Support our Nation today - please donate here
News

Tories lose almost half of councillors in England

03 May 2024 5 minute read
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in Teesside celebrating with Lord Ben Houchen following his re-election as Tees Valley Mayor. Photo Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

The Prime Minister has looked to the Tees Valley for consolation as his party suffered a drubbing in the local elections.

Lord Ben Houchen’s re-election on Teesside was one of the few bright spots for the Conservatives as the party lost around 50% of its councillors across England just months away from a general election.

Meanwhile Labour hailed a “truly historic” result in Rishi Sunak’s own backyard of York and North Yorkshire, where David Skaith defeated Tory Keane Duncan by almost 15,000 votes.

The region, which was electing a mayor for the first time, covers Mr Sunak’s Richmond constituency and Labour has historically struggled to compete in parliamentary elections.

Potential embarrassment

Labour also avoided potential embarrassment in the North East mayoral contest, where its candidate Kim McGuinness overcame independent Jamie Driscoll, who had quit Labour after being barred from running as the party’s candidate himself.

In the East Midlands, Labour’s Claire Ward became the region’s first elected mayor, defeating Tory Ben Bradley who also sits as MP for Mansfield and leader of Nottinghamshire County Council.

Of the 107 councils that held elections on Thursday, 56 have declared their full results, with the Conservatives losing half of the seats it has been defending so far.

Some 173 out of 366 Tory councillors lost their seats as the party lost control of five councils.

Labour won control of six councils as it gained 108 seats, while the Liberal Democrats gained 28 seats and the Greens gained 17.

Further results are expected over the weekend, including key mayoral contests in London and the West Midlands.

Labour’s Sadiq Khan is attempting to secure re-election in London, while Conservative Andy Street is defending his position in the West Midlands.

Most councils are expected to finish declaring their results by the end of Friday, with election expert Sir John Curtice suggesting the final outcome could be the Conservatives’ worst performance for 40 years.

Other results still to be announced include council elections in the South and West of England where the Liberal Democrats and Greens hope to make progress.

Disappointing

But while he acknowledged that results were “disappointing”, the Prime Minister was keen to stress his party’s victory in Tees Valley as a sign that Labour was not on course to win the general election.

Appearing alongside Lord Houchen at a victory rally, Mr Sunak said: “I’ve got a message for the Labour Party too because they know that they have to win here in order to win a general election – they know that.

“They assumed that Tees Valley would stroll back to them – but it didn’t.”

Labour sources pointed to Lord Houchen’s much-reduced majority, saying the swing against him would be enough to give Labour victory in all the parliamentary seats in the Tees Valley, and claimed he had only managed to win by campaigning as a “pseudo-independent”.

Lord Houchen denied that he had sought to distance himself from Mr Sunak, saying: “People around here know I’m a Conservative.”

Victory in Tees Valley is likely to have quelled efforts to topple Mr Sunak in light of other local election results, and his position will be further secured if the Tories can hold onto the West Midlands mayoralty.

Labour suffered a setback in Oldham, where it lost control of the council after victories for independent candidates opposed to its stance on the conflict in Gaza.

Anger

Commentators suggested anger at Labour’s position on Gaza had cost it votes in other areas of the country such as Rochdale.

Sir Keir Starmer conceded he was “concerned wherever we lose votes”, with the party’s national campaign co-ordinator Pat McFadden admitting the crisis in the Middle East was likely to have been a factor.

Key results include:

– Labour won Rushmoor in Hampshire and Adur in West Sussex for the first time and claimed the council in general election bellwether Redditch.

– Labour won Hartlepool council, regaining ground in an area where the party suffered a Westminster by-election disaster in 2021.

– The Tories clung on by a single seat in Harlow, although the total includes one councillor who was suspended by the party last month.

– Labour lost control of Oldham, with gains made by independents possibly as a result of Sir Keir’s stance on the war in Gaza.

– The Women’s Equality Party gained its first councillor, Stacy Hart winning a seat on Basingstoke and Deane Council, while George Galloway’s Workers Party of Britain gained two seats in Rochdale.

– Labour gained police and crime commissioners from the Conservatives in Cumbria and Avon and Somerset.

Thursday night also brought victory for Labour in the Blackpool South by-election, where the party secured a 26.3% swing from the Conservatives as Reform UK recorded its highest vote share in a Westminster contest.

Hailing the victory, Sir Keir said: “This is the one contest where voters had the chance to send a message to Rishi Sunak’s Conservatives directly, and that message is an overwhelming vote for change.”

The strong showing by Reform UK will add to Tory unease about Mr Sunak’s ability to lead the party to a general election victory, with Mr Holden saying on Friday that votes for the right-wing party will “help Labour”.

Reform UK’s leader Richard Tice told the PA news agency his party had “rapidly become the real opposition to Labour, whether it’s in the North, the Midlands, we know it’s the case in Wales”.

In Sunderland, one of the few councils where Reform fought every seat, it beat the Conservatives into third place in 16 of the 25 seats up for grabs while Labour made a net gain of six to increase its comfortable majority.


Support our Nation today

For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
10 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Jeff
Jeff
10 days ago

Yeah but Mr Houchen disassociated himself with any of the usual Tory badges and logos which I found rather amusing, to win, he distanced himself from No10….. 🙂
And Tory Party Chairman was on radio this am saying Rwanda will save us all. And leadsom on bbc just gibbering.

Swn Y Mor
Swn Y Mor
10 days ago
Reply to  Jeff

Can’t these idiots not see people do not want culture wars in the UK? The Rwanda policy is absolutely ridiculous. On immigration the Tories have been devious and a failure. While they focus on the rather small numbers of ‘boat people’ what they do not wish to focus on is the hundreds of thousands of legal migrants that are arriving into the UK. The party is gaslighting it own voters on immigration. Can you blame Mr Houchen from distancing himself from Tory central? Who would want to be associated with them? Mr Sunak is the hacks choice not the public… Read more »

Mandi A
Mandi A
10 days ago
Reply to  Swn Y Mor

Then he should have stood as an Independent if he don’t like the manifesto

Jeff
Jeff
10 days ago
Reply to  Swn Y Mor

Not sure what they are thinking. The wagons are in a circle and all their rifles are facing inwards.

Hopefully jug ears sword bearer will mount a coup.

Mandi A
Mandi A
10 days ago

Please explain how Lord Hooch can sit in the HoL whilst Tory Mayor when the Welsh Health Minister had to stand aside from the HoL to act as a minister in Wales.

Swn Y Mor
Swn Y Mor
10 days ago

Yes we can point and laugh at the Tories losing seats. However what is not being focused on is the pathetic turnouts. The heralded Blackpool result for Labour saw a 32% turnout (down around 20% from 2019), a Labour mayor in the East midlands was elected in a race that saw a 27% turnout. People will say that these are typical percentages for council elections, however it is disappointing that many people appear apathetic.

Blinedig
Blinedig
10 days ago
Reply to  Swn Y Mor

Good point, but despairingly a large number still vote Tory. 463 councillors (in Lloegr) where surely there should now be none.

Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
10 days ago

The first signs that England does not want Tories, something Wales and Scotland have been screaming forever. Signs of getting with the programme? Dare we hope?

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
9 days ago

The Little Emperor leads his rabble back from ‘Moscow’…don’t delay, an election announcement today…

Our Supporters

All information provided to Nation.Cymru will be handled sensitively and within the boundaries of the Data Protection Act 2018.