Starmer says time for Sunak to face nation as Tories hammered in by-election and council races | Politics News

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has renewed his demand for Rishi Sunak to go to the polls after the prime minister suffered a by-election drubbing and bruising council losses across England.

But while Mr Sunak said the the grim early results were “disappointing” for the Conservatives, he insisted he was “focused completely on the job at hand” and seizeed on the party holding the Tees Valley mayoralty.

Sky News elections analyst Professor Michael Thrasher has warned the Conservatives could be on course for one of their worst-ever performances.

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Keir Starmer looks at his watch as he celebrates  at Blackpool Cricket Club .
Pic: PA
Pic: PA

Buoyed by council gains in key battleground areas like Hartlepool, Rushmoor in Hampshire, Redditch in the West Midlands and Thurrock in Essex, Sir Keir declared the “seismic win” for Labour in the Blackpool South by-election “a direct message to the prime minister”.

Highlighting the swing of 26.33% from the Tories in the Lancashire seat, the opposition leader told Sky News: “There’s no denying the mood of the country now is for change. And I think it’s for the prime minister to allow the country to express that change now in a general election.”

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Friday: From 10am lead politics presenter Sophy Ridge and chief presenter Mark Austin is joined by political editor Beth Rigby and Sam Coates throughout the day, as well as economics and data editor Ed Conway and Professor Michael Thrasher.

Friday night: From 7pm until 9pm, Sophy Ridge will host a special edition of the Politics Hub, offering a full analysis and breakdown of the local elections.

The weekend: Sophy Ridge will host another special edition of the Politics Hub on Saturday from 7pm until 9pm. And Sunday Morning with Trevor Phillips will take a look back over what’s happened from 8.30am until 10am.

How do I watch?: Freeview 233, Sky 501, Virgin 603, BT 313, YouTube and the Sky News website and app. You can also watch Sky News live here, and on YouTube.

And the Electoral Dysfunction podcast with Beth Rigby, Jess Phillips and Ruth Davidson will go out on Friday, and Politics at Jack and Sam’s will navigate the big question of where the results leave us ahead of a general election on Sunday.

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But speaking at a military base in North Yorkshire, Mr Sunak said: “Obviously it’s disappointing to lose good, hard-working Conservative councillors and I’m grateful to them for all their service in local government, keeping council tax low and delivering services for local people.”

He also stressed there were “lots of results to come”.

One of those was the Tees Valley mayoral contest, which saw Tory incumbent Ben Houchen re-elected in the face of a concerted Labour challenge.

The Conservative peer held the role with the a majority of 18,789 votes.

Mr Sunak was quick to hail the victory and send his congratulations.

He said: “Tees Valley want us to stick with the plan that’s working… Excited for Ben to keep delivering more jobs and opportunities for local people.”

Speaking to Sky News, Lord Houchen pointed out most of the Labour shadow cabinet had campaigned in the area to try and oust him.

He said: “They’ve thrown the kitchen sink at this and they failed. And I’m pleased that people saw through that and they voted for me for a local vision to deliver for local people.”

Speaking to Sky News earlier, Conservative Party chairman Richard Holden said it had been a “tough night”, but insisted that “when we’re facing those tough challenges we’ve got the right man for the job”.

Read more:
The winners and losers
Charts tell story of Conservative collapse
Who is Labour’s new MP in Blackpool South?

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Votes for Reform UK ‘helping Labour’

On the potential threat of Conservative MPs choosing to oust Mr Sunak, Mr Holden added: “Parliamentary colleagues need to look at this and see… and wait through the weekend as well.”

Mr Holden sought to highlight local issues at play, insisting the Blackpool South by-election took place in “particularly difficult” circumstances following the resignation of former Tory MP Scott Benton after a lobbying scandal.

Key results include:

  • Labour won Rushmoor in Hampshire for the first time
  • The party also claimed the council in general election bellwether Redditch
  • Labour won Hartlepool council, regaining ground after a Westminster by-election disaster there in 2021
  • Labour also won Thurrock, one of its top targets
  • The Tories clung on by a single seat in Harlow, Essex – a council targeted by Sir Keir on the eve of polling
  • Conservatives lost control of North East Lincolnshire
  • Labour replace the Tories as the largest party on Peterborough Council
  • Labour lost control in Oldham, which has a large Muslim population, amid anger over Labour’s stance on Gaza
  • In Cumbria, a Labour police and crime commissioner was elected, at the expense of the Tories
  • Labour also beat the Conservatives in the police and crime commissioner race in Avon and Somerset

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