Sir Keir Starmer is celebrating wins in key battlegrounds in the local elections as an indication Labour is on course to win the next general election, but Rishi Sunak remains defiant despite heavy losses.
The prime minister is under pressure as the results being declared showed both Labour and the Lib Dems seizing control of Tory councils across England.
The Labour leader said the “fantastic” results combined with a hoped-for recovery in Scotland would give him a majority in Westminster after a national poll.
With 229 results in out of 230, the Conservatives had lost 960 seats, with Labour gaining 635, the Lib Dems 416 and the Greens 200. The Conservatives had lost control of 48 councils.
Sir Keir’s party was projected to have won a nine-point lead over the Conservatives if all of Britain had gone to the polls.
Mr Sunak conceded the results were “disappointing” but said he was “not detecting any massive groundswell of movement towards the Labour Party or excitement for its agenda”.
The elections watchdog said “regrettably” some people were turned away from polling stations as a result of new rules requiring voters to carry photographic ID.
We’re closing our live coverage of the local election results but keep checking independent.co.uk for the latest updates.
Senior Tories ‘looking nervously over their shoulders’ after heavy local election losses
The Liberal Democrats “won big” in levelling up secretary Michael Gove’s Surrey Heath constituency, taking control of the council from the Conservatives.
The party declared it a “Michael Portillo” moment - referencing the former cabinet minister who lost his Enfield Southgate seat during the 1997 general election. It was seen as a pivotal moment which indicated New Labour would win the election by a landslide.
Tory losses a clear rejection of Sunak, says Labour
Labour said the Tories’ dire local election results marked a “clear rejection” of Rishi Sunak in his first electoral test as Prime Minister.
Sir Keir Starmer was celebrating wins in key battlegrounds as an indication his party was on course to win the next general election.
Mr Sunak was under pressure as Conservative losses neared the 1,000 worst-case prediction senior Tories had floated to manage expectations ahead of the poll.
With almost all authorities having declared, Mr Sunak’s party shed 48 local authorities and 962 councillors.
Labour gained 632 seats and seized 22 councils, including ones that would be hotly contested at a general election – such as Swindon, Medway, Stoke-on-Trent, Dover and East Staffordshire.
They particularly celebrated gains in Surrey Heath, where senior Cabinet minister Michael Gove is the MP, and in former prime minister Theresa May’s backyard of Windsor & Maidenhead.
Sophie Wingate reports:
Sir Keir Starmer said Labour is on course to win the next general election.
Local elections 2023: Key results recapped
Here, PA takes a look at more key results from Thursday’s local elections:
- Bracknell Forest (Lab gain from Con)
This was a particularly bad result for the Tories, who finished down 27 seats.
All the other main parties made gains - Labour up 18, the Lib Dems up six and the Greens up two - but it is Labour which has the most to celebrate, taking overall control here for the first time since 1997.
- East Hertfordshire (Con lose to no overall control)
There was a surge in support here for the Greens, with the party’s total number of seats up 17.
Other parties also enjoyed a boost - the Lib Dems up by four and Labour up three - while the Conservatives slumped by 23.
The Greens are now the largest party on the council with 19 seats, three ahead of the Tories on 16.
- Mid Suffolk (Green gain from no overall control)
The Greens went one better at Mid Suffolk, winning majority control of a council in England for the very first time.
The party made 12 gains and now holds 24 seats, a long way ahead of the Conservatives on six and the Lib Dems on four.
- Brighton & Hove (Lab gain from no overall control)
There will be lessons for the Greens to learn from their performance at Brighton & Hove.
The party has gone from running a minority administration to seeing their councillors dwindle to a total of seven, while Labour - now in control - has seen its total jump by 22.
- Windsor & Maidenhead (Lib Dem gain from Con)
In another big setback for the Tories, the party lost 15 seats and overall control, while the Liberal Democrats clocked up 12 gains.
It is the first time since 2007 that Windsor & Maidenhead has had a Lib Dem majority.
- Erewash (Lab gain from Con)
Erewash was one of a number of strong performances by Labour in Derbyshire.
The party gained 13 seats while the Conservatives lost 10 - enough to flip the council from Tory to Labour control. Elsewhere in the county, Labour gained control of High Peak and North East Derbyshire.
‘Chances of Labour majority gov have gone up’, says Labour councillor
Labour’s chances of forming a majority government at the next general election have “gone up”, Labour councillor for Barnsbury and Islington Praful Nargund has said.
“Labour is winning everywhere from blue heartlands to the red wall”, Mr Nargund tweeted.
“Whatever anyone says, the chances of Labour majority gov have gone up.”
Local elections 2023: Key results
Elections took place in 230 local authorities across England on Thursday. Here are some of the key results:
- Swindon (Lab gain from Con)
This is where Sir Keir Starmer launched Labour’s local election campaign and where the party hopes to pick up at least one of the area’s two Conservative-held parliamentary seats at the general election.
Labour needed to win big to take control of the council but the party managed it, gaining 10 seats while the Tories lost 11.
- Dacorum (Lib Dem gain from Con)
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey launched his party’s campaign in the Hertfordshire council by driving a yellow tractor through a "blue wall" of painted hay bales.
His party has now taken control of Dacorum from the Conservatives, after gaining nine seats while the Tories lost 13.
- Stratford-on-Avon (Lib Dem gain from Con)
This is an area represented in parliament by Conservative MP Nadhim Zahawi, who was vaccines minister at the start of the pandemic and briefly Chancellor of the Exchequer at the end of Boris Johnson’s premiership.
But Stratford council is now under Lib Dem control, with the party up 13 seats and the Tories down seven.
- Surrey Heath (Lib Dem gain from no overall control)
Another Conservative big beast who may be feeling nervous is Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities.
Mr Gove is the MP for Surrey Heath, where the Liberal Democrats gained 14 seats and the Tories lost 10 - enough to give the Lib Dems overall control of the council.
- East Staffordshire (Lab gain from Con)
A straight switch from Tory to Labour control, with Labour up 10 seats and the Conservatives down eight.
The result will give Labour cheer in a part of the country that will be a key battleground at the next general election.
- Medway (Lab gain from Con)
Labour had this Kent council firmly in its sights, with Sir Keir visiting the area on the final day of the campaign.
The party gained 13 seats, enough to take full control of Medway for the first time since 1998. The Conservatives fell by 11 seats and lost overall control.
Liberal Democrats the ‘big winners’ of local election, party says
The Liberal Democrats have described themselves as the “big winners” of the local elections.
“What a result. What a day”, a tweet from the official party account read.
“The Liberal Democrats are the big winners of the local elections.
“Thank you to everyone who voted.”
Yesterday, Sir Ed Davey hailed the Liberal Democrats’ “best result in decades” in the local elections.
The party leader said: “This has been an historic victory for the Liberal Democrats with our best result in decades.
“It’s little wonder Rishi Sunak is running scared of a general election, because he knows the Liberal Democrats are set to take swathes of seats across the Conservative Party’s former heartlands.
“The message from these elections is clear: people are fed up with being let down and taken for granted by this Conservative Government - it is time for a change. Voters have sent a political shockwave to dozens of Conservative MPs right across the blue wall. Our great country deserves so much better than this out-of-touch Prime Minister and his chaotic and careless Conservative Government.”
The Lib Dems said they had taken control of 12 councils, the highest number the party has gained since 1995.
They pointed to gains of Tory councils including those in the backyards of former Tory chairman Nadhim Zahawi, senior Cabinet minister Michael Gove and former prime minister Theresa May.
It’s blue murder at the polls for the Tories – but is it enough for Starmer to kill off Rishi’s comeback hopes?
Things can change between now and the actual general election, of course, but the significance of these results is that for Rishi Sunak, they have to, writes John Rentoul.
Read John’s full piece here:
Things can change between now and the actual general election, of course, but the significance of these results is that for Rishi Sunak, they have to, writes John Rentoul
Labour: Results a ‘clear rejection’ of Rishi Sunak
Labour have described the results from Thursday’s election as a “clear rejection” of Rishi Sunak, on what was the prime minister’s first electoral test since he entered office.
With almost all authorities having declared, Mr Sunak’s party shed 48 local authorities and 962 councillors.
Labour gained 632 seats and seized 22 councils, including ones that would be hotly contested at a general election - such as Swindon, Medway, Stoke-on-Trent, Dover and East Staffordshire.
Sir Keir Starmer said the “fantastic” results combined with a hoped-for recovery in Scotland would give him a majority in Westminster after a national poll.
“Make no mistake, we are on course for a Labour majority at the next general election,” the Labour leader told activists in Medway.
His party will run the Kent authority for the first time since 1998, with the outgoing Conservative council leader telling No 10 to “get their act together” on several fronts.
Both Swindon in Wiltshire and Erewash Council in Derbyshire had been controlled by the Conservatives for 20 years until the results of Thursday’s local elections. Dover had been controlled by the Tories since 2007.
A Labour spokesperson said: “The British public has sent a clear rejection of a prime minister who never had a mandate to begin with.”
Tories lose 960 seats with almost all results in
We now have almost final results from the local elections in England, with just two seats left to be declared on Tuesday when counting resumes at Redcar & Cleveland.
After 229 results out of 230 in the England council elections, the Conservatives had lost 960 seats, with Labour gaining 635, the Lib Dems 416 and the Greens 200.
The Conservatives had lost control of 48 councils, with Labour gaining 22, the Lib Dems 12 and the Greens one, and there were an additional 16 hung councils.
Ukip had lost all its six seats, and Reform UK lost eight of its 16 seats, with more than 360 independents and councillors representing residents and ratepayers losing their seats.
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