‘Work to be done’ after local body election debacle – Rishi Sunak

  • By Sam Francis
  • Political Correspondent, BBC News

Rishi Sunak dismissed calls for a change of course after poor local election results, arguing he could make “progress” with voters ahead of the general election.

Speaking for the first time since the full extent of the Tory losses emerged, the Prime Minister said the loss of 470 councilors was “bitterly disappointing”.

The Conservatives are licking their wounds after a string of local election defeats. After the final votes were counted on Sunday, the Tories lost control of 10 councils, more than 470 council seats and West Midlands Mayor Andy Street.

The party lost 10 police and crime commissioners to Labour, a significant blow to the Conservatives if they focus their next general election campaign on law and order.

Appearing to admit for the first time that his party could lose its majority, Mr Sunak said the local election results “say we are going to a hung parliament with Labor as the largest party”.

His comments mirrored analysis by leading psycologist Professor Michael Thrasher for Sky News – which suggested Labor would win 294 seats in a general election.

The prediction, rejected by some pollsters, uses local election results to calculate nationwide vote share in a general election.

Mr Sunak told The Times: “A deadlock in Downing Street by Keir Starmer SNP, Liberal Democrats and Greens would be disastrous for Britain.

“The country does not need much political horse-trading, but action. We are the only party that has a plan to deliver on people’s priorities.

“It is certainly bitterly disappointing to lose such fantastic Conservative councilors and mayor as Andy Street, who has done so much good for the West Midlands.

“There is work to be done and progress to be made and I am confident that we will come together as a party and show the British people that we deliver.”

Labor has denied it plans to form a coalition with other parties to form a government at the next general election, expected in the second half of this year.

Speaking to the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg on Sunday, Labour’s election co-ordinator Pat McFadden said there was now a “sense of confidence” his party could win.

He hailed the “tremendous” election results for the party, particularly the West Midlands mayoral victory that was “beyond our expectations”.

“When people look at the Labor Party now, they see a changed Labor Party compared to the Labor Party of a few years ago,” Mr McFadden said.

“Labour Passes Essential Tests of Confidence Expected by Voters.”

video title, WATCH: Braverman says he regrets backing Sunak for PM

Speaking on Sunday, former Home Secretary Suella Braverman said Mr Sunak’s plan “didn’t work”.

“There’s no hiding that these are terrible election results for the Conservatives,” Ms Braverman told the BBC.

He added that Mr Sunak would have to “change course” towards more right-wing policies to win back Tory voters who are “on strike”.

Although a frequent critic of the prime minister, Ms Braverman has not called for Mr Sunak to be replaced, arguing it was “impossible” to change leaders so close to a general election.

Ms. Braverman is one of many conservative voices to advocate for a right-wing policy shift in light of the bleak local election results.

Miriam Gates, co-chair of the New Conservatives group, which is largely made up of “red wall” MPs, said the party must deliver on “patriotism and national security” from 2019 to avoid falling into the “abyss”.

Writing in the Telegraph, Mr Gates urged Mr Sunak to ignore policies that “serve the international elite” and focus instead on drastically reducing immigration and reforming planning laws to boost house building.

Former lead Brexit negotiator Lord David Frost has said he believes it is “too late” to save the Conservatives from “electoral defeat at the next general election”.

Lord Frost argued that to save the party, Mr Sunak must produce “deeper tax cuts, deeper spending cuts” and a “serious attack on the burden of net zero”.

Damian Green, head of the influential One Nation group of Conservative MPs, said it was “irrational in the face of the electorate to suggest that all we have to do is move to the right”.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour, the former first secretary said: “I look at the places we’ve lost in the last few days – we’ve lost to parties to the left of us.”

Conservative Party leader Richard Holden said the same plan required voters to present a “clear vision for the country”.

“I would like to see lower taxes, but they will be paid in a sustainable way,” he said.

“I think it’s self-indulgent at the moment that we talk about ourselves and talk about ourselves, and whenever I go through the door, I agree with some people who talk about what people want to see. [the Conservative Party] Presents a clear vision for the country. I think we’ve seen a lot from the Prime Minister in the last few days: more welfare reforms, making universal credit changes, changing the way welfare works in this county and encouraging people to work – and that. It’s happened in the last 14 years, but we still have to go.”

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