Britain’s Conservatives have suffered major losses in local elections in England, a bad omen for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his majority in Parliament ahead of the next general election. It was the first test at the ballot box for the head of government who arrived in Downing Street in October, and the results, still partial, are not good.
In the aftermath of the vote, which was held on Thursday May 4, to renew 8,000 seats in 230 municipal councils, the Tories, in power for thirteen years, suffered significant defeats in traditional bastions of the British right.
After counting the ballots in 151 of the 230 local councils at stake this year, the Conservatives lost 573 elected officials according to the BBC. Labor wins 302 but is far from the only one to benefit from the distrust of the majority. The Liberal Democrats (centrists) have a net gain of 212 elected, the Green Party Greens win 136. The Greens have also won a local council for the first time in their history by winning the majority of seats in Mid Suffolk (East).
“It is always disappointing for these hard-working Conservative advisers” not to be re-elected, reacted the Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, on Sky News, repeating his promises at the national level concerning the economy, health or the fight against illegal immigration. He had said, on Wednesday, to expect elections “difficult”.
Stoke-on-Trent and Dover for Labor
Labor, which hopes to win its leader, Keir Starmer, into Downing Street after the next general election, due by the end of next year, for example won the local council of Stoke -on-Trent (North), this town considered in the British press as the “capital” of Brexit – 69% of voters had voted for Brexit there in 2016, and claimed that of Dover, the Channel port traditionally on the right.
“We have fantastic results across the country”Keir Starmer welcomed supporters in Medway (South-East) where Labor took over the local council from the Tories.
According to national projections by the BBC, 35% of the vote goes to Labor against only 26% for the Conservatives and 20% for the “Lib-Dem”.
“We exceed all expectations”meanwhile rejoiced their leader, Ed Davey, welcoming the blow to the “blue wall” conservative. The Greens won 13.
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The Conservatives lost control of South Kesteven in Lincolnshire, losing 12 seats out of the 36 they had held so far. The Tories are also losing the local council of Hertsmere, northwest London, where Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden is an MP. On the eve of the coronation of King Charles III, the Tories also lost control of the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead to the Liberal Democrats.
Setbacks of former governments
In total, the Conservatives could lose “about a thousand seats”anticipated John Curtice, political scientist at the Scottish University of Strathclyde, on the BBC, Friday morning. “If this trend continues, the Conservative Party could suffer a defeat that could rival [les élections locales] from 1995 » confirms Michael Thrasher, another political scientist, in an article published by SkyNews. Two years later, Labor, led by Tony Blair, won the general election.
These local elections aimed to renew 8,000 municipal councilor positions. The opposition parties (the Liberal Democrats, in the center, the Greens and Labor, on the left) intend to take advantage of the setbacks of the former governments of Boris Johnson and Liz Truss to score points.
The poll is also the first facing the current Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, since taking over from Liz Truss in October 2022, and the last before the general election due in 2024 in the United Kingdom. It was marked by an unprecedented requirement for voters: that of presenting an identity document in order to be able to vote. This change has been described by its detractors as a maneuver to exclude certain voters, in particular young people and the working classes – no document equivalent to the French national identity card is in place in the United Kingdom.