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Despite Local Election Setbacks, Sunak and Conservatives Gear Up for General Election Battle

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Despite disappointing local election outcomes, Rishi Sunak is ready to tackle the upcoming general election, according to a minister. Following the loss of 474 council seats and the West Midlands mayoral position, Mark Harper urges unity behind the Prime Minister as the country approaches a nationwide poll.

Political correspondent @NifS

Sunday, May 5, 2024, 4:

Transport Secretary Mark Harper has affirmed that Rishi Sunak and the Conservative Party are ready to tackle the challenges of a general election, despite their poor performance in the recent local elections.

In the recent elections, the party saw a significant decrease in representation, losing 474 council seats nationwide. Additionally, they faced defeats in major mayoral elections, including a close race in the West Midlands where Labour ousted incumbent mayor Andy Street.

Nevertheless, Mr. Harper maintained that the optimal strategy for the Conservatives was to back the Prime Minister and get ready for the upcoming general election, anticipated to occur later in the year.

Live Politics: Braverman Attributes Conservative Defeat to Sunak

In a discussion on Sky News' Sunday Morning With Trevor Phillips, the minister expressed: "It's always deeply disheartening to see the loss of diligent councillors, police and crime commissioners, and outstanding mayors such as Andy Street… his narrow defeat really speaks to his caliber… so it's understandable that people are upset by this outcome.

"I believe it's crucial for everyone to support the Prime Minister at this point, concentrate on the government's main goals such as the nation's economic issues and immigration concerns, and actively promote these agendas across the country as we approach the general election."

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Referencing data from Sky News' electoral analyst Professor Michael Thrasher, indicating that Labour may emerge as the biggest party in the upcoming general election without securing a clear majority, Mr. Harper commented that his opponents had not yet "clinched a definitive agreement with the electorate, suggesting that a battle is still on the horizon".

Further Developments in the Conservative Party

Rishi Sunak appeals to Conservatives to remain loyal following unexpected defeats in recent elections

Tory loss in West Midlands mayoral race signals beginning of party's introspection

Local election outcomes: Labour's capture of a key Conservative stronghold signifies a potential change in dynamics

Associated Themes:

He stated, "The Prime Minister is ready for this challenge, I am ready, and I am confident that the Conservative Party is as well.

"We need to concentrate on addressing the public's main concerns—that's the prime minister's current focus. Following that, it's crucial to effectively communicate our message and outline our plans for post-election actions should the Conservative party win."

Many speculated that disappointing outcomes in the local elections might trigger a revolt within his party against Mr. Sunak and potentially lead to a contest for party leadership before the upcoming general election.

Former Conservative minister Dame Andrea Jenkyns, who has previously submitted a no-confidence letter against the prime minister, informed Sky News that there is currently no significant movement within the party to unseat their leader once more.

"She informed Trevor Phillips that no MPs are submitting their letters, and the matter isn't progressing," she explained. "As you're aware, I've made attempts. So, I believe it's time we confront Labour directly."

She urged Mr. Sunak to reinstate Boris Johnson to a prominent political role and to embrace a return to authentic, practical Conservative values to reclaim voter support.

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When queried on former Conservative mayor Mr. Street's advice to the party to avoid shifting too far right, Dame Andrea labeled him a "leftie" and highlighted the party's solitary triumph in the recent local elections – Lord Ben Houchen's re-election as Tees Valley mayor.

"[Lord Houchen] capitalized on the Brexit opportunities, and being a straightforward Northerner, he was victorious," she stated. "Thus, claims that we need to shift to the political center are nonsensical. I mean, [Mr Street] didn’t retain his seat. It’s nonsense."

Ex-minister and vocal detractor of the prime minister, Suella Braverman, has called on Mr. Sunak to alter his approach, advising him to humbly consider the electorate's feedback, and to revise both his strategy and leadership style.

The former Home Secretary expressed skepticism about the possibility of replacing the leader, stating to the BBC, "We don't have the time, and realistically, no new individual could step in and turn things around quickly enough, to be honest."

"No individual exists who can accomplish it all alone."

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When Trevor Phillips questioned whether it was appropriate to "end all speculation" and announce a general election, Mr. Harper responded, "No, actually, the Prime Minister has consistently maintained since the start of the year that he anticipates the election will occur in the latter half of this year – and that still stands."

"This is why… his attention is directed towards the priorities of the British public, aiming to reduce inflation, halt unauthorized arrivals by boat, and concentrate on reducing NHS waiting times."

The Liberal Democrats have criticized the Conservatives for being in "total denial" following their disappointing results this week.

"Daisy Cooper, the deputy leader of the party, criticized Mark Harper's assertion that their 'plan' is effective, stating that it reveals the Conservatives are out of touch with reality."

"Rishi Sunak must cease avoiding the public and announce a general election. His continued hold on leadership only further harms the NHS and the living standards of the populace."

Stay informed on the most recent developments both in the UK and globally by tuning into Sky News.

In the recent local elections, the Labour Party is marking significant victories, having secured an additional 185 seats. The party also triumphed in several mayoral elections across various regions, notably in London, Manchester, and the closely contested race in the West Midlands, where they emerged victorious by a margin of just 1,508 votes.

"Labour's Pat McFadden expressed that the outcome surpassed their expectations and was truly remarkable."

The nation is feeling a desire for transformation, and I believe these outcomes have boosted our confidence and faith.

"Obviously, a general election is an entirely separate matter; not a single vote has been cast yet, and I must be the first to tell the party, savor this moment, but there remains much work ahead."

Explore further: Identifying the victors and the defeatedVisuals depict the downfall of the ConservativesIn-depth analysis: The uncertain trajectory of Labour's future success

The party might need to tackle setbacks in regions with large Muslim communities, believed to stem from its stance on the Gaza conflict.

Mr. McFadden acknowledged that it "had been problematic in certain regions… and we recognize the reasons for the intense emotions surrounding this."

He emphasized, "In areas where voters have strong feelings, our goal is to regain their support. Regarding this specific issue, it's crucial to increase aid and assistance to the residents of Gaza, as they are facing an incredibly dire humanitarian situation."

"In the event that we earn the electorate's trust and are chosen to lead, the Labour government will prioritize improving the future for Palestinians during the general election."

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