Rishi Sunak defiant in ‘taking fight to Labour’ despite shock election losses

Rishi Sunak has insisted that sticking to his plan will deliver for the Tories after his party suffered shock mayoral elections losses in England’s two biggest cities.

A poll upset in the West Midlands saw Labour’s Richard Parker seize victory from outgoing Conservative mayor Andy Street by a mere 1,508 votes.

Labour stormed to victory in the London mayoral poll, with Sadiq Khan securing a historic third term in office, with a majority of some 275,000 over Conservative rival Susan Hall.

The West Midlands contest, which the Tories were on course to win, was seen as a potential lifeline in an otherwise disastrous set of results for the Conservatives.

The Prime Minister had hoped a brace of wins – alongside Lord Ben Houchen’s victory in the Tees Valley mayoralty – could be enough to stave off rebellious Tory backbenchers.

Despite grumbling from some rebel voices, Mr Sunak appeared resolute that his leadership was still right for the party and the country.

In a statement, he said: “It’s been disappointing of course to lose dedicated Conservative councillors and Andy Street in the West Midlands, with his track record of providing great public services and attracting significant investment to the area, but that has redoubled my resolve to continue to make progress on our plan.

“So we will continue working as hard as ever to take the fight to Labour and deliver a brighter future for our country.”

Suella Braverman, the Conservative former home secretary, was quick to lay the blame for Tory losses at the door of Downing Street.

She said ousting Mr Sunak as party leader “won’t work”, but wrote in the Telegraph: “The hole to dig us out of is the PM’s, and it’s time for him to start shovelling.”

Outgoing West Midlands mayor Mr Street meanwhile urged the Conservative leader not to stray rightwards, and to stick to a moderate path in order to win votes in the future.

“I would definitely not advise that drift,” he told Sky News.

“The message is clear: winning from that centre ground is what happens.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer hailed the result in the West Midlands as “phenomenal” and “beyond our expectations”.

Regional Mayoral elections
Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer celebrates with newly elected Mayor of West Midlands Richard Parker (Jacob King/PA)

“People across the country have had enough of Conservative chaos and decline and voted for change with Labour. Our fantastic new mayor Richard Parker stands ready to deliver a fresh start for the West Midlands,” Sir Keir added.

It came after his party dominated mayoral elections across England – winning in Liverpool, South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, and in Greater Manchester.

Results are in from 106 of the 107 councils in England that held elections on May 2 and they show Labour has won 1,140 seats, an increase of more than 200.

The Liberal Democrats beat the Tories into second place, winning 521 seats, up nearly 100.

The Tories are just behind on 513 seats, down nearly 400.