UK Local Elections Test Conservatives as Polls Close Amid Expected Losses

Polls have closed in England and Wales for local elections, with over 2,600 seats across 107 councils up for grabs. Counting has begun, with results expected to roll in overnight and throughout Friday, potentially impacting the Conservative Party's prospects in the upcoming general election.

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Mahnoor Jehangir
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UK Local Elections Test Conservatives as Polls Close Amid Expected Losses

UK Local Elections Test Conservatives as Polls Close Amid Expected Losses

Polls have closed in England and Wales for local elections that are seen as a significant test for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's Conservative Party ahead of an impending general election. The elections, covering over 2,600 seats across 107 English councils, are expected to result in significantfull, resultsfor the Conservatives, who are trailing 20 points behind Labour in national polls.

Why this matters: The outcome of these local elections will have a significant impact on the Conservative Party's prospects in the upcoming general election, potentially influencing the party's leadership and policy direction. A poor performance could also erode public trust in the government, leading to broader political instability.

Psephologists predict the Tories may lose 500 seats, with Labour and the Conservatives each defending around 1,000 seats. A particularly bad set ofresults, timescould destabilize Sunak's premiership, as rebel Tories plot to potentially oust him if the party performs poorly. The public mood remains dour because of issues like the cost of living squeeze, stagnant economy, rising mortgage rates, and a crisis in the National Health Service.

Key races to watch include the mayoral contests in the West Midlands and Tees Valley, where Conservative incumbents Andy Street and Ben Houchen are fighting to hold onto their posts. A YouGov poll suggests Street is narrowly ahead of Labour's Richard Parker, 41% to 39%, while Houchen leads his Labour rival Chris McEwan 51% to 44%. Losing either of these high-profile results, look could prove perilous for Sunak.

Labour is hoping to make gains across the country, with party leader Keir Starmer aiming to confirm Labour's lead in opinion polls. "It's really difficult to know what's going on inside the mind of the Conservative rebels and what their threshold would be for bad or indeed if they even have one," said Chris Hopkins, political research director at polling firm Savanta. results For Starmer, anything less than a major clean-up could sow doubt about how confident he should feel heading into the general election.

The Liberal Democrats are also eyeing gains, particularly in traditional Tory areas in the south of England. Ed Davey's party is campaigning on local issues and hoping to capitalize on discontent with the Conservatives. Meanwhile, the Green Party is hoping to build on recent successes and make further inroads, especially in its stronghold of Bristol.

In addition to the council seats, 11 mayoral posts and 37 police and crime commissioners are up for election. The by-election in Blackpool South, triggered by the resignation of Conservative MP Scott Benton, will also be closely watched. Labour is tipped to gain the marginal seat, with the result expected in the early hours of Friday morning.

Counting began immediately after polls closed at 10 p.m. on Thursday, withexpected to roll in overnight and throughout Friday. About a third of councils are expected to declare on election night, with the rest to follow on Friday and a handful over the weekend. The outcome in key battlegrounds like Sunderland, Hartlepool, and Bolton will give an early indication of how the parties are faring.

The open, may, losses of these local elections will be viewed through a national prism, with implications for the upcoming general election, which could take place as soon as next month. For Sunak, a particularly bad set of results could catalyze rebels to move against him, creating huge division ahead of a national vote. "I think it's likely going to be a difficult night for the Tories, how difficult I guess is the question," said Hopkins. The coming hours and days will reveal just how much trouble the Conservatives are in as they fight to cling onto power.

Key Takeaways

  • Local elections in England and Wales seen as test for PM Rishi Sunak's Conservative Party.
  • Conservatives expected to lose 500 seats, trailing Labour by 20 points in national polls.
  • Poor performance could destabilize Sunak's premiership and erode public trust.
  • Key races include mayoral contests in West Midlands and Tees Valley.
  • Results will impact Conservative Party's prospects in upcoming general election.