Sunak determined to fight on

Sunak ‘determined to fight’ on

PM insists election not a foregone conclusion

Rishi Sunak has insisted the result of the next general election “isn’t a foregone conclusion” and that he is “absolutely determined to fight” on, despite a drubbing for the Tories in the local and mayoral polls.

The Prime Minister resisted calls from Conservative rebels to change his political course, saying he is “determined more than ever to show the public that what we’re doing is making a difference”.

He insisted his party is “united” on its values as he faced the cameras for the first time since the full release of results, which saw the Tories lose nearly 500 council seats, the West Midlands mayoral race and the Blackpool South by-election.

Mr Sunak stuck to his earlier prediction that the UK was on course for a hung Parliament when challenged over the suggestion.

The claim was based on 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 opting for smaller parties.

Mr Sunak told broadcasters during a visit to a north London community centre on Monday: “The independent analysis shows that whilst of course this was a disappointing weekend for us, that the result of the next general election isn’t a foregone conclusion, and indeed actually is closer than, or the situation is closer than many people are saying or indeed some of the opinion polls are predicting.

“And that’s why I’m absolutely determined to fight incredibly hard for what I believe and for the future country that I want to build, and that’s what I’m going to do.

“Fight for this country, fight for the things I believe and deliver for everyone on the things that matter to them.”

Former home secretary Suella Braverman has urged the Prime Minister to change course rightwards to win back voters, while Conservative moderates warned against Mr Sunak lurching away from the centre ground.

Asked whether he would be making changes, Mr Sunak said: “I’m determined more than ever to demonstrate to the country that we are making progress on the areas that matter to them and we are going to deliver for them.”

He pointed to national insurance cuts, inflation coming down, sweeping welfare reforms, the Rwanda deportation scheme being implemented and the defence spending hike.

He evaded questions about pressure from opposing sides of his party, saying: “What unites all members of our party, MPs and beyond, are our values as Conservatives and the type of country that we want to build.”

Mr Sunak earlier told the Times that 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.

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”.

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

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

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 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.

Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey plans to table a motion of no confidence in the Government when Parliament returns on Tuesday, in a bid to pressure Mr Sunak into calling a June general election.

However, even if other parties back such a vote, it is unlikely to pass given the Tories retain a majority.

Sir Ed said: “These local elections showed the country has had enough of Rishi Sunak and his out-of-touch Conservative Government.

“The Conservatives were pushed into third place for the first time in a generation as Liberal Democrats swept the board in former true blue heartlands. Yet Sunak continues to desperately cling on to power, holed up in Downing Street until the bitter end.”

Labour Party chairwoman Anneliese Dodds said: “People on Thursday voted to turn the page on 14 years of chaos and decline.

“Rishi Sunak doesn’t get it. He needs to work up the courage to call the general election that people desperately want.”

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