Next general election not a 'foregone conclusion', says Sunak, as Lib Dems table no-confidence vote in government

6 May 2024, 21:38 | Updated: 6 May 2024, 21:44

Rishi Sunak said he was "determined to fight" as the Liberal Democrats announced they would table a motion of no confidence in the Government
Rishi Sunak said he was "determined to fight" as the Liberal Democrats announced they would table a motion of no confidence in the Government. Picture: Alamy

By Christian Oliver

Rishi Sunak has insisted the next general election is not a 'foregone conclusion' in spite of the Conservative's dismal local election results.

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The Prime Minister said he was "absolutely determined to fight" as the Liberal Democrats announced they would table a motion of no confidence in the Government when Parliament returns on Tuesday.

The motion will seek to put pressure on Mr Sunak into calling a June general election despite it almost certainly failing as the Tories maintain a working majority of 47.

Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey said: "These local elections showed the country has had enough of Rishi Sunak and his out-of-touch Conservative Government.

"The Conservatives were pushed into third place for the first time in a generation as Liberal Democrats swept the board in former true blue heartlands. Yet Sunak continues to desperately cling on to power, holed up in Downing Street until the bitter end."

Rishi Sunak meets volunteers preparing food packages during a visit to Omnom, a restaurant and community centre in north London, Monday
Rishi Sunak meets volunteers preparing food packages during a visit to Omnom, a restaurant and community centre in north London, Monday. Picture: Alamy

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Labour Party chairwoman Anneliese Dodds said: "People on Thursday voted to turn the page on 14 years of chaos and decline.

"Rishi Sunak doesn't get it. He needs to work up the courage to call the general election that people desperately want."

The Conservatives received a drubbing in the local and mayoral polls in which they lost nearly 500 council seats - retaining less than both Labour and the Liberal Democrats. They also lost the key West Midlands mayoral race and the Blackpool South by-election.

Mr Sunak has resisted calls from Conservative rebels to change his political course, saying he is "determined more than ever to show the public that what we're doing is making a difference".

He insisted his party is "united" on its values as he faced the cameras for the first time since the full release of results.

Mr Sunak also stuck to his earlier prediction that the UK was on course for a hung Parliament when challenged over the suggestion - which has been questioned by many experts.

The claim was based on Sky News analysis of the local election results which suggested Labour would be the largest party in a hung Parliament. National polls tend to behave differently, however, with fewer opting for smaller parties.

The prime minister told broadcasters during a visit to a north London community centre on Monday: "The independent analysis shows that whilst of course this was a disappointing weekend for us, that the result of the next general election isn't a foregone conclusion, and indeed actually is closer than, or the situation is closer than many people are saying or indeed some of the opinion polls are predicting.

"And that's why I'm absolutely determined to fight incredibly hard for what I believe and for the future country that I want to build, and that's what I'm going to do.

"Fight for this country, fight for the things I believe and deliver for everyone on the things that matter to them."

It comes as former home secretary Suella Braverman urged the Mr Sunak to change course rightwards to win back voters. Conservative moderates warned against Mr Sunak lurching away from the centre ground.

Asked whether he would be making changes, Mr Sunak said: "I'm determined more than ever to demonstrate to the country that we are making progress on the areas that matter to them and we are going to deliver for them."

Sir Ed Davey is greeted by Tory 'dinosaurs' as he arrives to join local Lib Dem campaigners, Friday
Sir Ed Davey is greeted by Tory 'dinosaurs' as he arrives to join local Lib Dem campaigners, Friday. Picture: Alamy

Mr Sunak pointed to national insurance cuts, inflation coming down, sweeping welfare reforms, the Rwanda deportation scheme being implemented and the defence spending hike.

The West Midlands mayoralty going to Labour was a shock defeat for the Conservatives, with Lord Ben Houchen the sole remaining Tory mayor, in Tees Valley.

Labour dominated other mayoral contests across England, including in London and Greater Manchester, and took a Tory scalp by winning the Blackpool South by-election.

With the results of all 107 councils in England that held elections on May 2 declared, Labour won 1,158 seats, an increase of more than 232.

The Liberal Democrats beat the Tories into second place, winning 552 seats, up nearly 100.

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