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The Conservative Party has suffered its worst electoral defeat in years, losing more than half of its councillors who stood for re-election across England.

Labour hailed a “truly historic” result in Rishi Sunak’s own backyard of York and North Yorkshire, where David Skaith smashed Tory Keane Duncan by almost 15,000 votes.

The region, which was electing a mayor for the first time, covers Mr Sunak’s Richmond constituency and is an area Labour has historically struggled to compete in.

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The results as they come in

Speaking at Northallerton Town Football Club, Sir Keir Starmer said: “We’ve had a positive campaign here, and I am very, very proud to stand here as leader of the Labour Party to celebrate this historic victory.

“And it is a historic victory – these are places where we would not have usually had a Labour Party success but we’ve been able to create that success and persuade people to vote for us.”

Sir Keir also renewed his demand that the prime minister call a general election.

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‘This win is not a one-off’ – Starmer

The party also had successes in the North East and East Midlands mayoral votes and in the Blackpool by-election.

There was a sliver of hope for the government, with Lord Ben Houtchen holding on to his role as the mayor of Tees Valley.

Analysis: Labour’s future success is less clear-cut after the local elections

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PM on ‘disappointing’ election results

Appearing alongside Lord Houchen at a victory rally, Rishi Sunak said: “I’ve got a message for the Labour Party too because they know that they have to win here in order to win a general election – they know that.

“They assumed that Tees Valley would stroll back to them – but it didn’t.”

This victory is likely to have quelled talk of rebellion among disenchanted Tory MPs who had threatened to oust the prime minister if the results proved a disaster, but it remains to be seen whether the Tories can hold on to the West Midlands mayoralty.

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Analysis: Local election results

Of the 107 councils that held elections on Thursday, 102 have declared their full results, with the Conservatives losing more than half of the seats it has been defending so far.

Some 468 Tory councillors lost their seats as the party lost control of 12 councils.

Sky’s election coverage plan – how to follow

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.

The Electoral Dysfunction podcast with Beth Rigby, Jess Phillips and Ruth Davidsonis out now, 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.

You can also follow the latest on our politics page

Labour won control of eight councils as it gained 173 seats, while the Liberal Democrats gained 100 seats, the Greens 67, and Reform UK picked up two.

Read more:
The winners and losers
Charts tell story of Conservative collapse
Who is Labour’s new MP in Blackpool South?

However, Labour suffered setbacks in Oldham and Kirklees, where it lost control of the councils after victories for independent candidates opposing its stance on Gaza.

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Sky News elections analyst Professor Michael Thrasher says although the results are bad news for the Tories, they do not put Labour on course for an overall majority in the Commons in a general election.

Further results are expected over the weekend, including key mayoral contests in London and the West Midlands.

Labour’s Sadiq Khan is attempting to secure re-election in London, while Conservative Andy Street is defending his position in the West Midlands.

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Sky News general election projection

Rumours had swirled in London since the polls closed that Mr Khan could have suffered a shock defeat to Conservative Susan Hall, however Sky News understands both parties now believe the incumbent will remain in City Hall.

The results of those elections are expected to arrive at 10pm in London and 2.15pm in the West Midlands.

Lord Ben Houchen and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak celebrate in Teesside following his re-election as Tees Valley Mayor. Picture date: Friday May 3, 2024.
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Lord Ben Houchen’s re-election on Teesside was a crumb of comfort for the Tories. Pic: PA

Other results still to be announced include council elections in the South and West of England where the Liberal Democrats and Greens hope to make progress.

There are also metro mayoral elections yet to declare a winner in Greater Manchester, Liverpool City, North Tyneside, South Yorkshire and West Yorkshire.

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Gareth Bale warns greed could harm footballer welfare as matches pile up – and backs calls to scrap VAR

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Gareth Bale warns greed could harm footballer welfare as matches pile up - and backs calls to scrap VAR

Gareth Bale has revealed to Sky News concerns football could become “too greedy”, with players’ mental and physical well-being endangered by growing fixture demands.

The former Wales captain, who won every major honour with Real Madrid, urged football authorities to act so “it doesn’t take something bad to happen for that to change”.

In his first notable interview since retiring in January 2023, Bale reflected on the highs and lows of an illustrious career, assessed the wider state of the game – including what he describes as the need to scrap VAR – and expressed admiration for Jude Bellingham’s immediate impact at Madrid.

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Bale on why he doesn’t like VAR

Bale retired at 33 as a five-time Champions League winner with Madrid – becoming Britain’s most successful male footballing export while still facing difficult times winning over fans in Spain.

The pressures he felt are now only growing as competitions add matches, much to the frustration of global players’ union FIFPRO.

Bale said in an exclusive interview with Sky News: “The intensity and the quickness [are] only getting higher, and it’s very difficult to continue playing at that high level.

“And then when the level comes down, you only get scrutinised.”

He said that while “everybody understands that money … plays a big part” and “more games means more money”, players “want to play the right amount of games where you can cope with it without it being dangerous”.

He added: “It’s a very fine line, but hopefully everybody can come together and come to a right resolution for player welfare.”

Gareth Bale lifting the Champions League trophy for Real Madrid. Pic: PA
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Gareth Bale lifting the Champions League trophy for Real Madrid in 2018. Pic: PA

Some players now could be required for more than 85 matches in a season for club and country with FIFA introducing a new 32-team Club World Cup every four years and UEFA expanding the Champions League.

“The amount of fixtures is becoming more and more and it’ll just become more demanding – and hopefully it doesn’t take something bad to happen for that to change,” Bale said.

“Looking after the players is an important thing. They’re the ones who are growing the game, bringing the fans in to watch them.”

Asked about hopes for football, Bale replied: “It’s just about staying together as one and without certain things getting too greedy.”

‘VAR only made it worse’

One thing he certainly doesn’t miss is video assistant referees delaying celebrations and ruling out goals.

Premier League clubs are set to vote next week on whether to scrap VAR.

VAR, Bale says, was “supposed to take away the controversy in football and it’s only made it worse – I like the human error aspect”.

“Things in slow motion look a lot worse than they do in real time. So, when you slow things down, a handball looks way more of a handball than it does in real action.

“So I don’t like it. I would like to see it gone personally.”

‘Fantastic’ Bellingham

Bale led Tottenham into the Champions League for the first time before an £85m move to Madrid in 2013.

Jude Bellingham has been 'fantastic'. Pic: PA
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Jude Bellingham has been ‘fantastic’. Pic: PA

The 14-time European champions are back in the final on Saturday at Wembley Stadium against Borussia Dortmund – a notable homecoming for Jude Bellingham after a wondrous first season in the Spanish capital.

The 20-year-old English star has already won LaLiga with 19 goals and six assists.

“At such a young age to be doing what he’s doing is fantastic,” Bale said. “It’s great to see, it’s refreshing and it’s important.”

It is especially important to get off to a good start at a club of such history and tradition like Real Madrid, he said.

“The intensity, the pressure that you can feel under…,” said Bale.

“So, he had a great start so far. Obviously, they still have a big game to come and it’ll be great for him to win a Champions League in his first season, that really settles the pressure and, hopefully, he can kick on from there.”

Ups and downs in Madrid

Life in Madrid wasn’t always easy for Bale, with jeers from his own fans despite being so integral on the big occasions with memorable goals like the scissor kick in the 2018 Champions League final win over Liverpool.

Gareth Bale scoring a spectacular overhead kick against Liverpool. Pic PA
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Gareth Bale scoring a spectacular overhead kick against Liverpool. Pic PA

“Of course, there’s always going to be ups and downs,” Bale said. “It’s how you deal with those, how you bounce back, how your character comes out.

“There were obviously some great times, there were obviously some bad. But, I think normally the good outweighs the bad in the end.”

Undoubtedly the biggest moments of pride came with his country – leading Wales to the Euro 2016 semifinals and ending their 62-year World Cup exile in 2022.

“If you’d told me when I was a young kid that I would have the career I did, I probably would never have believed you,” Bale said. “I feel like I overachieved”.

“But I think as you get older, your goals change, your body changes, your talent kind of takes over, the hard work kicks in.”

Read more:
The caretaker’s son who became Wales’ greatest footballer
Bale ‘very proud’ after receiving MBE from Prince William

Now there is more time for golf and family.

“It’s been really nice just to take a step back and have that pressure just relieved a bit,” he said.

“So it’s been good. Obviously I’ve spoken to people when they’ve retired. It’s all about keeping stuff a little bit busy.”

Climate concern

Bale also expressed concern over how football impacts climate change – and stressed the importance of not neglecting the environment while chasing sporting glory.

His message for collective action on sustainability features alongside those of other players, clubs and fans on a Pledge Ball made from recycled boots by Champions League sponsor Mastercard.

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“It’s difficult to make big changes,” Bale said. “It’s always about making those little changes.”

Bale urged the media “to write about the good things, not the bad things”, mentioning Lewis Hamilton as an example of somebody who is “doing a lot of good” and gets “unfair” treatment.

“He made such a massive effort to kind of change his environment and to do right,” Bale said of the F1 driver.

“And then people forget all the hard work he’s done and write maybe about just the small, I guess, negative where he drives an F1 car, which is obviously CO2. So, people need to realise that he’s doing a lot of good and not just that little bit of not bad.

“So, I think for him to make such a big change was massive. But to get the scrutiny I guess he got was very unfair.”

The sense is Bale also prefers life without scrutiny, away from the football spotlight with no desire to become a coach.

“I’m enjoying time, being at home with the family, spending more time with the kids,” he said.

“Enjoying life, to be honest.”

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Bournemouth: CCTV images released of suspect after woman stabbed to death on beach

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Bournemouth: CCTV images released of suspect after woman stabbed to death on beach

Detectives investigating the fatal stabbing of a woman on a beach in Bournemouth have released CCTV images of a suspect.

Dorset Police were called to reports of two women who had been stabbed on Durley Chine Beach at around 11.45pm on Friday.

A 34-year-old woman from nearby Poole was pronounced dead at the scene, while a 38-year-old woman who sustained serious injuries is still in hospital receiving treatment.

A 17-year-old boy from the Lancashire area, who was arrested on suspicion of murder, remains in custody.

Police have issued CCTV images of a suspect who is wearing dark clothing with his hood pulled over his head.

Officers believe there was only one offender involved and the CCTV images are of the suspect at the scene, with inquiries continuing to confirm his identity, the PA news agency reported.

Police officers at the scene on Saturday. Pic: PA
Image:
Police officers at the scene on Saturday. Pic: PA

Detective Superintendent Richard Dixey said: “Since this tragic incident was reported to us, we have been driving the investigation forward, collecting as much information as possible to get answers for the loved ones of the young woman who has tragically lost her life and for the surviving victim. Our thoughts remain with them.

“We are now in a position to issue CCTV images of the suspect. I would urge anyone who was in the area of Durley Chine beach during the night from Friday 24 May to Saturday 25 May 2024 and may have seen the person pictured or anything unusual to please come forward.”

The officer said anyone who was in the area of Durley Roundabout, West Cliff Gardens, Durley Gardens or West Cliff Drive may have “vital clues”.

Read more from Sky News:
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PGA golfer took his own life, parents say

Appealing for witnesses, DS Dixey said: “Did you see anyone acting strangely, mainly between 10pm and midnight? Do you have dashcam or CCTV footage that may assist the enquiry?

“Anyone who thinks they recognise the person in the CCTV images should contact police.”

The beach where the stabbing took place is one of Bournemouth’s most popular, according to Visit Dorset, and is located west of the pier.

“We are of course acutely aware of the concerns this incident will have created and indeed continues to create,” said DS Dixey.

“The impact on our communities and the protection of our public remains at the forefront of our minds.

“The enhanced police presence in the area will remain as long as is necessary and if you have any concerns, please do not hesitate to speak to an officer.”

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General Election 2024: Sunak ‘to double down on National Service plan’ as Tories and Labour focus on security

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General Election 2024: Sunak 'to double down on National Service plan' as Tories and Labour focus on security

Rishi Sunak is expected to continue championing his controversial plans to revive National Service by urging employers to prioritise job applicants who have served time in the military.

The prime minister said all 18-year-olds would be made to undertake a form of “mandatory” National Service if the Conservatives are re-elected on 4 July.

Despite growing criticism of the plans – which Tories estimate would cost £2.5bn a year by the end of the decade – the Financial Times reports the prime minister is set to double down.

Mr Sunak said one way to “get the most out of National Service” would be to encourage bosses to “consider those who complete the armed forces placement during job applications”, the paper reports.

Critics from across the political divide have dismissed the plan as unserious, while leading military figures are sceptical over how it would work.

But Mr Sunak will hope his pledge could boost his bid to narrow a yawning gap in the polls between the Tories and Labour as campaigning enters the first full week.

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Is National Service a good idea?

Security will also be the focus of the day for Labour, with Sir Keir Starmer expected to say in a keynote speech “economic security, border security, and national security” will form the “bedrock” of the party manifesto.

“The very foundation of any good government is economic security, border security, and national security,” the Labour leader is expected to say.

“This is the foundation, the bedrock that our manifesto and our first steps will be built upon.”

Read more:
Which countries have National Service and how does it work?
National Service pledge derided as ‘deeply cynical’ by defence insider

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Acknowledging some voters may be unsure of Labour’s credentials around national security, he is expected to say: “Whatever the polls say, I know there are countless people who haven’t decided how they’ll vote in this election.

“They’re fed up with the failure, chaos and division of the ­Tories but they still have questions about us.

“Has Labour changed enough? Do I trust them with my money, our borders and our security?

“My answer is yes you can – because I have changed this party. Permanently. This has been my driving mission since day one.”

Sir Keir Starmer during a visit to Tapa Military Base in Estonia, where British armed forces are deployed as part of NATO commitments. Pic: PA
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Voters can trust Labour on security matters, Starmer says. Pic: PA

According to The Times, Labour would bring together MI5, police and Whitehall departments to carry out a 100-day review of all the threats that Britain faces, including from Russia and Iran, if it wins the election.

Campaigning for the election is expected to ramp up in the coming week.

Sir Ed Davey will be north of the border launching the Scottish Liberal Democrat campaign with Scottish leader Alex Cole-Hamilton.

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