- First big election test for Prime Minister Sunak
- The poll suggests the Conservatives could lose 1,000 seats
- Labor says it will win the next general election
LONDON, May 5 (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Conservatives clung to local election results on Friday as voters pummeled their party after a year of political scandals, inflation and stagnant economic growth.
While ruling parties often struggle in mid-term elections, the UK Council results will be the biggest and final test of voter sentiment ahead of the next general election next year.
Only a quarter of the 8,000 councilors in local authorities are responsible for the day-to-day provision of public services such as rubbish bins and schools.
Preliminary results, which did not affect the government’s majority in parliament, showed the Conservatives a net loss of 218 seats, the main opposition Labor party 118 seats and the Liberal Democrats 57 seats.
Labor is on course to win the next general election with an eight-point lead over the Conservatives, the Labor Party said in a statement, based on local election results.
Sunak’s party lost key seats in the north and south of England to Labor, while the Liberal Democrats made inroads in wealthier parts of the south.
The Prime Minister told reporters that the results so far show that people want their ruling party to deliver on its priorities, but it is still too late to announce the results to take firm decisions.
John Curtis, Britain’s most popular pollster, said based on the results so far, the Conservatives were in “significant electoral trouble” and could suffer a net loss of around 1,000 seats, in line with the party’s most pessimistic forecast.
The full picture of the parties’ position will not be clear until Friday, when most legislatures announce their results.
Sunak has sought to restore conservative credibility since becoming prime minister in October after months of economic turmoil and strikes.
The Conservatives have changed prime ministers three times in the past year, after Boris Johnson was partially kicked out at parties held in government buildings during the COVID-19 lockdowns, and Liz Truss was ousted after a race for tax cuts that tarnished Britain’s reputation for fiscal stability.
In the 2016 Brexit referendum, Labor won some areas that supported leaving the EU.
In the early hours of Friday, Labor won control of Plymouth, Stoke-on-Trent and Medway councils, three key battleground areas seen as vital to the party’s hopes of winning the next general election.
Sunak’s party lost control of at least eight councils.
Plymouth MP Jonny Mercer said it was a “terrible” night for the Conservatives.
Most of these local elections saw the Conservatives lose 1,300 seats when they were last contested in 2019, which would help offset losses in those elections.
Gavin Barwell, a former Conservative minister and member of the Upper House, said the results reflected the political and economic turmoil of the past year.
Sunak “is improving but he started miles behind and there is a lot of work to do to try to close the gap,” he told the BBC.
Andrew MacAskill; Andrew MacAskill reports; Editing by Michael Perry
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