Local elections 2022: What’s happened in UK so far as Tories suffer heavy losses in London

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The Conservative Party faced some tough early losses as counts got underway in England overnight. Boris Johnson is facing a backlash from local party leaders after losing three key London authorities.

Sir Keir Starmer’s Labor Party has strengthened its grip on the capital, taking the totemic Tory authority in Wandsworth, winning Westminster for the first time since its creation in 1964 and clinching victory in Barnet.

The loss of Wandsworth will be a significant blow because of its symbolic status in London. It turned blue in 1978, a year before Margaret Thatcher’s election as prime minister and was reputedly her favorite council, noted for its low taxes. London Mayor Sadiq Khan said that “history has been made” with the victory. Meanwhile, Labour’s success in Barnet, which has a large Jewish population, will be seen as a sign the party has turned the corner on the anti-Semitism rows which dogged Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.

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Across the rest of England, dozens of Tory councilors have lost their seats against a backdrop of the row about lockdown-busting parties in No 10 and the cost-of-living crisis. John Mallinson, the Conservative leader of Carlisle City Council which is being replaced by a new Labour-won Cumberland authority, put the losses down to an “integrity issue”.

“Basically I just don’t feel people any longer have the confidence that the Prime Minister can be relied upon to tell the truth,” he said. The comments were echoed in Portsmouth, where the Tories lost four seats. Simon Bosher, leader of the city’s Conservative group, said Mr Johnson should “take a good, strong look in the mirror” because “those are people that are actually bearing the brunt on the doorstep of behavior of what’s been going on in Westminster”.

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After full results were declared from 71 councils, the Tories had lost control of six authorities and suffered a net loss of 132 councillors, Labor had a net gain of four councils and 91 seats, the Lib Dems had gained a council and 40 councillors and the Greens had put on 22 councillors.

Cabinet minister Brandon Lewis insisted Mr Johnson remained the right person to lead the party, amid speculation that a bad set of election results – coupled with any further revelations about No 10 lockdown-busting parties – could see more Tory MPs submitting letters of no confidence. The Northern Ireland Secretary told Sky News: “I absolutely think we can win the next election, and I do think Boris Johnson is the right person to lead us into that.”

Policing minister Kit Malthouse told the BBC: “The further away you get from London, our sense is that the picture is better for us.”



Adam Hug, Labor Group leader, celebrates his party’s victory at Westminster City Council

Labour’s campaign has been hit by Tory calls for Durham Police to look into whether Sir Keir broke Covid rules while campaigning before the 2021 Hartlepool by-election – something he has dismissed as “mudslinging”. The Tories have also complained about a secret pact between Labor and the Lib Dems to maximize Conservative pain in marginal seats, something denied by both opposition parties.

While Labor enjoyed success in London, there was a mixed picture elsewhere. The party lost Hull to the Lib Dems, which it blamed on local issues but insisted it was winning back support in Brexit-supporting areas. The Liberal Democrats focused on making further inroads in Tory heartlands – the “Blue Wall” in southern England – following recent Westminster by-election successes in North Shropshire and Chesham and Amersham.

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Labor also gained Southampton from the Conservatives, while the Tories lost both Worcester and West Oxfordshire, which contains David Cameron’s former Witney constituency, to no overall control. A referendum in Bristol saw voters choose to abolish the post of the elected mayor, currently held by Labour.

The key results so far:

Sunderland: A poor performance by Labor might have seen the party lose overall control at Sunderland, a council it has run since 1973. But Labor kept its majority and lost just one seat, to the Liberal Democrats, who also gained a second seat from the Conservatives.

Cumberland: Labor has won a comfortable majority in the newly-created authority of Cumberland, which covers the former districts of Allerdale, Carlisle and Copeland in Cumbria – all areas currently represented by Conservative MPs.

Nuneaton & Bedworth: Labor saw its majority at Nuneaton & Bedworth disappear in 2018 and the party lost more councilors in 2021, with the Conservatives taking overall control. This year Labor has lost another seat to the Tories, in a part of the country that will be a key battleground at the next general election.

Hull: The Liberal Democrats have gained a wafer-thin majority in Hull, dislodging Labor who had run the council since 2011. The new line-up is 29 Lib Dems, 27 Labor and one independent – ​​but no Conservatives.

Derby: Labor hoped to close the gap on the Conservatives in Derby, where the council has been in no overall control since 2018. But while the party has made three gains, it is still behind the Tories who now have 18 seats, with Labor on 16, the Lib Dems eight, Reform six and independents three.

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Wandsworth: Wandsworth is a long-standing Labor target in London and this year the party has finally won power from the Conservatives, who had been in control of the council since 1978 and had prized themselves on charging residents one of the lowest average levels of council tax in the country.

Southampton: This was another top Labor target and the party has succeeded in winning control back from the Conservatives, though it has a slim majority on the new council of just four seats.



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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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