UK: Sunak's Tories dealt blow in local elections

Early results from the local elections have put the Conservatives on course for a resounding defeat. It was Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's first electoral test

Rishi Sunak (Photo: DW)
Rishi Sunak (Photo: DW)


Results from the UK's local elections started pouring in on Friday with early polls putting the ruling Conservatives on course to suffer their worst electoral defeat since the mid-1990s, just before center-left Labour took power under Tony Blair.

With around 60 of the 230 councils reporting their results by early morning, the Conservatives had already lost over 200 seats, equivalent to a third of those that they had been defending.

A total of 8,000 seats were up for grabs in the various councils. While these local bodies hold relatively limited power, the results are often seen as a forecast for how well parties would do in a general election which will likely be held in the next year and a half.

Results are expected to continue coming in until later on Friday, just ahead of King Charles III's coronation on Saturday.

Labour confident amid Tory defeats

Thursday's poll was the first electoral test for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak since he became leader of the Conservative Party after a flurry of scandals in the party which saw former Prime Minister Boris Johnson ousted and his successor Liz Truss forced out within a matter of weeks.

"In terms of the results, it's still early, we've just had a quarter of the results in, but what I am going to carry on doing is delivering on the people's priorities," Sunak told reporters.

Conservative Transport Minister Huw Merriman acknowledged the party's poor showing, chalking it up to the leadership instability over the past months, but said that Sunak "seems to be turning things around for us."

Shabana Mahmood, the national campaign coordinator for Labour, the main opposition party, drew a harsher conclusion.

"These results have been a disaster for Rishi Sunak as voters punish him for the Tories' failure," she said, adding that they "show that we are on course for a majority Labour government."

Cost-of-living crisis

The Conservatives have held power for 13 years, a large portion of which was dominated first by the Brexit referendum and then the coronavirus pandemic, both of which saw the party churn through prime ministers.

But the main issue on many voters' minds on Thursday was likely the worst cost-of-living crisis that the country has seen in decades.

While inflation has hit most of the world following the coronavirus pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the UK has had a harder time bringing it under control.

In March, the consumer price index (CPI) was at 10.1% according to the UK's Office of National Statistics. In comparison, inflation based on the CPI was down to 7.4% in Germany, based on data from the federal statistics agency Destatis.

This has led to a wave of strikes across key sectors such as transport, healthcare and education, unmatched by those seen in Germany in recent months.

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