Labour majority on knife edge as Sunak comes under pressure

Labour could squeak to victory with a majority of just one seat at the next general election, detailed analysis of local election results in key marginal constituencies suggests.

It comes as Rishi Sunak faces growing pressure from “furious” Tories to change course on policies following last week’s drubbing and a motion of no confidence from the Lib Dems.

Analysis by polling guru Professor Sir John Curtice for the BBC found that if England’s local election results were replicated at a general election, it would leave Labour 14 seats short of the 326 needed for an overall majority.

However, the elections expert has revealed that a 12 per cent swing from the Tories to Labour seen in five key seats – indicative of the three-way battle ahead in many parts of the country – would hand Labour a slim majority.

Writing for The Independent, Prof Curtice said: “Labour were ahead in Calder Valley, Colne Valley, Dewsbury, Ipswich, and Plymouth Moor View – all of them places where all three main parties fought all the component wards.”

“On average the swing from Conservative to Labour since the last general election in these key marginals was 12 per cent – precisely the swing that on the current constituency boundaries Labour might well need to secure an overall majority of one.”

Despite saying a majority was possible, Prof Curtice warned that the local election results “raise questions” about Keir Starmer’s claim to be on course for outright victory next year.

The expert pointed out that there was only a 4 per cent average swing from Tories to Labour, compared with the May 2019 local elections, in the wards where detailed voting figures were collected.

This is slightly below the five-point swing from Tories to Labour since 2019 represented by the current average national polling lead. “In short, it is not clear that the swing to Labour in the local elections was fully in line with what might have been expected given the party’s current lead in the opinion polls,” Sir John wrote.

“What is much more apparent is the scale of the public’s disenchantment with the Conservatives. Maybe that will prove enough to deliver Labour victory when the next general election comes – but perhaps it would not be wise for the party to rely on it?”

Meanwhile, the Lib Dems hope to add to the pressure on Mr Sunak by tabling a motion of no confidence in his government in the Commons as soon as Tuesday. Mr Sunak is, however, highly likely to win if it reached a vote because he still commands a large majority.

Accusing the PM of “running scared” of an election, Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey said: “The local elections showed that the public clearly has no confidence in Sunak or the Conservatives, so it’s time for a general election now.”

Mr Sunak is under growing pressure from some senior Tories to change course on policy after Thursday’s loss of more than 1,000 council seats – with calls for tax cuts and moves to help young people onto the property ladder.

Former cabinet minister Simon Clarke said the PM had made a “major mistake” in dropping national house-building targets, claiming it had damaged the Tory chances in the local elections.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Monday, he argued that the Tories should not try to compete with the Lib Dems on “not in my backyard” anti-development campaigns.

Sunak at the Royal Voluntary Service Mill End lunch club on Monday

“If you look at the very serious results in huge swathes of the south where the Lib Dems and Greens have run absolutely amok on an explicitly nimby platform,” said the ex-levelling up secretary. “We cannot out-nimby them.”

Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith said the party could still win the next election in an op-ed for The Telegraph. But he warned that many voters would only return to the party if Mr Sunak fulfilled the promises of “lower taxes” and “lower immigration”.

Mr Sunak declined to apologise to the hundreds of Tory councillors who had lost their jobs when asked, after volunteering at a lunch club in Hertfordshire as part of the coronation initiative on Monday.

Pressed on whether he would say sorry, the PM said it was “always disappointing to lose hard-working Conservative councillors”, adding that he would “work night and day” to deliver on his priorities for the country.

Rishi Sunak insists delivering on his five priorities was what the public wanted

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