Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour Party are “almost certain” to win Wandsworth Council, a leading elections analyst has told Sky News, as the Conservatives prepare for losses in London.
The polls closed in Scotland, Wales and many parts of England at 22:00 on Thursday evening, and early counting suggests that the Tory flagship council Wandsworth could fall to Labour.
A favourite council of Margaret Thatcher’s which has been held by the Conservatives for 44 years, losing the south London authority would be a mighty blow to Mr Johnson’s party.
Labour won both seats in the new Wandle and Trinity wards, with shadow minister Rosena Allin-Khan and London Mayor Sadiq Khan celebrated together as the result came in.
Trinity was seen as a key area that the party wanted to win as it was the Conservatives most marginal ward on the estimated new boundaries.
The highest number of seats the Tories can win in Wandsworth is now 29 – exactly half of the overall total – so the party will certainly lose control of the authority unless they gain Labour seats.
PM braced for losses in London
A Tory local government grandee earlier told Sky News’ chief political correspondent Jon Craig that Wandsworth was now “gone” for the Conservatives.
Elsewhere, Conservatives insiders think the party may also struggle to hold Barnet, with some suggesting the North London council is now a “definite loss” in what would be a historic win for Sir Keir’s party.
Barnet has one of the UK’s largest Jewish populations, and after the Labour Party was dogged by accusations of anti-Semitism under former leader Jeremy Corbyn, a win here would be seen as a significant turnaround.
However, a vote here is not expected until after dawn.
In London, where Labour is already strong, signs of progress for the party in Tory-held Wandsworth, Westminster and Hillingdon – which contains the prime minister’s parliamentary constituency – would all be seen as significant.
Lib Dems take Hull from Labour
The Liberal Democrats won Kingston-upon-Hull from Labour in what will be seen as a big defeat for Sir Keir’s party.
Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat MP Munira Wilson told Sky News her party is 99% sure the Conservatives will lose control of West Oxfordshire – which includes David Cameron’s former constituency of Witney.
Elsewhere, in the first result of the night, announced just under two-and-a-half hours since the polls closed, the Conservatives held Broxbourne – a Hertfordshire stronghold.
Shortly afterwards, it was confirmed that Labour had maintained Sunderland.
The Conservatives would have been pleased to hold Basildon, but elsewhere in Essex, the Conservative leader of Colchester Council lost his seat to the Liberal Democrats.
Mr Johnson’s party also failed to take control of Peterborough, where the party needed to gain two seats, with the party now running the council under minority control.
First results announced
Voting has been taking place for councils in some parts of England, with more than 4,000 seats up for grabs, as well as across the whole of Scotland and Wales, each with more than 1,000 seats at stake.
The elections decide who will be responsible for handling local issues such as planning, housing and rubbish collections – but wider national issues such as the surge in the cost of living have also come to the fore.
Results, coming in over the next couple of days, could also prove key to the future of the prime minister – and whether rumblings of backbench discontent escalate into a chorus of opposition triggering a no-confidence vote.
They will also shed light on whether Sir Keir has been able to make ground amid the pressures facing the PM as a result of partygate as well as the cost of living crisis.
In Northern Ireland, 90 assembly members are being elected – with tensions high as polls point to Sinn Fein overtaking the DUP as the largest party, suggesting Northern Ireland could have a nationalist first minister for the first time.
Mayoral votes have also been taking place – in South Yorkshire, Croydon, Hackney, Lewisham, Newham, Tower Hamlets and Watford. In Bristol, a referendum has been held on whether to scrap the directly-elected mayor system in the city.
In England, around half of councils are expected to begin their vote counts overnight, with the remaining local authorities starting on Friday morning. In Scotland and Wales, counting does not begin until Friday, with the earliest results not expected until that afternoon.
Poll suggested Labour would make advances
A YouGov poll for Sky News earlier this week suggested Labour was on course to make advances in key battlegrounds but would possibly struggle to take over significant numbers of councils outright.
The elections came on the same day that the Bank of England issued a recession warning and predicted that inflation would top 10% later this year – its highest level in four decades – signalling a tightening cost of living squeeze.
After polls closed at 10pm, Labour chair Anneliese Dodds sounded a cautious note about the party’s prospects, saying: “It’s going to be a long night and there will be ups and downs – we hold the majority of the seats up for election in England, so never expected big gains.”
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said he was optimistic that his party would make ground in areas “where voters are fed up of being taken for granted by the Conservatives”.
The PM tweeted his thanks to all Tory supporters and activists across the country “for their hard work to support our plan to keep council taxes low”.