Local elections: Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn face Brexit backlash from supporters after election losses

'So far message from local elections - “Brexit - sort it.” Message received,' says John McDonnell

Lizzy Buchan
Political Correspondent
Friday 03 May 2019 09:09 BST
Sir John Curtice says people are voting for smaller parties so more might do so for the European elections too

Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn are both facing a backlash from their MPs and councillors after Brexit chaos delivered a disappointing local election showing for the main parties.

Brexiteers pointed the finger of blame at Ms May over her failure to deliver on Brexit, with one senior figure saying she should stand down as voters think she has "lost the plot".

The Labour leadership also faced angry recriminations over its performance at the ballot box, with different Brexit factions arguing it has paid the price for sitting on the fence.

Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats were triumphant over their best result since the Iraq War in 2003, as smaller parties appeared to capitalise on the frustration felt by voters.

Early results showed the Conservatives have shed more than 400 seats and Labour lost 60, while the Lib Dems had gained 283 and the Greens won 35.

There were 85 more independent councillors, while Ukip lost eight.

Brexiteer Sir Bernard Jenkin said it was time for Ms May to stand down, saying: "They [voters] can see that she has lost the plot. They can see she is not in control of events.

"Certainly among Conservative activists and council candidates there is an almost universal feeling that it is time for her to move on."

Ex-cabinet minister Priti Patel said voters saw Ms May as "part of the problem".

"I just don't think we can continue like this. We need change, we need a change of leadership. Perhaps the time has now come for that," she told the BBC.

Tory party chairman Brandon Lewis said the party knew it was facing "tough elections" and defended the prime minister's record.

"The reality is we were fighting these elections from a real high water mark for us off the back of the 2015 general election," he told Sky News.

"People are frustrated with where they see parliamentarians are and the fact that we have found this impasse in parliament.

"It's a stark reminder to everybody in the House of Commons that we need to get past that impasse, deliver on what people voted for, and focus on that as parliamentarians as well."

Labour lost control of several councils in its heartlands, including Bolsover, Hartlepool and Wirral and the mayoralty in Middlesbrough, although it did gain Trafford from no overall control.

Even in its traditional stronghold of Sunderland, which overwhelmingly backed Leave in the referendum, it still lost 10 council seats.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said "so far message from local elections- “Brexit - sort it.” Message received".

But Sunderland Council leader Graham Miller aimed blame at party bosses, saying Labour had paid the price for its second referendum stance.

"The people of Sunderland have said 'We are just not accepting that'. We have seen a massive protest vote on that issue tonight," he said.

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Labour MP Jess Phillips said: "My final word is that I think our position on Brexit has failed. Bravery is needed.

"If you combine kindness and effectiveness with a bit of grit most people will respect you even when they don't always agree."

Neil Coyle, a Labour MP who has been a prominent critic of Jeremy Corbyn's leadership, made clear that he believes the party should have done better.

"Nine years into Tory led Governments and all the damage they've unleashed. Three years after the Brexit referendum. One massive elephant in the room," he tweeted.

Veteran pollster Professor Sir John Curtice said voters seemed to be punishing whichever of the main two parties was in control in their area.

"The Labour Party is losing where they are strong historically, the Conservatives are losing where they are strong historically. It's a plague on all your houses," he said.

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