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London mayor Khan wins historic third term as Tories routed in local polls

By AFP

May 4, 2024 10:01 PM


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London's Labour mayor Sadiq Khan on Saturday secured a record third term, dealing the Conservatives another damaging defeat in their worst local election results in recent memory months before an expected general election.

Khan, 53, easily beat Tory challenger Susan Hall to scupper largely forlorn Tory hopes that they could prise the UK capital away from Labour for the first time since 2016.

The first Muslim mayor of a Western capital when first elected then, he had been widely expected to win as Labour surge nationally and the Conservatives suffer in the polls.

In the end, he saw his margin of victory increase compared to the last contest in 2021.

It adds to a dismal set of results for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, as his Tories finished a humiliating third in local council tallies after losing nearly 500 seats in voting Thursday across England.

With Labour making huge gains, the beleaguered leader's Conservatives lost crunch mayoral races in Manchester, Liverpool, Yorkshire as well as the capital and elsewhere.

In the West Midlands, where Tory incumbent Andy Street is bidding for his own third term, votes were reportedly being recounted and too close to call.

An unexpected Tory defeat there could leave Sunak with only one notable success: its mayor winning a third term in Tees Valley, northeast England -- albeit with a vastly reduced majority. 

 'Voters are frustrated' 

 Writing in Saturday's Daily Telegraph, Sunak conceded "voters are frustrated" but insisted "Labour is not winning in places they admit they need for a majority".

"We Conservatives have everything to fight for," Sunak argued.

Labour, out of power since 2010 and trounced by Boris Johnson's Conservatives at the last general election in 2019, also emphatically snatched a parliamentary seat from the Conservatives.

It seized on winning the Blackpool South constituency and other successes to demand a national vote.

"Let's turn the page on decline and usher in national renewal with Labour," party leader Keir Starmer told supporters Saturday in the East Midlands, where the party won the mayoral race.

Sunak must order a general election be held by January 28 next year at the latest, and has said he is planning on a poll in the second half of 2024.

Labour has enjoyed double-digit poll leads for all of Sunak's 18 months in charge, as previous Tory scandals, a cost-of-living crisis and various other issues dent the ruling party's standing.

On Thursday, they were defending nearly 1,000 council seats, many secured in 2021 when they led nationwide polls before the implosion of Johnson's premiership and his successor Liz Truss's disastrous 49-day tenure.

With almost all those results in by Saturday afternoon, they had lost close to half and finished third behind the smaller centrist opposition Liberal Democrats.

  'Impetus' 

 If replicated in a nationwide contest, the tallies suggested Labour would win 34 percent of the vote, with the Tories trailing by nine points, according to the BBC.

Sky News' projection for a general election using the results predicted Labour will be the largest party but short of an overall majority.

Its by-election scalp in Blackpool -- on a mammoth 26-percent swing -- was the Conservatives' 11th such loss in this parliament, the most by any government since the late 1960s.

Speculation has been rife in Westminster that restive Tory lawmakers could use the dire local election results to try to replace him. But that prospect seems to have failed to materialise.

However, it was not all good news for Labour.

The party lost control of one local authority, and suffered some councillor losses to independents elsewhere, due to what analysts said was its stance on the Israel-Hamas war.

Polling expert John Curtice assessed there were concerning signs for the opposition.

"These were more elections in which the impetus to defeat the Conservatives was greater than the level of enthusiasm for Labour," he noted in the i newspaper.

"Electorally, it is still far from clear that Sir Keir Starmer is the heir to (Tony) Blair."


AFP


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