Tories in turmoil: Where next for Rishi Sunak after 'worst local results in 40 years', asks Natasha Clark

3 May 2024, 11:04 | Updated: 5 May 2024, 06:31

Rishi Sunak has endured a difficult set of results
Rishi Sunak has endured a difficult set of results. Picture: Alamy
Natasha Clark

By Natasha Clark

Westminster is waking up after yesterday's local elections - and the Tories are feeling glum indeed.

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And they have reason to be. With a third of results in so far, they've lost around half of the councillors they're trying to defend and are on track for more than 500 losses.

Polling guru Sir John Curtice says it could be the worst local election result for the Tories in 40 years.

A smashing result for Labour in Blackpool with a whopping 25 per cent swing, and gains across the country in key areas they need to win to get a solid majority.

They claim the results show they're on track for a decisive election win.

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

Read more: Local Elections Live 2024: Jubilant Keir Starmer celebrates Labour by-election victory at rally - as Tories topple

LBC reporters break down the local election story so far

For the Prime Minister, the only glimmers of hope were Tories clinging onto a handful of places including Harlow, which Tory MP Robert Halfon laughably described as the "biggest comeback since Lazarus", and Reform not beating them into third place in Blackpool.

Not much to write home about, but there were a few frantic, relieved texts flying around at 4am off the back of that.

Labour are waking up feeling very pleased about the results, though expect to lose Teeside and the West Midlands.

Even hanging onto two Tory mayoralties - which were campaigning on a very distant Tory ticket to put it mildly - will not be enough to step the flow of Tory woes.

So, where next for the party in the weeks, or months before the general election, and is there anything that can be done to turn their fortunes around?

Watch Again: Nick Ferrari quizzes Tory Party Chairman Richard Holden | 03/05/24

Tory Chairman Richard Holden, the unlucky fella out to spin this morning, admitted there was more to do, but there were few answers on what that looked like.

Tory MP Paul Scully said No10 are in a "bunker mentality" and need to listen more to the public.

Kwasi Kwarteng called on the PM to be clearer about what the Tories stand for in a bid to see off the apparently growing threat from Richard Tice's Reform.

And others are calling for a reshuffle of the PM's top team to inject some energy and life into a tired government.

But, after a policy blitz of a fortnight, with announcements on defence spending, Rwanda and welfare reform, the PM was more on the front foot going into this week than he might have been.

Rishi Sunak
Rishi Sunak. Picture: Alamy

If he hadn't, he'd probably be fighting even harder for his job this coming weekend.

As this stands, he doesn't appear to be in any immediate danger.

The Tory rebels are quiet for now, but are waiting patiently in the wings for the rest of the weekend's events to unfold first in the hope of having something to pounce on.

Only one of two MPs calling for him to go, Andrea Jenkyns, is already indicating that they may not have the numbers for a challenge.

Let's not forget, this is their final chance to oust him ahead of the general election, and if they think there's a hope in hell, I imagine they'll go for it.

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

But the talk in the last few weeks has felt more like hot air than a serious, credible threat to his leadership.

What are the things the PM could have done differently in the last few weeks to turn things around? Probably very little.

When you're throwing tax cut after tax cut at the electorate and they still won't vote for you, we're in endgame territory.

Voters are fed up and they want a change.

The blame for that can't lie solely at Rishi Sunak's door - but it will be him who will be pay the price.

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