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regular-article-logo Sunday, 19 May 2024

UK PM Rishi Sunak admits ‘disappointing’ first electoral test outcome

Voters went to the polls on Thursday to elect local representatives in 230 of England's 317 councils in what marked Sunak’s first electoral test at the ballot box since he took charge

PTI London Published 05.05.23, 07:42 PM
Rishi Sunak

Rishi Sunak File picture

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Friday admitted it was a “disappointing” run for the governing Conservative Party, with the Opposition Labour and Liberal Democrat parties making significant gains in the local elections.

Voters went to the polls on Thursday to elect local representatives in 230 of England's 317 councils in what marked Sunak’s first electoral test at the ballot box since he took charge at 10 Downing Street in October 2022.

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Even as the results continue to be counted, Labour gained control of some of its top target councils including Medway in south-east England which has been under Tory control for 20 years.

Pollsters had forecast that a loss of fewer than 1,000 seats for the governing Tories would be seen as a good result for Sunak, given that the government usually faces a drubbing in local polls close to a general election – which is expected towards the second half of next year.

However, that threshold seems set to be crossed and will add immense pressure on the British Indian leader within his own party ranks.

“It is always disappointing to lose hardworking Conservative councillors,” said Sunak as the early results and trends poured in.

"I'm not detecting any massive groundswell of movement towards the Labour Party," he stressed.

However, the Opposition parties have declared the results a big sign of things to come in the general election.

"Make no mistake, we are on course for a Labour majority at the next general election. We've won the trust and confidence of voters and now we can go on and change our country," said Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer.

Liberal Democrat Leader Sir Ed Davey, meanwhile, described the results as a "ground-breaking night" for his party.

“The Liberal Democrats are the big winners in this year's local elections," he declared.

While poll experts are striking a note of caution to say that local elections have never proven to be very reliable indicators for a general election, the mood music around Sunak having taken over a deeply divided party without the backing of the wider British electorate has only got louder.

“The clear message of the night is indeed that the Conservatives have done badly,” polling expert John Curtice told the BBC.

"The slightly more difficult thing for the Labour Party is that yes, it has hit some of its targets and it has made significant gains already, [but] it is having to share the spoils with other Opposition parties.

"And in particular, the one niggle the Labour Party will really have I think about these results if it continues is that yes, the swing in the local elections is almost what you would expect from the national polls — but not quite,” he cautioned.

The complete election tally will be clear only by Friday night but the overall picture for large parts of England seems to be a move away from the Sunak-led Conservatives, largely seen as a reaction to the crippling cost-of-living crisis facing the country.

Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Telegraph Online staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.

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