Connect with us

Published

on

It was a wafer-thin victory, but a huge win.

The symbolism of Labour taking the West Midlands mayor, a jewel in the Tory crown, could be felt in the room as Labour activists gathered in Birmingham to celebrate the win with their new mayor Richard Parker and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer.

There are moments on election journeys when the momentum shifts – and this win felt like one of them.

“We humbly asked [the voters] to put their trust and confidence in a changed Labour Party and they did. And that is a significant piece of political history that we’ve made here today,” said Sir Keir at his victory rally.

“So the message out of these elections, the last now the last stop before we go into that general election, is that the country wants change.

“I hope the prime minister is listening and gives the opportunity to the country to vote as a whole in a general election as soon as possible.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer celebrates with the new West Midlands mayor Richard Parker. Pic: PA / Jacob King
Image:
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer celebrates with the new West Midlands mayor Richard Parker. Pic: PA / Jacob King

This win gave them the boost that was missing when they won the Blackpool South by-election on a massive 26-point swing, but then failed to pick up the hundreds of council seats they were chasing.

More on Conservatives

This win, on just 1,508 votes or 0.25 per cent of the vote, was a body blow for a Conservative party that believed they could just about cling on. Ben Houchen, the Tees Valley mayor, is now the last Tory standing.

For Labour, then a moment to bookmark.

Andy Street after losing the mayoral race for the West Midlands. Pic: PA / Jacob King
Image:
Andy Street after losing the mayoral race for the West Midlands. Pic: PA / Jacob King

Just as Boris Johnson’s Hartlepool by-election win in 2021 was a low point for Sir Keir – he told me this week that he considered resigning over the loss because he thought it showed he was the barrier to Labour’s recovery – this too will feel devastating not just for Andy Street but for the PM too.

Labour has beaten him in a street fight. He’s bloodied with Sir Keir now emboldened.

“This was the one result we really needed,” said one senior Labour figure. “It’s been our top focus for the past week and symbolically a very important win.”

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Analysis of local election and mayoral results

And Labour needed the boost, because, as Professor Michael Thrasher pointed out in his Sky News’ national vote share projection calculated from the local election results, Sir Keir was not picking up the sort of vote share that Tony Blair was winning in the run-up to the 1997 Labour landslide.

His latest calculation of a 35% vote share for Labour and 26% for the Tories, put Sir Keir winning a general election but short of a majority.

Read more:
Conservative Andy Street suffers shock loss
Charts tell story of Conservative collapse
Analysis: Labour’s future success is less clear-cut

What the West Midlands mayoral win did for Sir Keir was to give him a clear narrative that he is coming for the Tories and will do what he needs to take them down.

It raises inevitable questions about what is next for Rishi Sunak. The prime minister had nowhere to go today, not one win to celebrate. The worst performance in council elections in 40 years, was already pretty much as bad as it gets before the loss of Andy Street. The former Conservative mayor was magnanimous towards the prime minister, saying the loss was his alone.

Defeated Andy Street followed by victor Richard Parker. Pic: PA / Jacob King
Image:
Defeated Andy Street followed by victor Richard Parker. Pic: PA / Jacob King

But colleagues will not be so generous. One former cabinet minister said this loss was “devastating”. “We’re done and there’s no appetite to move against him,” said the senior MP. Many Tories tell me they are now resigned to defeat and believe Mr Sunak and his team needed to own it, rather than the rest of the party.

The coming days might be bumpy, the mood will be stony. But Tories tell me not much will actually change for them.

For Sir Keir, he now needs to sell not the changed Labour Party, but his vision for changing the country. The West Mids mayor’s win was dazzling, but it could have so easily gone the other way. And as Mr Sunak fights to survive, Labour still has to fight hard to win.

Continue Reading

Politics

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

Published

on

By

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.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

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

Follow Sky News on WhatsApp
Follow Sky News on WhatsApp

Keep up with all the latest news from the UK and around the world by following Sky News

Tap here

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
Image:
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.

Continue Reading

Politics

Could Trump’s win nix SEC crypto suits? Critics say he’s ‘pandering’ for votes

Published

on

By

Could Trump’s win nix SEC crypto suits? Critics say he’s ‘pandering’ for votes

One crypto lawyer thinks a Donald Trump election win would revert some SEC crypto lawsuits, but others note he hasn’t always kept campaign promises.

Continue Reading

Politics

Sunak’s Number 10 is much better at keeping secrets than others

Published

on

By

Sunak's Number 10 is much better at keeping secrets than others

Suddenly, at election time, political predictions become so much harder and riskier. Everything changes in a campaign, not least the news cycle.

That’s my excuse, at any rate, for failing to foresee the announcement of a general election in last week’s Politics at Jack and Sam’s.

There were a few clues – and one magisterial tweet from Financial Times journalist Lucy Fisher – but we were deaf to the signals.

👉 Listen above then tap here to follow Politics at Jack and Sam’s wherever you get your podcasts 👈

Pic: Reuters
Britain's Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader Rishi Sunak speaks to journalists on the plane on their way to Staffordshire, Britain May 24, 2024. HENRY NICHOLLS/Pool via REUTERS
Image:
Pic: Reuters

In this week’s Politics At Jack and Sam’s podcast, we reflect how this Number 10 – in big contrast to the last two – is much better at keeping secrets.

But the moment an election is called, the way information gets out alters and everything becomes trickier.

Follow live – general election latest:
Tories attack Starmer’s ‘stamina’ as PM shuns team to campaign

Normally political news emerges in so many different ways. There’s parliament. Government announcements. Questions, written and oral. MPs themselves, including ministers, wandering the corridors of the Commons where journalists can go stopping for a gossip.

All of that disappears at election time. Keeping things secret from the other side matters a lot more, while decisions and information is held by a much tighter group of people.

That’s why it’s not really feasible to do a weekly look ahead political podcast – and we’re responding by going daily. More details to follow.

Rishi Sunak‘s allies are quite upfront that the timing of the general election was a finely balanced argument and you can make a case both ways.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Sunak defends wet election announcement

One of the big things that motivated Sunak to go now was that he was doing – in his view – big things; welfare announcements, defence spending commitments, NHS workforce plan.

But they found people weren’t listening and the polls weren’t moving. They weren’t “getting a hearing”. Which they put down to people being switched off from politics and apathy being high – and so the decision to call an election was motivated by that.

The other big consideration was that from around March, early April they were getting internal economic indicators, suggesting the economic conditions – things like inflation, interest rates – might be favourable sufficiently such that they could base a campaign around.

Fascinatingly, they say there wasn’t a “decision” meeting two months ago or even three weeks ago – the move was more like the tide coming in slowly.

Although Labour were caught on the hop – some staff had booked leave, were privately confident there was nothing coming this summer and the Labour campaign bus is not yet ready – candidates claim to be pretty happy with what’s happened so far.

However, the biggest challenge of the next five weeks will be seeing whether they can respond to the pressure of a campaign, and the relentless desire for more of everything.

Currently the narrative is that Sunak had a miserable start – in a few weeks, pictures of the PM in the rain could be a plucky fighter battling against the odds.

This feels unlikely right now, but having been through the 2017 campaign, we know anything can happen.

Continue Reading

Trending