Cabinet will rally round Boris Johnson after local elections test

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English council results so far 

Conservative holds: Broxbourne, Thurrock, Nuneaton & Bedworth, Epping Forest, Basildon, Rochford, Brentwood, Harlow, Rushmoor, Redditch, Fareham, Amber Valley, North East Lincolnshire

Labour holds: Sunderland, Halton, South Tyneside, Chorley, Tameside, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Sefton

What other results are expected and when? 

From midnight: Labour is hoping to do well in Conservative-run Bolton in Greater Manchester. The Tories could make gains in Basildon in Essex. Results from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, South Tyneside and Wigan will indicate if Labour’s vote is holding up in its northern strongholds.

From 2am: Both Labour and the Tories are battling for control of Peterborough. Stevenage in Hertfordshire could show if Labour is making gains in commuter territory.

From 3am: First key results from London. Westminster is a Labour longshot and has been run by the Conservatives continuously since 1964. In both Hammersmith & Fulham and Redbridge the Tories are fighting to hold on to a dwindling number of councillors. Elsewhere Hull is a two-way fight between Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

From 4am: The Conservatives are defending a slim majority in Dudley, where Labour hopes to make progress. Hillingdon is another Labour longshot in London and contains within its boundary the constituency of Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

From 5am: Labour is hoping to retake Southampton from Conservative control and make gains in Derby. The Conservatives are defending Wandsworth in London which they have held since 1978.

By 7am: The final result is due from Conservative-run Barnet, Labour’s top target in London. All outstanding overnight results are also due.

Around 9am: Counting begins for a further 71 councils in England and all councils in Scotland and Wales.

A downbeat Boris Johnson has admitted the Tories will have their ‘a*** kicked’ in the local elections as Cabinet ministers prepare fresh efforts to keep him in Number 10.

The Prime Minister’s top ministers will today rally round Mr Johnson as the ‘right leader’ to steer Britain through the economic crisis and war in Ukraine after the local elections.

They will hit the airwaves to argue he should stay on as PM – no matter how bad the poll results are.

As polling stations closed last night and vote counting began, the Conservatives were braced to lose hundreds of councillors around the country.

This was despite hopes their support might hold up in Red Wall areas.

The PM was said to be pessimistic about his party’s chances of avoiding a drubbing, with the BBC reporting he yesterday told aides ahead of ballot papers being counted: ‘We are going to get our a*** kicked tonight.’

Flagship councils such as Wandsworth – the London borough that was famously Margaret Thatcher’s favourite – and possibly Westminster were set to slip from Conservative control.

The Tories were also facing the prospect of being booted out of power in West Oxfordshire.

A dismal set of local election results will ratchet up the pressure on Mr Johnson’s position in Downing Street in the wake of the Partygate scandal. 

But allies of the PM are preparing a counter-offensive in case rebel Tories seek to use bruising results as an excuse to pounce. 

They will try to soothe nerves among backbenchers by arguing the PM has got the ‘big calls right’ and is the best person to navigate the economy through ‘choppy water ahead’.

A Cabinet source said: ‘Boris delivered Brexit, got us through Covid, and is now right at the front of the global response to the invasion of Ukraine.

‘He is absolutely the right leader to take Britain forward.’

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis was the first Cabinet minister out in support of the PM last night, as he dismissed suggestions that a poor election result could pile pressure on Mr Johnson.

‘I absolutely think we can win the next general election and I do think Boris Johnson is the right person to lead us into that,’ he told Sky News.

‘He’s got those big decisions – through Covid and internationally with Ukraine and other areas – right since he’s been PM and he has my full support to continue to do that.’

But Mr Lewis also admitted it was set to be a ‘difficult set of elections’ for the Tories.

‘We came into these elections with Labour having a consistent lead in the polls,’ he added. 

‘It’s the elections where the particular seats and councils up for election are the ones that tend to favour Labour.’

Millions of voters cast their ballots on Thursday as council seats in large swathes of the country were up for grabs.

In England more than 4,000 council seats were contested across 146 councils including in Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham and all 32 London boroughs.

All 32 councils in Scotland and all 22 in Wales also held elections.

Polls suggested the Conservatives could do badly in the so-called Blue Wall, their traditional heartlands in southern England. 

But most telling will be whether the party manages to prevent Labour making a significant comeback in the Red Wall areas, which switched from red to blue for the first time at the 2019 general election.

A failure by Sir Keir Starmer to reverse Tory advances in these areas could fuel questions about his leadership.

Labour's Graeme Miller, the leader of Sunderland City Council, celebrates as his party retained control

Labour's Graeme Miller, the leader of Sunderland City Council, celebrates as his party retained control

Labour’s Graeme Miller, the leader of Sunderland City Council, celebrates as his party retained control

There were fears the Tories could lose Westminster council in London as part of a local elections hammering

There were fears the Tories could lose Westminster council in London as part of a local elections hammering

There were fears the Tories could lose Westminster council in London as part of a local elections hammering

Labour shadow minister Rosena Allin-Khan celebrates as results are read out in Wandsworth - a Tory flagship council that was set to slip from the party's grasp

Labour shadow minister Rosena Allin-Khan celebrates as results are read out in Wandsworth - a Tory flagship council that was set to slip from the party's grasp

Labour shadow minister Rosena Allin-Khan celebrates as results are read out in Wandsworth – a Tory flagship council that was set to slip from the party’s grasp

As polling stations closed and vote counting began, the Conservatives were braced to lose hundreds of councillors around the country

As polling stations closed and vote counting began, the Conservatives were braced to lose hundreds of councillors around the country

As polling stations closed and vote counting began, the Conservatives were braced to lose hundreds of councillors around the country

A ballot box is delivered to the Basildon Sporting Village, in Essex, as counting began across the country

A ballot box is delivered to the Basildon Sporting Village, in Essex, as counting began across the country

A ballot box is delivered to the Basildon Sporting Village, in Essex, as counting began across the country

Boris Johnson reportedly told aides ahead of ballot papers being counted: 'We are going to get our a*** kicked tonight'

Boris Johnson reportedly told aides ahead of ballot papers being counted: 'We are going to get our a*** kicked tonight'

Boris Johnson reportedly told aides ahead of ballot papers being counted: ‘We are going to get our a*** kicked tonight’

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer had sought to make the local elections campaign about the Partygate row after Mr Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak were fined by police

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer had sought to make the local elections campaign about the Partygate row after Mr Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak were fined by police

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer had sought to make the local elections campaign about the Partygate row after Mr Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak were fined by police

Pre-election forecasts pointed to the Tories losing control of flagship councils such as Wandsworth and Westminster in London, as well as Southampton and Thurrock.

A Tory loss of Wandsworth would prove a seismic result, as the London borough was famously Margaret Thatcher’s favourite and has been a flagship Conservative council for more than 40 years.

As votes began to be counted last night, Conservative insiders described it is a ‘definite loss’, along with the fellow London council of Barnet.

A sign of Labour confidence in Wandsworth was an appearance of London mayor Sadiq Khan at the count.

Shadow health minister Rosena Allin-Khan claimed that ‘people are absolutely fed up of 44 years of Tory governance in Wandsworth, and they are fed up Boris Johnson’s lies and deceit and it is time for change’.

Her fellow shadow minister, Tulip Siddiq, highlighted Labour’s holding of Sunderland City Council as an early success for her party as council election results started to come.

She claimed the Tories had ‘thrown the kitchen sink at it’ and highlighted how the PM had visited the area on Monday.

Sir Keir had sought to make the local elections campaign about the Partygate row after Mr Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak were fined by police.

But this appeared to backfire in recent days as he struggled to answer questions about a lockdown gathering in Durham last year when he was pictured swigging beer.

The PM yesterday appeared to be in good spirits as he arrived to cast his vote in Westminster accompanied by his dog Dilyn.

Sir Keir voted in Kentish Town, north London, while Sir Ed Davey voted in Surbiton, south-west London.

The Liberal Democrats leader said the Conservatives would be punished in the local elections for their handling of the cost of living crisis.

Sir Ed expressed confidence his party would ‘gain ground in areas across the Blue Wall where voters are fed up of being taken for granted by the Conservatives’.

Labour chair Anneliese Dodds was downbeat about her party’s chances of picking up a swathe of new council seats. 

‘It’s going to be a long night and there will be ups and downs – we hold the majority of the seats up for election in England, so never expected big gains, ‘she said.

‘These results will show the progress we have made thanks to Keir’s leadership since the disastrous 2019 election result. 

‘Labour is a renewed and confident party, making headway in England, Scotland and Wales.

‘As we have shown throughout this campaign: Labour is your side, and we have the plan to deliver the security, prosperity, and respect that the British people deserve.’

Mr Johnson will attempt to get on the front foot next Tuesday as his Government’s legislative agenda is set out in the Queen’s Speech. 

The PM is expected to delay a reshuffle of his Cabinet until the summer as it is believed he wants to be clear of the Partygate scandal before resetting his team.

But yesterday there was speculation he could call a snap general election before the end of this year over fears the economic picture could get much worse.

Millions of voters cast their ballots as council seats in large swathes of the country were up for grabs

Millions of voters cast their ballots as council seats in large swathes of the country were up for grabs

Millions of voters cast their ballots as council seats in large swathes of the country were up for grabs

The PM is expected to delay a reshuffle of his Cabinet until the summer as it is believed he wants to be clear of the Partygate scandal before resetting his team

The PM is expected to delay a reshuffle of his Cabinet until the summer as it is believed he wants to be clear of the Partygate scandal before resetting his team

The PM is expected to delay a reshuffle of his Cabinet until the summer as it is believed he wants to be clear of the Partygate scandal before resetting his team

Elections guru Professor Michael Thrasher said that Labour would need to poll ‘as well as, if not better’ than 2018 in its traditional heartland councils if it is to unseat the Conservatives at the next general election.

He told Sky News that Labour was ‘really trying to defend a very high position’ in many areas, but added it was ‘also trying to stop the rot that set into the party’ in the 2019 and 2021 local elections.

Prof Thrasher said that growing the vote share was important for Labour, adding: ‘In places like for example Barnsley, Sandwell, which are normally very reliable for the Labour party, their vote share fell in the council elections in both 2019 and 2021, so it is really important for Labour to recover the position that they had in 2018.

‘They have to poll as well as, if not better, in these kinds of places if they are to demonstrate any chance of unseating the Conservative at the next general election.’

The prospect of Mr Johnson being forced out of Number 10 over the local election results was gleefully seized upon by Dominic Cummings, the PM’s estranged former chief aide, yesterday.

The ex-No10 adviser made a sensational polling day plea for voters to force ‘regime change’ as he launched a blistering attack on the ‘intellectually, politically, and organisationally rancid’ Tories.

Referring to Mr Johnson as ‘the trolley’ and a ‘clown’ in a Twitter tirade, Mr Cummings claimed it was ‘irrational’ for Tories to ‘prop up’ the PM any more.

The Scottish Tories were braced for ‘heavy losses’ and expected to suffer their worst election result in Scotland in at least a decade.

There were concerns Conservative supporters in Scotland failed to turn out due to anger at the PM and Downing Street parties.

A senior Scottish Tory source said: ‘The phones have been bad, very bad.

‘It looks like we are going to suffer fairly heavy losses and we fully expect to finish third.

‘Tory voters are not going to Labour, but a lot of them are staying at home because of Boris and Partygate.

‘We expect it to be a poor election for us, our worst election in a decade or more.’

However, despite the expectation of a gloomy result, Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross was ready to insist he will not stand down.

A source close to Mr Ross said: ‘Douglas is going nowhere, he is definitely not resigning. Voters have sent a message to Boris, not Douglas.

‘He is fully focused on the long term job here: the next Westminster and Scottish Parliament elections.’

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