Tees Valley, are expected to be announced around midday on Friday, while another race in the West Midlands is not expected to be announced until Saturday. In both elections, Conservative candidates have campaigned more on their personal popularity than on their party affiliation.

Even if the Conservatives win both mayoral elections, they are prepared to lose at least 400 of the 985 seats they hold. Many of these elections are held in towns and cities where Labor has traditionally held a majority, but which passed to the Conservative Party in the years following the 2016 Brexit referendum.

Making matters even more difficult, 2021, the last year many of these races were fought, was largely due to the strong rollout of coronavirus vaccines by one of his predecessors, Boris Johnson. It was a time when the Conservative party led by the party was gaining popularity. That means the Conservatives may have a long way to go before retreating.

In addition to Hartlepool, Labor also won parliamentary control in Redditch, Thurlock and Rushmoor in Hampshire, but suffered a setback in Oldham, where it remained the largest party but some seats fell to independents. As a result, they lost control of the entire parliament. .

As current opinion polls show, this election is an opportunity for Starmer to show he has a solid chance of becoming Britain’s next prime minister. Despite the party’s high approval ratings, few voters appear to be enthusiastic about Starmer, who is seen as a competent but not particularly charismatic politician.

London voters will have to wait until Saturday to find out whether Mayor Sadiq Khan has won a third term, becoming the first London mayor to do so since the post was created in 2000. Mr Khan was defeated by his Conservative opponent Susan. Mr Hall’s election would be a big surprise as the British capital leans politically to the left, but assuming he wins, he will be closely watched for any signs of his popularity waning.

However, the most important challenge is for the Conservative Party. A significant loss in seats could hurt party morale and cause panic among Conservative MPs who fear they will be expelled from parliament in a general election.

The Conservative Party has already ousted two leaders, Mr Johnson and Liz Truss, since winning a landslide in 2019. Overthrowing a third would be risky, as there is no candidate more likely to succeed than Mr Sunak, who served as Chancellor of the Exchequer under Mr Johnson.

Mr Johnson offered a reminder of his chaotic leadership style on Thursday when he turned up at a polling station without the required photo ID – a requirement introduced by his own government in 2022 – and was turned away. (Mr. Johnson later returned with proper ID).

For Mr Sunak, the polls are currently so dire that some see a new leader as the only possible way to avoid a catastrophic defeat in the general election. In January, one former cabinet minister, Simon Clarke, called for the prime minister to resign, but this stopped short of sparking a wider revolt.

For those who think such a gamble is worth taking, the fallout from the local elections could be the last chance to challenge Mr Sunak before he puts the party on alert for the general election.

The Conservative Party’s disastrous performance in the 2022 local elections was a precursor to Johnson’s ouster, but not the trigger. Mr Johnson was ultimately purged two months later after mishandling an unrelated scandal.

Mr Sunak’s supporters are pinning his hopes on falling inflation, the prospect of an economic recovery and the implementation of his plan to put asylum seekers on one-way flights to Rwanda, popular with many, including the Conservative Party. He claims that he can benefit from this. Help fend off threats from the anti-immigration Reform UK Party.

Earlier this week, the government released video footage of asylum seekers being detained in preparation for deportation to Rwanda.

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