Labour takes Thurrock as Tories suffer election blows

Labour group celebrate with hands in air and cheering.
The Labour Party celebrated taking control in Thurrock, where the count took place in Purfleet [Matt Knight/BBC]

Labour has taken control of Thurrock Council following a damaging night for the Conservatives in Essex.

Previously the Tories ran the local authority, which was declared bankrupt in 2022 after borrowing £1.5bn, as a minority administration.

The Conservatives also surrendered Basildon Council, after losing almost half of their seats.

In Harlow, the Tories retained control having scraped a majority over Labour of just one seat.

The Conservative majority in the town relies on a Tory member who is suspended after allegations he posted Islamophobic comments on social media.

The Conservatives also lost all the seats they were trying to protect at Castle Point Borough Council.

Jackie Doyle-Price
Jackie Doyle-Price said Thurrock's results were probably a reflection of national mood [Matt Knight/BBC]

Jackie Doyle-Price is the Conservative MP for Thurrock - a seat considered a a key battleground at the next general election.

She told the BBC the result was "disappointing" and felt it reflected a national mood.

"It's very clear to me that some of our voters were choosing to stay home rather than turn out today," she said.

She said the party would need to "up our game" before the general election to encourage traditional Conservative voters to turn out.

People watching the votes being counted in Basildon
Councillors and candidates watched on throughout the count in Basildon [Simon Dedman/BBC]

Labour has become the largest party at Basildon Council - albeit with no overall control - after the incumbent Tories lost 12 seats.

Talks are expected to take place with independents to form a new administration.

Labour leader Maryum Yaqub said her party members was "absolutely elated".

"People are wrestling with rats in their estates because their bins aren’t tidied up on time," she told the BBC.

"These are really basic services that a council is expected to perform for its residents that [the Conservatives] have catastrophically failed to do."

Craig Rimmer, a Conservative who lost his seat in Pitsea South East, said the "national mood" was his party's downfall.

"A lot of it has been down to a tide of national politics we've been competing with," he added.

Members from different parties observe vote counting.
The result in Harlow went to the wire, with just one seat deciding the result [Simon Dedman/BBC]

In Harlow, all 33 seats were up for grabs and the Tories took 17, with Labour winning 16.

Labour gained five seats from the Conservatives, but had high hopes of taking control.

The final seat being declared was won by just 55 votes.

Turnout was 28.33%, up slightly on last year's 25.19%.

Robert Halfon, Conservative MP for Harlow, described it as "literally the biggest comeback since Lazarus".

He told the BBC visits by senior Labour politicians such as party leader Sir Keir Starmer failed to win over voters.

"Labour went around like the cat that got the cream and they were complacent and I think people in Harlow don’t like complacency, they want hard working local councillors like the Conservatives," said Mr Halfon, who won the bellweather seat back from Labour in 2010.

Netteswell ward's Labour councillor James Griggs admitted it was not the result his party wanted.

"We have made significant gains in the town after a pretty unpleasant set of elections," he said.

"We are moving forward."

Waterside Farm leisure centre sign
The Castle Point count took place at Waterside Farm leisure centre [Richard Smith/BBC]

All eight Conservative councillors at Castle Point were voted out, as an independent party took control.

The People’s Independent Party (PIP) will lead the authority after it increased its share of the seats to 24.

Its closest rivals, the Canvey Island Independent Party (CIIP) had 15 councillors elected.

The CIIP was the largest party before these elections and took control in 2022 with support from the PIP, but the latter secured a majority earlier.

In April, the BBC reported 13 Conservative election candidates were disqualified from appearing on the ballot papers due to admin errors.

Conservatives watch as ballots are counted in Rochford
No single party is in control at Rochford, but the Conservatives have lost seats [Harrison Cable/BBC]

Rochford District Council has no single party in overall control, with the Conservatives losing five seats to Liberal Democrat and independent candidates.

One third of the council, which was run by a Liberal Democrat, Green and independent coalition, was up for election.

There were two recounts in the Foulness and Wakerings ward, where the Conservatives lost by just 14 votes to an independent.

Labour group cheer as one of their candidates is elected in Southend-on-Sea.
Labour celebrated taking a seat in Southend-on Sea [Deborah McGurran/BBC]

Southend-on-Sea City Council remains under no overall control as votes were cast for 17 of its 51.

Labour is now the largest party with 20 seats to the Conservatives’ 18, and Labour will be looking for partnerships so that they can take over running the council.

The Conservatives lost three seats to Labour and one to the Liberal Democrats.

The Green Party also took one seat from the Liberal Democrats.

It was being run by the Conservatives as a minority administration.

Turnout was up marginally from 30.47% in 2023 to 30.74%.

Ballots being dropped onto a table
Voter turnout was marginally down in Colchester [Cameron Noble]

At Colchester City Council, no single party has taken control, however Labour gained one seat from the Liberal Democrats, who had been running the council as a minority administration.

The Lib Dems also took one seat from an independent.

Voter turnout was marginally down in Colchester from 31.12% in 2023, to 30.31% this year.

People sit at tables waiting to count votes
The Liberal Democrats and Labour have been sharing power in Brentwood over the past year [Bethan Rush/BBC]

No change is expected at Brentwood Borough Council after both the Liberal Democrats and Labour gained a seat each but failed to seize overall control.

The two parties have been running the council together over the past year in what was once a Tory stronghold.

The Conservatives lost two seats, leaving them with 19 elected councillors.


By Andrew Sinclair, BBC East of England political editor

There is still a lot of counting to go, but one thing is already clear: this has been a disastrous night for the Conservatives

They will be relieved that they fought off a strong Labour challenge in Harlow and pleased that they didn’t lose anything in Colchester. But that’s as good as it got.

They didn’t just lose control of Thurrock, they also lost seats in Rochford, Southend and even Harlow.

It appears that this traditionally Conservative county may be turning away from the Tories.

At Epping Forest District Council the Conservatives retained control with a 2 seat majority.

The outcome was not confirmed until the final ward, Rural East, was declared.

Conservative Roger Hirst, meanwhile, was re-elected as Essex's police, fire and crime commissioner.

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