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Labour has won control of a string of Leave-voting councils as results roll in from the local elections across England and Wales.

The party was also buoyed by victory in the Blackpool South by-election, with a 26.33% swing from the Tories.

Among the key council gains, Labour took Rushmoor in Hampshire, which the Conservatives had run for the last 24 years.

It also seized Redditch in the West Midlands, turning a Conservative majority of five into a Labour majority of 15.

Read more:
Winners and losers
Follow the results as they come in

And Labour has retaken Hartlepool Council – the scene of a major by-election loss back in 2021, which led Sir Keir Starmer to consider quitting as leader – and Thurrock in Essex, from no overall control, saying it was “exactly the kind of place we need to be winning to gain a majority in a general election”.

And the party replaced the Tories as the largest party on Peterborough Council which, while remaining under no overall control, saw the Conservatives lose 13 of the 16 seats they were defending.

Meanwhile, the Conservatives lost control of North East Lincolnshire after Labour won five of the seats up for grabs – with neither party now holding a majority on the council.

All six areas overwhelmingly voted Leave in the 2016 Brexit referendum, with Thurrock supporting it by 72.3%, North East Lincolnshire by 69.9%, Hartlepool by 69.6%, Redditch by 62.3%, Peterborough by 60.9% and Rushmoor by 58.2%.

However, Labour lost control in its traditional heartland of Oldham, which has a large Muslim population, with many blaming the party’s stance on the conflict in Gaza.

And while keeping its grip on Newcastle, it saw a number of seats fall to the Greens.

The Tories also clung on by a single seat in Harlow, a council targeted by Sir Keir on the eve of polling day.

Key results at a glance

Redditch – Labour gain from the Tories

HartlepoolLabour gain from no overall control

RushmoorLabour grabbed from the Conservatives

Thurrock a Labour gain from no overall control

North East Lincolnshire – lost by the Tories to no overall control

Harlow – the Tories managed to just about hang on against a challenge from Labour

Pic Getty
Image:
Pic: Getty

In other important developments:

• Labour held on to Sunderland Council
• It also kept control of South Tyneside and Chorley
• The Tories held on to other councils in Hertfordshire, Hampshire and Essex

More than 2,600 council seats across 107 councils were up for grabs in England, alongside 11 mayoral elections, a parliamentary seat and police and crime commissioners throughout England and Wales – with many of the results still coming in.

But early signs show Labour is winning back seats in areas it lost over the Brexit debate, as well as making gains in traditionally Tory voting councils.

Read more:
Labour gains new MP with Blackpool by-election win

Sky’s election coverage plan – how to follow

Friday: From 10am lead politics presenter Sophy Ridge and chief presenter Mark Austin is joined by political editor Beth Rigby and Sam Coates throughout the day, as well as economics and data editor Ed Conway and Professor Michael Thrasher.

Friday night: From 7pm until 9pm, Sophy Ridge will host a special edition of the Politics Hub, offering a full analysis and breakdown of the local elections.

The weekend: Sophy Ridge will host another special edition of the Politics Hub on Saturday from 7pm until 9pm. And Sunday Morning with Trevor Phillips will take a look back over what’s happened from 8.30am until 10am.

How do I watch?: Freeview 233, Sky 501, Virgin 603, BT 313, YouTube and the Sky News website and app. You can also watch Sky News live here, and on YouTube.

And the Electoral Dysfunction podcast with Beth Rigby, Jess Phillips and Ruth Davidson will go out on Friday, and Politics at Jack and Sam’s will navigate the big question of where the results leave us ahead of a general election on Sunday.

We’ll also have the latest on the politics page of our website.

‘People crying out for change’ – Labour

Tory party chairman Richard Holden told Sky News it had been a “tough night” for the Conservatives, but argued it was coming off a “very high watermark set of elections in 2021” and “typical for a government in midterm”.

But he said: “I do feel sorry for a lot of my Conservative colleagues who have been out campaigning with across the country over the last few weeks and months who haven’t managed to hold their seats.”

However, he argued voters had not suggested they want to see “more change” within the Conservative Party, when pressed over Rishi Sunak’s position as leader and insisted the party “will be ready” whenever the election was called.

Analysis: Not all going Starmer’s way with Reform posing real threat

By Professor Michael Thrasher, Sky News elections analyst

Election results declared overnight have clearly demonstrated that the Conservatives are in serious trouble.

A by-election defeat in Blackpool South at the hands of Labour, the seventh this parliament.

In the local council elections the Conservatives are losing seats in numbers that suggest this could be one of the party’s worst ever performances.

But Conservative council seat losses have not been Labour’s gain with Sir Keir Starmer’s party more or less static in terms of vote share compared with its results from last year’s May elections.

The picture of net seat gains and losses is intriguing.

Labour leads the way but it is having to share the headlines with seat gains made at the Conservatives’ expense by the Liberal Democrats, Greens and a range of local independents.

Close comparisons of change in vote share demonstrated that support for Reform is real and will hurt the Conservatives if played out at the next general election.

Read more from Sky News elections analyst Professor Michael Thrasher here

Labour’s shadow environment secretary Steve Reed told Sky News that while it was “early days”, the results so far were showing positive signs for Labour come the next general election.

“These are not polls,” he said. “These are people getting off their backsides, going out of their homes, into a polling station, putting a cross on a party that they want to govern their local area.

“People are crying out for change. I know that from speaking to people on the doorsteps and tonight, it looks like people around the country are voting for change.”

But while Tory MP James Daly said he “fully accepts” the loss of these councils, he insisted to Sky News his party could “still win in parts of the country where historically Labour have dominated” – including in Teeside, where Conservative Lord Houchen is defending his mayoralty.

Analysis:
Story of the night in charts
Blackpool is a big step to No 10 for Starmer
Tories in real trouble but Reform threat not all good for Labour

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‘A good night for Labour’

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Tories better some predictions but Lib Dems ‘buoyed’

The Conservatives bucked predictions in Harlow in Essex where it managed to keep control of the council – although its majority fell from 11 to one, and Labour gained five seats.

The party also held on to Broxbourne Council in Hertfordshire – an authority it has run for its entire 52-year history – and Fareham in Hampshire, though in the latter the Liberal Democrats picked up four seats.

A Lib Dem source said they were “buoyed” by their results overnight, claiming it set them up to take seats off the Tories at the next election.

“This is just a taster of what is to come throughout Friday in the Blue Wall,” they added.

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‘We’re surging, they’re sinking’

Reform UK is performing well, racking up an average vote share of between 14% and 15%, and pushing the Conservatives into third place in some areas, including Sunderland.

However, it isn’t fielding candidates everywhere – instead targeting Leave seats where its predecessors, the Brexit Party and UKIP, performed well – and has yet to win a seat or council for itself.

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General election called for 4 July, as Rishi Sunak says ‘now is the moment for Britain to choose its future’

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 General election called for 4 July, as Rishi Sunak says 'now is the moment for Britain to choose its future'

Rishi Sunak has called a general election for 4 July, saying “now is the moment for Britain to choose its future”.

In a statement outside Downing Street delivered in the pouring rain, the prime minister said he had met with the King to request the dissolution of parliament.

Follow the latest politics news live – general election confirmed

“The King has granted this request and we will have a general election on the 4th of July”, Mr Sunak said.

The surprise move is a huge electoral gamble given Labour are ahead by about 20 points in the polls.

It comes after official figures showed inflation had come down to 2.3% in April.

Mr Sunak said this is “proof that the plan and priorities I set out are working”.

More on General Election 2024

However, he said “this hard earned economic stability was only ever meant to be the beginning”.

In a rallying cry to the nation he said: “The question now is how and who do you trust to turn that foundation into a secure future for you, your family and our country?

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Sky’s Beth Rigby explains why inflation and boat crossings may have played a part in the timing of the election

“Now is the moment for Britain to choose its future and to decide whether we want to build on the progress we have made or risk going back to square one. With no plan and no certainty.”

Mr Sunak had to contend with New Labour anthem Things Can Only Get Better being played from beyond the gates to Downing Street as he delivered his speech.

In a sign the election will be fought on the economy, the prime minister opened his remarks by harking back to his days as chancellor during the pandemic, saying he served the country while “the future hung in the balance”.

He said that economic stability is “the bedrock of any future success” and accused Labour of having no plan.

Summer election big gamble for Sunak

By Darren McCaffrey, political correspondent

The prime minister, late, increasingly soaked and being drowned out by protesters, confirmed there will be a July election.

Rishi Sunak’s pitch to voters is essentially better the devil you know, stick with me, I have a plan and Labour has no ideas.

“Now is the moment for Britain to choose its future, to decide whether we want to build on the progress we have made or risk going back to square one with no plan and no certainty” he said.

He is hoping that a relatively long campaign, a focus on security, in what he describes as an uncertain world and his economic record will eat into the enormous poll lead Labour have.

It is interesting there was much less focus on migration and small boats.

Sunak admitted mistakes had been made, accepted they had been in power for 14 years but played on lots of voter’s apathy about what Labour’s plans are for government.

This is undoubtedly a massive gamble for the prime minister, no party has ever come back from such a difficult polling situation, but he hopes under scrutiny Labour and Starmer will crumble.

At the moment, most in Westminster think it’s a gamble that will not pay off.

Let the proper campaign begin.

He finished his statement with an attack on his rival for Number 10, Sir Keir Starmer, saying he has “shown time and time again that he will take the easy way out and do anything to get power”.

“If he was happy to abandon all the promises he made to become Labour leader once he got the job, how can you know that he won’t do exactly the same thing if he were to become prime minister?

“If you don’t have the conviction to stick to anything you say, if you don’t have the courage to tell people what you want to do, and if you don’t have a plan, how can you possibly be trusted to lead our country, especially at this most uncertain of times?”

Read More:
The current state of the parties in the polls
Find out the new constituency you’re in and how it’s changed

Election ‘opportunity for change’

Keir Starmer
Image:
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer

Delivering his own televised statement from central London, Sir Keir said the election is an “opportunity for change” as he tore into the Tories’ record in government.

He pointed to sewage in rivers, people “waiting on trolleys in A&E”, crime going “virtually unpunished” and mortgages and food prices “through the roof”.

“On 4 July you have a choice, and together we can stop the chaos, we can turn the page, we can start to rebuild Britain and change our country,” he said.

If Sir Keir wins the election, it will end 14 years of Conservative governments under five prime ministers.

Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey, who is also hoping to make gains the the rural Tory heartlands, said the election is “a chance to kick Rishi Sunak’s appalling Conservative government out of office and deliver the change the public is crying out for”.

What are the rules for calling an election?

Mr Sunak has been saying for months the vote would happen in the “second half of the year” but had refused to set a date.

The assumption was that he would wait until the autumn to give him more time to deliver on his pledges.

However, speculation he could go to the country earlier mounted in Westminster on Wednesday as Cabinet ministers were summoned for an unusually timed meeting, with Defence Secretary Grant Shapps and Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron cutting short trips abroad to attend.

As general elections have to be held every five years, the final day a vote could have taken place was 28 January 2025.

However, the Conservatives in 2019 restored the prime minister’s power to call an election at a time of their choosing within that five years.

The last general election was held in 2019, when Boris Johnson won the Conservatives a landslide over Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party.

Since then, there have been two more prime ministers, Liz Truss and Mr Sunak, and the Conservatives’ 80-seat majority has been reduced by a series of by-election losses while their popularity among voters has plummeted.

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General Election 2024: What happens now an election has been called?

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General Election 2024: What happens now an election has been called?

Rishi Sunak has called a general election for this summer.

The prime minister has been saying for months he would call a vote for the “second half of the year”, and it will now be held on Thursday, 4 July.

Under the Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Act 2022, Mr Sunak had until 17 December this year to call an election – as votes must be held no more than five years apart.

Sky News looks at what happens now.

General election latest: Rishi Sunak to call election for 4 July

Requesting permission to dissolve parliament

The prime minister has already requested permission from the King to hold a general election, as the power to dissolve parliament – end the session – legally lies with him.

More on General Election 2024

Parliament must be “dissolved” for an election to officially take place. Polling day then takes place 25 working days after that date.

Mr Sunak said in a speech outside Downing Street on Wednesday that the King had granted his request to dissolve parliament.

As a result, parliament will be prorogued on Friday, 24 May, while dissolution will take place on Thursday, 30 May.

King Charles III with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at Buckingham Palace, London, for their first in-person audience since the King's diagnosis with cancer. Picture date: Wednesday February 21, 2024.
Image:
Rishi Sunak will go to the King to request the dissolution of parliament

What happens in parliament after an election is called?

There is usually a period of several days, known as “wash-up”, between an election being called and the dissolution of parliament.

During “wash-up”, parliament will continue as normal, but any parliamentary business not completed by the end of that time will not enter into law and cannot be continued into the next parliament.

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This normally leads to a rush to pass legislation through parliament to get it onto the statute book, which often means parties having to work together to agree on which bills they will support.

The longest “wash-up” period since 1992 was in 2017 when parliament sat for a further seven days after the election was called, according to Institute for Government (IfG) analysis.

What happens after parliament is dissolved?

Once parliament is dissolved, there are no longer any MPs as every seat in the House of Commons becomes vacant.

House of Lords members retain their positions, but no more business happens until the next parliament begins.

Government ministers remain in post until a new government is formed.

However, government activity is restricted during the campaign period to ensure public money is not used to support the campaign of the party in power and to maintain civil service impartiality.

Restrictions normally begin when parliament has been dissolved, however, they can start before this, as they did in 2017.

Boris Johnson arrives in Downing Street after an audience with Queen Elizabeth II in which he was invited to form a Government after the Conservative Party was returned to power in the General Election with an increased majority. PA Photo. Picture date: Friday December 13, 2019. See PA story POLITICS Election. Photo credit should read: Yui Mok/PA Wire
Image:
Boris Johnson won the last election in 2019 with a landslide. Pic: PA

The campaign

Campaigning never stops for political parties, but it will ramp up after an election is announced.

Parties, their candidates, and supporters, will promote their policies during the campaign period by publishing informative material, knocking on doors to talk to people, writing newspaper articles, and supporters putting posters in their windows or placards in their front gardens.

There is no set time for when manifestos explaining the parties’ pledges have to be launched, but they generally happen within a few days of each other.

A voter carries his passport along with his poll card at The Vyne polling station in Knaphill, part of the Woking borough, which was one of five councils that trialed the use of ID in polling stations in May 2018
Image:
Voters now need to provide ID to be able to vote. Pic: PA

Since 1997, Labour and Conservative manifestos have been launched between 18 and 29 days before the election, the IfG found.

Televised debates between party leaders or other politicians became a feature of campaigns in 2010.

Their timing and format are negotiated between political parties and broadcasters, but there is no obligation for any of them to take part.

Cinna, an 8-year-old rescue dog from Greece, arrives with owners to the polling station at St Alban's Church in London.
Pic: PA
Image:
Polling stations are open from 7am until 10pm on election day. Pic: PA

Polling day

Registered voters can submit postal votes before the day, but most people go to polling stations, which are open from 7am until 10pm.

This will be the first general election where photographic ID will be required to vote.

When voting closes, an exit poll is announced following a survey of voters taken from about 150 constituencies in England, Scotland and Wales.

What happens after the election?

If the current government retains a majority in the new Parliament after an election, it will continue in office and resume normal business.

If the election results in a clear majority for a different party, the incumbent prime minister and government will immediately resign, and the King will invite the leader of the party that has won the election to form a government.

It becomes slightly more complicated if the result is a hung parliament.

The current government remains in office unless and until the prime minister tenders his and the government’s resignation to the King.

The government is entitled to await the meeting of the new parliament to see if it can command the
confidence of the House of Commons or to resign if it becomes clear that it is unlikely to command that confidence.

They could also be forced to resign if they lose a vote of no confidence, at which point, the person who appears to be most likely to command the confidence of the House of Commons will be asked by the Monarch to form a government.

In terms of dates, the new Parliament will be summoned to meet on Tuesday, 9 July, when the first business will be the election of the speaker and the swearing-in of members.

The state opening of Parliament will be on Wednesday, 17 July.

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Person dies in mudslide in North Yorkshire

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Person dies in mudslide in North Yorkshire

A person has died in a mudslide in North Yorkshire, police have said.

Police said they were responding to the mudslide, which happened at 1.15pm in Carlton-in-Cleveland.

The force said: “We can confirm that one person has sadly died as a result of the incident. Our thoughts are with their family and friends during this difficult time.”

It comes as a yellow warning for rain was issued covering the north of England, the Midlands and north and central Wales until 6am on Thursday.

“It is going to be a pretty wet picture as we go through the rest of the week for many places,” Met Office meteorologist Alex Burkill said.

Many places could see 30-40mm of rain, while a few areas may receive 60-80mm as heavy downpours move northwards throughout Wednesday.

There is even a small chance a few upland areas could see up to 150mm, according to the forecaster.

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