Local elections 2023: Lucy Fraser says after Tory defeat

  • By Kate Vannell
  • Political Correspondent, BBC News

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“We need to do more”: Culture secretary on Tory local election defeats

Culture Secretary Lucy Fraser has said the Government must reflect and do more following the wounds her party suffered in the UK’s local elections.

Some conservatives blamed Rishi Sunak after the party lost more than 1,000 councilors in Thursday’s vote.

But Ms Fraser, speaking to the BBC, said despite the Tories’ difficult start to the campaign, voters were “starting to give Rishi Sunak credit”.

Labour’s Wes Streeting said the “best is yet to come” for his party.

The party won control of 22 councils, including key battlegrounds such as Medway, Swindon, Plymouth, Stoke-on-Trent and East Staffordshire.

Stressing whether the party has made enough progress to form the next government, Mr Streeting argued that people who voted for minor parties in these local elections would switch to Labor at the next general election, expected in 2024.

Despite winning key areas, some have suggested that if their share of the vote is repeated in a general election, Labor may fall short of an overall majority and may be left to form a government with other parties.

Mr Streeting did not rule out forming a coalition with the Liberal Democrats, saying Labor was “not in the ball park to talk about coalition governments”.

He also said that changing the voting system by introducing proportional representation would not be in Labour’s manifesto – traditionally seen as the price of securing the support of the Liberal Democrats in the event of a hung parliament.

Speaking on the same programme, Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey – who enjoyed positive results on Thursday – ruled out going into coalition with the Conservatives, but refused to do the same for Labour.

Calling it a hypothetical question, he added, “I will not take voters for granted.”

Reflecting the possibility of a hung parliament at the next election, the SNP have said their MPs can hold the balance of power.

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Street: Labor is not talking about a coalition

SNP Westminster deputy leader Mhairi Black said “a strong group of SNP MPs will put Scotland in the driver’s seat of a minority UK government”, adding: “Keir Starmer’s pro-Brexit party will be indistinguishable from the Tories, while the SNP will drag Labour. Party to the left.”

Laura Kuensberg believes Labor will build so much support next year that talk of a coalition will be irrelevant – and the Conservatives want to spark a debate about the issue.

Asked if the Conservative government would change following the party’s poor performance, Ms Fraser said “we absolutely have to reflect”, but argued voters would regain confidence in the party “once people see what we have to offer”.

He said Rishi Sunak had been prime minister for only six months, but the public “slowly started giving credit to the government and Rishi”.

He also said the results should be seen against the backdrop of the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, which he said had affected the cost-of-living crisis.

However, the local election results have prompted some conservatives to question the government’s direction both privately and publicly.

Senior MP of the party Sir John Redwood tweeted: “Many conservative voters went on strike last Thursday. They don’t want to vote for high taxes, anti-establishment policies and failure to take back control of our borders.”

The Conservatives lost votes to Labor and the Liberal Democrats, but also to the Greens, who secured their best result in the local elections, winning the party’s first majority in Mid-Suffolk.

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