Exclusive

Rally round Rishi: Tory chairman says PM is 'right man for the job' despite 'worst local election results for 40 years'

3 May 2024, 08:52 | Updated: 3 May 2024, 09:50

Richard Holden has said Rishi Sunak should be the Prime Minister despite bruising election results
Richard Holden has said Rishi Sunak should be the Prime Minister despite bruising election results. Picture: LBC/Alamy

By Kit Heren

The Conservative chairman has maintained that Rishi Sunak is still the "right man" to be Prime Minister despite a "bruising" set of local election results.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Richard Holden told LBC's Nick Ferrari that the election results - in which his party has lost a string of local councils to Labour, as well as the Blackpool South constituency - were "difficult".

Polling expert Sir John Curtice told LBC that the results were "probably... one of the worst, if not the worst, Conservative performance in local government elections for the last 40 years."

But Mr Holden said that his party should keep Mr Sunak in Downing Street, despite rumblings of discontent from backbenchers and a rumoured plan to replace him with Penny Mordaunt if the local elections went badly.

Asked by Nick if he thought that the Prime Minister should remain in post, he said "very much so", listing off the recent global and domestic problems faced by the government.

"I genuinely think while we’re facing those tough challenges we’ve got the right man for the job," he said.

Read more: Tories in trouble as Labour wins by-election and takes 'home of British Army' while Reform sees surge in votes across UK

Read more: Local Elections Live 2024: Tories face worst election results in 40 years as Labour celebrate Red Wall win in Blackpool

Watch Again: Nick Ferrari quizzes Tory Party Chairman Richard Holden

"People aren’t voting in these local elections in the general election - they’re not voting to change the government of the country," he said.

With around a third of council elections declared, the Conservatives have lost about 100 seats, and ceded control of several local authorities to Labour - including Thurrock and Rushmoor.

In the Blackpool South constituency, Labour secured a majority of 7,607. It was the third biggest swing from the Conservatives to Labour at a by-election since the Second World War.

Labour's victory in Rushmoor - known as "the home of the British Army" - came despite it being run by the Tories for the past 24 years.

Labour set for 'comfortable majority' at next election, polling expert declares

Mr Holden said that the results were "not good" for the Conservative party.

He added: "I’ve been out campaigning with a lot of our Conservative campaigners and candidates around the country - a lot of them will be feeling pretty bruised this morning.

"These are a difficult set of election results, coming off 2021 [which] was a very high watermark, when we gained seats in government after 11 years.

"But for those guys on the ground, many of whom have put their heart and souls into this, it’s going to be a very tough couple of days…"

Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak leaves 10 Downing Street
Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak leaves 10 Downing Street. Picture: Alamy

The Conservatives retained control of Harlow and Fareham councils, and Mr Holden said there were "some mixed results".

"I think there’s still a long way to go..." he said. "Keir Starmer took a lot of store by taking Harlow and he visited there a couple of times during the campaign."

He also pointed out that the local election turnouts were low, and claimed that in a general election more people would vote for his party.

In Blackpool South, the Conservatives only held off Reform by around 100 votes to take second place. Reform UK's leader Richard Tice said his party had "rapidly become the real opposition to Labour, whether it's in the North, the Midlands, we know it's the case in Wales".

Richard Holden
Richard Holden. Picture: Alamy

But Mr Holden denied that the right-wing party were a serious threat.

"All a vote reform does is help Keir Starmer and the Labour Party," he said.

Last time Mr Holden was on Nick's show, he said that he had yet to find a seat for the general election - and this was still the case as of Friday morning.

He maintained that he definitely wanted to stand in the election. "I will be going for one, but I am still to find one," he said. "We shall see - you’ll be the first to know when I get one," he told Nick.

Newly elected Labour MP Chris Webb, with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer celebrating at Blackpool Cricket Club
Newly elected Labour MP Chris Webb, with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer celebrating at Blackpool Cricket Club. Picture: Alamy

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the Blackpool win was "the most important result today".

"This is the one contest where voters had the chance to send a message to Rishi Sunak’s Conservatives directly, and that message is an overwhelming vote for change," he said.

"The swing towards the Labour Party in Blackpool South is truly historic and shows that we are firmly back in the service of working people.

"I am so proud of the positive campaign we ran. To those who have put their trust in us in Blackpool, and those considering giving Labour their vote, we are ready to serve your interests.

"Our new Labour MP Chris Webb has shown that after years of neglect with the Tories, there is a better alternative. The message to Rishi Sunak is clear. It’s time for change, it’s time for a general election."

Elections expert Professor Sir John Curtice said: "The only thing that's stopped this result from being basically an unmitigated disaster for the Conservatives was the fact they just narrowly squeaked ahead of Reform."

He added: "Basically the project that Rishi Sunak is meant to be there to achieve, which is to narrow the gap on Labour, that project still has yet to provide any visible benefit."

More Latest News

See more More Latest News

Gordon Ramsay 'lucky to be alive' as star shows off shocking injuries after being involved 'brutal' cycling accident

Gordon Ramsay 'lucky to be alive' as star shows off shocking injuries after being involved 'brutal' cycling accident

Putin is 'not interested in genuine peace' in Ukraine, Rishi Sunak tells world in Switzerland

Putin is 'not interested in genuine peace' in Ukraine, Rishi Sunak tells world leaders in Switzerland

Kate's big comeback: Princess and William share tender moment as she re-joins royals at Trooping the Colour

Kate's big comeback: Princess and William share tender moment as she re-joins royals at Trooping the Colour

The attack, which took place in a garden east Germany on Friday night, saw the knifeman stab four people before police arrived at the scene.

German police shoot dead knifeman at Euro 2024 party after rampage leaves one dead and three injured

Businessman sues Apple after wife finds ‘deleted’ iPhone messages to prostitute

Businessman sues Apple after wife finds ‘deleted’ iPhone messages to prostitute

Olympic cyclist Sir Bradley Wiggins is bankrupt, homeless and has "lost absolutely everything", according to his lawyer.

Olympic cyclist Sir Bradley Wiggins has 'lost absolutely everything' as star faces selling medals following bankruptcy

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer

Keir Starmer promises no capital gains tax on sales of homes as he dismisses tax hike claims

Home Secretary calls for 'urgent investigation' after shock footage emerges of police ramming escaped cow

Fury grows as shock footage shows police ramming escaped cow with squad car

Eight Israeli soldiers killed in southern Gaza - as Palestinian death toll reaches '37,000'

Eight Israeli soldiers killed in southern Gaza in deadliest attack since January

Prince Louis steals the show as he dances along to bagpipes at Trooping the Colour

Prince Louis steals the show as he dances along to bagpipes on Buckingham Palace balcony

Coventry's Radford Road, where the schoolboy was killed

Schoolboy killed in hit and run as police urgently look for driver

Police rammed the cow

Shock as police ram escaped cow on the street, as officers say it 'was hurt while being moved to safety'

Exclusive
c

Angela Rayner condemns 'intimidation' of Labour's Rosie Duffield after she cancels hustings amid 'trolling and spite'

Kate and the royals came out on the Buckingham Palace balcony for the flypast

Kate joins King Charles and other royals on Buckingham Palace balcony for RAF flypast after Trooping the Colour

Exclusive
Ben Habib has hit back at suggestions Nigel Farage could join the Conservative party

Reform deputy hits back at suggestion Nigel Farage could join Tories, after leader tells LBC he could lead merged party

Olympic rings on the Eiffel Tower in Paris

IOC gives 14 Russians and 11 Belarusians neutral status for Paris Olympics