Tories 'face hard night' as voting begins in crunch local elections

Rishi Sunak warns of ‘hard night’ for Tories as voting begins in crunch local elections – but Labour ‘needs to win by 10%’ for Keir Starmer to be on course for No10

  • More than 8,000 council seats up for grabs in elections across England today

Rishi Sunak has warned of a ‘hard night’ for the Tories as voting begins in crunch local elections today.

The PM admitted that his party faces losing ‘good councillors’ with 8,000 seats up for grabs across 230 authorities in England.   

Polls opened at 7am in Mr Sunak’s first major electoral test as premier. The results, which will start appearing in the early hours of tomorrow, will give the clearest indication yet of who is winning the wider political battle.

Experts have warned that Keir Starmer must have a double-digit lead in the national vote share to be confident of winning the keys to No10 at the general election, due next year.

But although polls suggest Labour has that kind of advantage, they have been narrowing recently. 

Ballot stations opened at 7am this morning for local elections in England 

Keir Starmer (left) and Rishi Sunak (right) are waiting anxiously for evidence of their political standings with voters

The measures of success are particularly complicated in these local elections. Around 90 per cent of the 8,000 seats were last up for grabs four years ago, when Theresa May was struggling to get her Brexit deal through.

Some Conservative MPs have been increasingly optimistic they can hold down losses today, despite ministers repeatedly saying they expect to shed 1,000 seats in a pincer movement from Labour and the Lib Dems.  

Mr Sunak’s gave a downbeat assessment at an Onward think tank event last night.

He hailed the Tories moving away from the ‘box set drama’ of what went before his premiership, in a reference to turmoil under predecessors Boris Johnson and Liz Truss.

But he said: ‘We should be prepared that tomorrow night is going to be hard for us.

‘Good councillors will lose their seats because of all that has happened over the past year.’

Mr Sunak added: ‘I’ve only been Prime Minister for six months but I do believe we’re making good progress. Just think about where we were then and where we are now.’

Elections guru Professor Sir John Curtice said Labour securing more than 10 per cent of the projected national vote share – which will be estimated from the council results – would show Sir Keir is on track to become PM.

Sir Tony Blair had double-digit local election vote share victories in the lead-up to New Labour’s landslide in 1997, as did David Cameron’s Tories before 2010 when they ended up in coalition with the Lib Dems.

Labour has been arguing that vote share is misleading at local elections because more independents stand, suggesting that gaining 400 seats would be a good night. Experts say that would be far too low. 

The measures of success are particularly complicated in these local elections. 

Around 90 per cent of the 8,000 seats were last up for grabs four years ago, when Theresa May was struggling to get her Brexit deal through. 

But Labour was also failing to make major inroads with an unpopular leader in Jeremy Corbyn. 

Sir Keir, speaking to broadcasters on the eve of the polls opening, said his party had ‘a positive case to tell’ and that he hoped to make electoral ‘progress’.

He said voters could ‘set Britain on a path of growth, security and the promise of a better future’.

‘If you believe it’s time to build a better Britain you can do something simple – grab your ID, get down to your polling station and vote Labour today.’

Elections are not taking place in all parts of England this year. There are no contests in London and Birmingham, along with other areas including Cornwall, North Yorkshire and Cumbria.

Polls are also taking place to choose mayors in Bedford, Leicester, Mansfield and Middlesbrough. 

There are concerns about confusion at ballot stations as it is the first time new voter ID rules have applied – ahead of the change coming into force for UK general elections.

The policy means it will be compulsory for voters to present photo identification.

Deputy Lib Dem leader Daisy Cooper said: ‘Senior Conservative MPs are in for a big shock tomorrow. The Liberal Democrats are now on the cusp of causing a major political upset.’

Source: Read Full Article