- The Conservatives lost a trio of London councils in the election, including Wandsworth and Westminster.
- Poor performance on national issues, including partygate and cost of living, was blamed.
- Conservative MPs are concerned about what this means for the general election.
The Conservatives have lost control of three key London councils, including Margaret Thatcher’s favourite, Wandsworth, putting further pressure on Boris Johnson’s leadership from the party’s moderate wing.
As well as Wandsworth, which the Conservatives have held since 1978, Labor took Barnet and now has control of Westminster Council, which has been in Conservative hands since it was created in 1964.
The Conservatives’ troubles extended beyond the capital to Cumbria, where Labor won 66% of the seats.
Conservative councilor John Mallinson, who was previously Carlisle City Council leader, said national issues such as partygate and the cost of living were to blame for his party’s poor showing.
He told the BBC: “[It’s] Basically the integrity issue, I just don’t feel like people already have confidence that their Prime Minister is telling the truth.”
In Sunderland, where Labor held the city council one seat short, Antony Mullen, the leader of the Conservatives on Sunderland council, told the BBC that partygate had “suppressed our involvement”, adding: ” The best chance of reviving the fortunes of the Conservative Party will be with a new leader.”
According to polling expert Sir John Curtice, with just under half the results, the Tories are on course to lose some 250 seats across England.
However, this is not as bad as feared. Most of the Tory pain has been felt in London and the South.
A Conservative MP told Insider the party now feared losing much of its remaining parliamentary seats in the capital in a general election. Likely seats that would go include Theresa Villiers’ Chipping Barnet, Nickie Aiken’s Two Cities and Iain Duncan Smith’s Chingford and Woodford Green, they believe.
Another deputy suggested that the results could lead them to send a letter of censure, having been hesitant until now. Others had previously told Insider that local elections would be a deciding factor in their next steps.
On Thursday, Insider revealed that Boris Johnson is considering a snap election, perhaps as early as this summer, to avoid the twin threats of a worsening economy and face a vote on his leadership.
A vote will be triggered if the chairman of the 1922 committee, Sir Graham Brady, receives 54 letters. A growing number of Conservatives have publicly called for Johnson to resign.
Although such a move would risk sacrificing a number of seats, including Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab and those mentioned above, the PM is said to be considering “taking it to the people” rather than leaving it up to MPs in a bid to salvage his career.