In UK local elections 2023, Sunak took a double pounding
Sunak's devastating loss in the local elections is mostly driven by mounting rejection from within his party.
While Labour has claimed that the party is on pace to take power at the next general election, Rishi Sunak suffered devastating losses of more than 1,000 Tory seats in his first electoral test as Prime Minister.
Sunak acknowledged the English council results were "disappointing" on Friday, but he was met with a harsh response from some of his MPs and the first signs of a challenge to his leadership from Boris Johnson's allies.
Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, was gleeful by gaining more than 500 seats, with the party believing its expected vote share puts it on course to take power in 2024 for the first time in 14 years.
With an equal vote share advantage of 8–9% over the Tories, Labour predicted on Friday night that these results would be their greatest since the 1997 local elections. If duplicated in a Westminster election, as per Labour sources, this might lead to a majority Starmer government.
Labour scored significant gains from the Conservatives in the north of England and the Midlands, in addition to taking southern councils, most notably Plymouth, Swindon, Dover, and Medway.
They celebrated having surpassed Tony Blair's government in 2002 to become the largest party in local government.
In Hertsmere, Hertfordshire, where Oliver Dowden, the Deputy Prime Minister, resides and where the Conservatives lost overall control of the council, the party had achieved an unexpected triumph.
The Tories lost more than 1,000 council seats by the end of the day on Friday as the disastrous results continued to come in from various councils.
The Liberal Democrats' aspirations to be kingmakers in any hung parliament at the next election were increased by their victory over the Tories in the south of England by more than 400 seats.
Sunak and his party chairman, Greg Hands, tried to downplay the results, asserting there had been “no groundswell” of switching from Conservative to Labour voters.
However, some Tory MPs were enraged at the defeat of so many councilors from 2019’s already low base.
Johnson's Conservative Democratic Organization (CDO) allies in the meantime urged that Sunak should go before members for a confirmatory vote and that no one should rule out a comeback for the former Prime Minister.
Other Tory MPs were more cynical, with the former Johnson supporter Michael Fabricant saying, “Part of the whole problem with the Conservatives is not only the cost of living crisis but what happened last year. So if we start to repeat that then we not only will not win the next election, we won’t deserve to.”
Sunak is now likely to face calls from within his party to change course, although he faces the challenge of dealing with a threat from the Lib Dems in the home counties and south-west, and Labour in the north, Midlands and some southern towns and cities.
Rehman Chishti, a former leadership contender, exposed rifts in the Conservative Party on Friday by criticizing Suella Braverman's immigration comments.
“The comments that we had from the home secretary, the rhetoric that she applies to certain faiths and diverse communities, is damaging to our communities and also it damages the community relations. It feeds into the far right,” he said, as quoted by Sky News.
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