Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s party has lost more than 1,000 council seats across England.
Britain’s Conservative Party lost more than 1,000 council seats in local elections on Friday, with the Labour Party and Liberal Democrats dividing the spoils.
With 229 of 230 councils reporting on Saturday afternoon, Sunak’s party had secured 2,299 of just over 8,000 seats, losing 1,058. The Labour Party took 2,674, a gain of 536, while the Liberal Democrats took 1,626, a gain of 405. Independent councillors secured 874 seats, a loss of 80, while the Greens took 481, doubling their presence on local authorities.
The Conservative Party lost control of more than 40 councils, including Medway in southeast England, which it has run since the late 1990s. Labour leader Keir Starmer celebrated his party’s success in Medway, telling supporters that “we are on course for a Labour majority at the next general election.”
In the UK, local elections are often viewed as referendums on the party in power. The Tories have been in power since 2010, although the last year of Conservative rule has been a tumultuous one. Boris Johnson resigned as prime minister in disgrace amid the ‘partygate’ scandal last summer, only to be replaced by Liz Truss, who managed in her six weeks in office to crash the value of the British pound with a budget that included billions of pounds worth of tax cuts.
Sunak, a former banker, was touted by the party as a steady hand who could restore economic stability. However, food and energy costs have continued to rise under his leadership, and the UK is set to have the worst-performing large economy in the world this year, according to figures from the International Monetary Fund.
However, local elections are also decided on local issues, such as potholes, parking fees, and garbage collection. The Conservatives lost 1,330 seats in the 2019 local elections, before winning a landslide majority in a general election less than six months later.
Speaking to reporters on Friday, Sunak called the results “disappointing,” but said that he was “not detecting any massive groundswell of movement toward the Labour Party or excitement for their agenda.”