Rishi Sunak’s future hangs in the balance as Tories suffer worst local election losses in 30 years

Rishi Sunak’s political career could be in jeopardy after the Tories lost another by-election to Labour, and they look set to have their worst local election results in decades in 2024.

On Thursday (2 May) voters across England went to the polls to cast their ballots for councillors in 107 local authorities, as well as 10 combined authority mayors and 37 police and crime commissioners (PCCs), whilst inside the capital Londoners cast their votes for the mayor of London and London assembly members.

In Blackpool, a by-election saw voters select a replacement for former Conservative MP Scott Benton.

Who won the local elections 2024?

That’s not yet entirely clear. However, what we can say is that with many results still waiting to come in, the results have been called have so far not been positive for the Conservatives.

In Blackpool, Labour clinched another by-election win – after scoring two victories back in October – where the party’s Chris Webb won with 58.9 per cent vote. He received 10,825 votes from people in the constituency, compared with the Conservatives mere 3,218.

Keir Starmer described the win, a which marked a 26.33 per cent from the Tories, as “a direct message to the prime minister” because it was a parliamentary vote.

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In a speech alongside Blackpool South’s new MP, Starmer said Webb “smashed” the election and it “wasn’t just a little message, that wasn’t just a murmur, that was a shout from Blackpool – we want change”.

“And Blackpool speaks for the whole country – it’s saying that we’ve had enough now.”

Labour Leader Keir Starmer (C) and Deputy Leader Angela Rayner (L) meet new Labour MP for Blackpool South, Chris Webb at Blackpool Cricket Club on May 3, 2024 in Blackpool, England. (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

At the local level, around half of councils have not yet declared their results with votes still being counted.

However, of the results that have come in, it is clear to see the Tories have lost more than 100 seats and Labour have already gained councils in Hartlepool, Redditch and Thurrock, Hartlepool.

One victory, Rushmoor in Hampshire, is particularly notable as it marks the end of nearly 25 years of Tory control.

The area, which is known as “the home of the British Army”, has never had a majority Labour council before – a fact a spokesperson for Starmer’s party noted in a statement and described it as a “result Rishi Sunak cannot ignore”.

‘This result demonstrates just how much the Labour Party has changed and people in Rushmoor know that only Labour can deliver the change they want to see.

In terms of police and crime commissioner elections, so far Labour’s Clare Moody has replaced Conservative Mark Shelford in Avon and Somerset by more than 4,000 votes and in Cumbria, Labour’s David Allen replaced Peter McCall after beating tory candidate Mike Johnson with a 22 per cent swing.

However, it has not all been golden for Labour.

The party has lost control of Oldham council to no overall control due to an influx of votes for independent candidates.

Labour’s national campaign coordinator Pat McFadden suggested the move away from Labour for voters could be down to the party’s positioning on the Israel-Hamas war.

He told BBC Breakfast he believes the conflict has been a “factor in some places”.

“I don’t think there’s any point in denying that. It does get raised, and I understand why people have strong feelings about that,” McFadden said.

He continued: “In addition to the Middle East issue which you mentioned there are specific very local factors in Oldham which have knocked it out of line with the Labour gains we’ve been seeing in local elections.”

Will Penny Mordaunt step in?

Penny Mordaunt attends the third day of the Conservative Party Conference. (Getty)

It doesn’t seem likely, at least not at this point. Commons leader Penny Mordaunt – tipped as a future Tory leadership contender – says she will continue to support Rishi Sunak. She made her remarks during a parliamentary debate on Thursday, saying:

“Yes, I too have read that I am to be installed, rather like a new boiler, into Number 10 next week,” she said.

“I have to say, Mr Speaker, that there is as much truth to those stories as there is to Labour’s assurances to its business community that it is not actually going to do the things that it has been saying it is going to do and has promised its union paymasters.

“Let me say again that I support our Prime Minister, and I will continue to support him after this weekend and beyond, because his plan is working. I will do everything I can to ensure that Labour does not get a chance to wreck the nation again.”