LONDON – Rishi Sunak’s UK Conservatives lost scores of local council seats in a bruising first election for the prime minister.
It is a result that suggests the ruling party is in danger of losing power in a national vote that’s expected next year.
With most of the results declared, the Conservatives lost more than 1,000 seats.
The opposition Labour Party gained roughly 500 and the centrist Liberal Democrats, which surprised oddsmakers as perhaps the best performer, picked up around 400.
Another smaller party, the Greens, also made more than 200 gains.
The main opposition Labour Party gained more than half of those seats, while the Liberal Democrats chipped away at the Conservative rural heartland in the south.
The results, if extrapolated across the whole of the UK, implied that Labour could carry a national vote share of 35 per cent, according BBC polling analysis. The Tories would have 26 per cent, while the Liberal Democrats would come in third with 20 per cent.
“The nine-point lead that Labour is projected to have over the Conservatives is the largest lead that the Labour Party have recorded on our measure since losing power in 2010,” said MR John Curtice, a BBC polling analyst who’s also a professor of politics of Strathclyde University.
The results suggest Mr Sunak still has a long way to go to turn his party’s fortunes around after a chaotic 2022 that saw the Tories oust two prime ministers: Boris Johnson and Liz Truss.
They’re also the first broad evidence that Labour leader Keir Starmer’s double-digit national polling lead is translating into results on the ground, which will give the opposition confidence ahead of a general election that Mr Sunak must call by January 2025.
“Make no mistake: we are on course for a Labour majority at the next general election,” a jubilant Mr Starmer told supporters in Chatham, south-east of London on Friday morning. “We’ve changed our party, we’ve won the trust and confidence of voters, and now we can go on to change our country.”
For several Tory MPs, the results confirmed concerns, discussed privately for weeks, that the party needs something more than Mr Sunak’s promise of stability to save it from electoral oblivion next year.
People feel nothing in the country is working and are voting against the Conservatives, regardless of whether it’s the party’s fault, said a Cabinet minister, who asked not be named while discussing internal party concerns.