LONDON: Rishi Sunak’s Conservatives faced steep losses in local election results on Friday, undermining the British prime minister’s efforts to revive their fortunes and emboldening the opposition Labour Party ahead of a national vote expected next year.
Sunak came to power in October following a year of political scandals, surging inflation and stagnant economic growth. In office he has faced a cost-of-living crisis, mounting concern about healthcare and widespread industrial action.
While governing parties often struggle at mid-term elections, the council results in England are the largest, and possibly last, test of voter sentiment before the next national election due by January 2025.
After a majority of councils had counted their votes, which do not affect the government’s majority in parliament, the Conservatives had a net loss of 460 seats while Labour added 260 seats and the Liberal Democrats gained 143.
Labour said they were now on track for power at the next general election. A Sky News projection based on the vote share of the early results said Labour could garner 36-38% of the vote at the next national election, making them the biggest party, with the Conservatives at 28-30%.
The projection said Labour might fall short of a majority, though that could depend on how it fares in Scotland, where it is competing to take seats from the Scottish National Party and which did not hold local polls.