UK: dire outlook for Sunak after local elections

The Tories have suffered a crushing defeat in local elections in England and Wales, losing around half of their seats, while Labour made gains in key areas. Commentators take stock with an eye to the general election, which will be held in January 2025 at the latest.

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Denik N (CZ) /

Debacle for the Tories

The Tories are in trouble, says Deník N:

“Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's party experienced its worst election day in decades. It was only able to maintain its dominant position in its largest strongholds. ... According to current data, the next general election, which will take place in January at the latest, is likely to have similar results. The latest poll by Electoral Calculus suggests that the Labour Party is likely to win over 470 seats and the Tories just 85. Given the visible apathy among the party's members, they too seem to realise that even replacing Rishi Sunak would not bring them victory.”

El País (ES) /

Sunak left to face defeat on his own

Neither his own party nor voters are happy with Sunak's performance, El País observes:

“They're not convinced either by the prime minister's tepid efforts to revitalise an economy battered by a decade of Brexit and mismanagement, or by his demonstrations of supposed resolve on the issue of irregular immigration. ... The prime minister has quelled the internal party rebellion for now, however not thanks to his strategic skills but because of the accumulated weariness among the majority of Conservative MPs. ... A sense of resignation is spreading among them which seems to be telling him that he will have to face the looming election defeat alone.”

The Observer (GB) /

Voters have had enough

There is no avoiding a general election, says The Observer:

“After 14 years of failure, voters on Thursday told the government they have had enough. ... The question for Sunak must be: why limp on for months as a lame-duck prime minister, when so many voters have made their view clear? ... The most honourable way for him to respond would be to call a general election.”

The Daily Telegraph (GB) /

Stay the course

The Conservatives should stick to their course, advises The Daily Telegraph:

“Rishi Sunak has taken some promising steps in recent weeks in areas such as defence spending, welfare reform and immigration. ... If they are to defeat Labour, the Conservatives must themselves be clear to the electorate about what they believe. That will not be achieved by shifting to the supposed centre ground, or by seeking to steal the Left's clothes. It will be achieved by governing with conviction as conservatives.”

The Irish Times (IE) /

Labour must not rest on its laurels

Even the apparent winners should take a close look at the election results, warns The Irish Times:

“Labour, too, was affected by the unusual proliferation of non-mainstream vote-splitting. Greens and Independents made significant inroads, with some voters opposed to Labour's prevarication over Gaza. With both main parties under pressure from their flanks, the elections were more than just a snapshot of the popular mood, but will inevitably serve as an engine of further political polarisation.”