‘Astonishing’ for Tories to claim they will lose 1,000 council seats – Starmer
Sir Keir suggested that this prediction was an attempt to manage expectations about the outcome of the poll.
He told Sky’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme the Tories had seen their second-worst set of results ever in 2019, when the councils facing elections last went to a vote, adding this would make it “quite hard” for Labour to do better in the same cycle.
The Labour leader said: “For the Conservative Party, the baseline is on the floor and they should be making gains and if they can’t make gains on that awful set of results then I think there are serious questions as to whether Rishi Sunak is going backwards in fact in terms of their electoral prospects.
“So it’s a difficult cycle because of that baseline but I think really the question will be why aren’t the Conservatives making significant gains.”
He added he was “humble” about the process and knows Labour has to “earn every vote, but we do want to make progress”.
Transport Secretary Mark Harper meanwhile suggested the prediction that the Tories could lose 1,000 council seats across England came from independent election experts.
Mr Harper told Sky: “If you look at the independent commentators, the independent experts in this case, all the very respected ones, they are forecasting… that they think we might lose 1,000 seats.”
When pressed whether the number was an attempt to manage expectations, he said: “We are not commentators. We are participants in this process.
“We are going out, making our arguments very strongly, we are going out knocking on doors, fighting for every vote.
“All I am saying is if you want to judge where expectations are, if you look at what the independent experts are saying, they suggest we are going to lose 1,000 seats because it is tough at the moment.”
The minister cited the war in Ukraine, inflation, and recovery from the pandemic as contributory economic factors which may dissuade people from giving the Conservatives their vote.
Polling has suggested more than half the public expects the Conservatives to lose seats at the local elections on Thursday.
Some 55% of people told Ipsos UK that they thought the Tories would lose seats while just 9% thought the party would make gains.
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If about 8,000 council seats are up for election, the forecast of losing only 1,000 of those is hardly earth shattering. Failing to win 2,000 would be a much better kick in the teeth for the Government and its ‘For the Rich’ policies.