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An Electoral Wake-up Call

3 May 2024
| by Field Team

Labour achieve a massive 26.33% swing in Blackpool South, while the Tories suffer heavy council losses - is there a way back for Sunak?

As TWFW goes to pixel this week, the Conservative Party has been on the wrong end of a bloody nose from the electorate. While the heavy losses – currently about 250 councillors, five councils and the Blackpool South by-election – were heavily forecast they will trigger a new bout of soul searching inside the Conservative Party.

At the heart of this electoral storm lies the outcome of this morning's Blackpool South by-election. Labour's victory there demonstrates the scale of the party's resurgence and signals a seismic shift in voter sentiment in the red wall. The defeat was compounded by the Reform Party's best ever performance. If a vote share of 16.9% was repeated widely across the country, the Conservative Party would face an extinction level event.

The significance of this by-election goes beyond the confines of sunny Blackpool, as it now casts a dark shadow over the Conservative Party's prospects in the upcoming general election contests. Party Chairman, Richard Holden MP's, off-script candid acknowledgement on Times Radio that the election results were "far worse" than anticipated stresses the true depth of the setback now faced by the Tories.

The one glimmer of hope so far is Ben Houchen's mayoral victory on Teesside, albeit with a significantly reduced majority. Houchen's win highlights the challenges facing the Conservative Party. You would be forgiven for thinking Houchen had run as an independent given the total absence of Tory branding and he even managed to lose his blue rosette for the declaration.

Defeat on Teesside could have spurred Tory rebels to move against their leader but salvaging the Mayoralty is likely to stay the rebels’ hand.

Looking ahead to the unannounced mayoral races, including those in the West Midlands, the stakes could not be higher. Just yesterday, it was reported that Labour candidate Richard Parker appeared to have a narrow lead in his bid to defeat Street in the West Midlands mayoral race. Rumours from the Labour camp today are much more pessimistic, with some blaming the Labour position on Gaza for some voters deserting the party. 

Eyes also remain fixed on Sadiq Khan's bid for re-election in London. Khan remains hot favourite to win a landmark third term but as the first ballot boxes are opened rumours are rife the result could be much closer than polls indicate. A tight result in London would further solidify the Prime Minister’s position as he faces down his critics.

Nevertheless, with Labour poised to capitalise on recent gains and potentially secure further victories in key electoral battlegrounds, the Conservative Party faces a daunting task in regaining lost ground and reaffirming its electoral mandate. A Labour victory at the General Election remains the likely outcome in 2024. 

As the prime minister weighs his options, he is confronted with a stark choice: to persist with his existing approach or to embrace a more transformative agenda in response to evolving voter preferences. Whatever path chosen, one thing is certain: these ongoing losses have left the Tories reeling, prompting even more questions about their fate in the bigger electoral tests ahead this year.

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