UK’s Labour claim big early win over PM Sunak’s Conservatives

UK’s Labour claim big early win over PM Sunak’s Conservatives

LONDON (Reuters) : Britain’s opposition Labour Party won a parliamentary seat in northern England on Friday, inflicting a heavy loss on the governing Conservatives at the start of what could be a bruising set of results for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

The thumping victory set the tone for what will be a closely watched two days of results ahead of a full national election this year, which polling shows could put Labour Leader Keir Starmer in power and end 14 years of Conservative government.

Voters cast their ballots on Thursday for more than 2,000 seats on local authorities across England and a handful of high-profile mayoral elections, including in the capital, London.

Blackpool South was the only parliamentary seat up for grabs after the incumbent, elected in 2019 as a Conservative candidate, quit over a lobbying scandal.
Labour candidate Chris Webb won the Blackpool election with 10,825 votes.

The Conservative candidate came in second with 3,218. The defeat in Blackpool and early signs of losses at the council level will boost Labour’s hopes for a sweeping victory over Sunak’s Conservatives in the national election.

“This seismic win in Blackpool South is the most important result today,” Starmer said.
“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.”

Sunak’s Conservatives are about 20 percentage points behind Labour in most opinion polls for a national election, which Sunak intends to call in the second half of the year.

The first 500 of the more than 2,600 local council results showed Labour making gains at the expense of the Conservatives — in line with finance minister Jeremy Hunt’s pre-vote prediction of significant losses for the governing party.

Although local elections do not always reflect how people will vote in a national contest, a heavy defeat could trigger fresh anger in the Conservative Party over Sunak’s leadership and the prospect of losing power.

The extent of that unrest could hinge on the results of two mayoral elections in which the Conservatives hope to show they can still hold ground in central and northeast England.

The Tees Valley mayoral result is due on Friday, while the West Midlands mayor is to be announced on Saturday. The result in London, where current Labour mayor Sadiq Khan is expected to win another term is also due on Saturday.