Tory ‘war on woke’ fails as early local election results suggest huge defeats

Prime minister Rishi Sunak

The Conservatives plan of using ‘culture wars’ and the ‘war on woke’ to win votes appears to have stumbled at the first hurdle, as early local election results show the Tories have lost control of key blue strongholds. 

In the early hours of Friday (5 May) councils across the country began declaring their local elections results after voting took place on Thursday (4 May). 

By 11am, 62 of the 230 councils where seats were up for grabs declared their results, with the Tories losing a third of their seats. 

More results are expected to be announced throughout the day. 

So far, Rishi Sunak’s party has lost a number of key council areas, including blue council of 16 years Windsor and Maidenhead – which has been taken by the Liberal Democrats – and has dwindling majorities in other councils.  

Labour leader Keir Starmer describes the result so far as “fantastic” and said Labour is on track to win the next general election. 

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Lib Dem leader Ed Davey said his party’s win in Windsor is “ground-breaking”. 

“Time’s up for Rishi Sunak,” the BBC quoted the leader as saying. 

“The people have sent a huge message. A message so loud that even someone as out of touch as Rishi Sunak can’t ignore.” 

In response, prime minister Sunak said was “disappointing” to lose “hard working Conservative councillors” but noted the day is still early and more results are yet to be released. 

Liberal Democrats Devon Davies (l), Julian Tisi (c) and Mark Wilson (r) celebrate at the local election count in the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead after winning in Eton and Castle ward (Mark Kerrison/In Pictures via Getty Images)

The losses come after the party has taken to weaponizing so-called culture wars to garner support, particularly from anti-trans voters. 

On Wednesday (3 May) Tory chair Greg Hands told voters that if they vote for Labour in the local elections, “lefty” councils will put “single-sex spaces at risk”

“A lefty council is more likely to erode that sort of safe single space culture that I think is so important for women across the country. So, I think it is an issue,” the chair told the Daily Express. 

“You can rely on Conservative councils to listen to people better, deliver on local people’s priorities rather than actually say some kind of politically correct ideology,” he continued. 

Hands’ words echoed the sentiments of deputy Tory chair Lee Anderson, who in February said the party needs to fight the next general election on “mix of culture wars and trans debate”

Speaking with The New Culture Form, the Ashfield MP said the Conservatives cannot use Brexit or Jeremy Corbyn to gain votes like they did in 2019. 

“The big thing in terms of 2019, there were three things that won us the election. It was nothing to do with me. It was Brexit, it was Boris, it was Corbyn and it was as simple as that.

“Those three things together were a great campaign, great ingredients,” he explained. 

‘Throwing trans people under the bus’

In the run up to the local elections, and with a general election on the horizon, Starmer and Sunak were quizzed about the definitions of womanhood.

Both courted controversy for their trans-exclusionary views. 

Starmer was blasted at the beginning of April for “throwing trans people under the bus” by, saying: “For 99.9 per cent of women, it is completely biological … and of course they haven’t got a penis.”

Seeking to distinguish himself from the Labour leader, Sunak told ConservativeHome that in his view “100 per cent” of women do not have a penis. 

“As a general kind of operating principle, for me biological sex is vitally fundamentally important,” he said.

He reinforced this in the House of Commons on 27 April when he attacked Starmer and the Labour party’s record on women’s rights by claiming to know “what a woman is”.

“Before Labour start preaching about this issue, they should work out the answer to one very simple question: I’m certain what a woman is, is he?,” told MPs at PMQs.

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