Tories may not win election, Sunak admits while claiming hung Parliament likely

Tory rebels have urged the Prime Minister to change political course rightwards after a local election drubbing.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (Owen Humphreys/PA)

Rishi Sunak has conceded the Conservatives may not win the next general election, but suggested the UK was on course for a hung Parliament, as Tory rebels warned him to change his political course after defeats in the local polls.

The Prime Minister is braced for a continued fallout after the weekend’s local election results, which saw his party unexpectedly lose the West Midlands mayoral race to Labour.

Speaking to The Times, Mr Sunak claimed Labour would fall short of enough seats to win power, saying voters would not want to see Sir Keir Starmer “propped up in Downing Street” by the SNP or smaller parties.

Mr Sunak pointed to Sky News analysis of the local election results which suggested Labour would be the largest party in a hung Parliament, though voters in national polls tend to to behave differently, with fewer of them opting for smaller parties.

“These results suggest we are heading for a hung Parliament with Labour as the largest party,” Mr Sunak told The Times.

Sir Keir Starmer with party supporters
Sir Keir Starmer with party supporters (Jacob King/PA)

“Keir Starmer propped up in Downing Street by the SNP, Liberal Democrats and the Greens would be a disaster for Britain.

“The country doesn’t need more political horse trading, but action. We are the only party that has a plan to deliver on the priorities of the people.”

But Ben Page, chief executive of polling company Ipsos, said Mr Sunak’s prediction that the UK was headed for a hung parliament was “for the birds”, pointing to Labour’s resounding victory in the Blackpool South by-election and the local election results of “which we haven’t seen anything of this kind since just before Labour won a landslide in 1997”.

He told Times Radio: “The crumb of comfort (for Mr Sunak) is Keir Starmer’s personal ratings and the fact that people aren’t particularly enamoured with Labour. But unfortunately, next to that is a cup of cold sick, which is basically that people are utterly fed up with the Conservatives.”

The Prime Minister’s projection rests on analysis assuming Labour would retain just one seat in Scotland, despite expectations the Opposition would do better there in the next general election.

Health minister Maria Caulfied was unable to explain how Mr Sunak was including voters on Scotland and Wales in calculating that there would be a hung Parliament when pressed repeatedly by the BBC on Monday.

Mr Sunak is set to face questions about his political future during a visit to a London community centre on Monday afternoon.

Suella Braverman
Suella Braverman (Jeff Overs/BBC/PA)

Former home secretary Suella Braverman urged the Prime Minister to change course rightwards to win back voters.

But she said a change of leadership was not a “feasible prospect”, adding: “There is no superman or superwoman out there who can do it.”

Among the measures Ms Braverman has urged the Prime Minister to adopt to win back voters are further tax cuts and a cap on legal migration.

Tory grandee Sir John Hayes signalled the Prime Minister should reshuffle his Cabinet, with his close ally Ms Braverman as a voice at the table for what he called the “authentic Tory part of the Conservative Party”.

But Conservative moderates warned against Mr Sunak lurching rightwards, with outgoing West Midlands mayor Andy Street claiming after his loss that “winning from that centre ground is what happens”.

Damian Green, chairman of the One Nation Group of Tory moderates, made a similar plea on the BBC’s Westminster Hour.

(PA Graphics/Press Association Images)

“I would just observe the seats that we have lost in the past few days – we lost to parties to the left of us. So I think suggesting that what we need to do is to move to the right is irrational in the face of the electorate,” he said.

Labour sought to dispel suggestions it would consider a coalition with the SNP after the next election.

Pat McFadden, the party’s national campaign co-ordinator, said: “Our aim is to win a majority, to govern, to meet the mood for change, and we’re not planning any alliances or pacts with anyone.”

The West Midlands result was a shock defeat for the Conservatives, with Lord Ben Houchen the sole remaining Tory mayor, in Tees Valley.

Pat McFadden
Pat McFadden (Victoria Jones/PA)

Labour dominated other mayoral contests across England, including in London and Greater Manchester, and took a Tory scalp by winning the Blackpool South by-election.

With the results of all 107 councils in England that held elections on May 2 declared, Labour has won 1,158 seats, an increase of more than 232.

The Liberal Democrats beat the Tories into second place, winning 552 seats, up nearly 100, a result hailed by party leader Sir Ed Davey as “stunning”.

The Tories are just behind on 515 seats, down nearly 400.