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Rishi Sunak has urged Tories to stick with his leadership despite the Conservatives’ shock defeat in the West Midlands mayoral election, which capped a dire few days of results for the party.

Sir Keir Starmer called it a “phenomenal result” which was “beyond our expectations” as Labour’s Richard Parker ousted Tory incumbent Andy Street, who had held the role for seven years.

The margin of victory was a cruelly tight 1,508 votes, and compounded Conservative disappointment as it followed another loss to Sadiq Khan in London, who secured a record-breaking third term as the capital’s mayor.

Local elections live
The mayoral election results

“People across the country have had enough of Conservative chaos and decline and voted for change with Labour. Our fantastic new mayor Richard Parker stands ready to deliver a fresh start for the West Midlands,” Sir Keir said.

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‘Devastated’ Andy Street refuses to blame Sunak after West Midlands defeat

However, in an effort to win back those who had deserted his party over Labour’s stance on Gaza, he added: “I say directly to those who may have voted Labour in the past but felt that on this occasion that they couldn’t that across the West Midlands we are a proud and diverse community.

“I have heard you. I have listened. And I am determined to meet your concerns and to gain your respect and trust again in the future.”

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Labour suffered losses to independents and George Galloway’s Worker’s Party of Britain in areas with large Islamic populations as a result of the war between Israel and Hamas.

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Starmer speaks at East Midlands victory rally

But the party virtually swept the mayoral elections board across England, winning in Liverpool, South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, and in Greater Manchester, where Andy Burnham returned to power.

The Tees Valley was the only remaining splash of blue left on the mayoral election map, where Lord Ben Houchen managed to cling to power despite a huge 14.1-point swing to Labour.

Lord Houchen’s victory was also mired by allegations he had sought to distance himself from Rishi Sunak and the Conservative Party at large during his campaign.

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Sadiq Khan re-elected as London Mayor

Losing Mr Street, who is widely respected in the Tory Party and had an impressive track record of bringing investment into the West Midlands, is a body blow to the prime minister.

Despite the drubbing, Mr Sunak urged his party to stick with his leadership and his plan for government.

In a statement, he said: “It’s been disappointing of course to lose dedicated Conservative councillors and Andy Street in the West Midlands, with his track record of providing great public services and attracting significant investment to the area, but that has redoubled my resolve to continue to make progress on our plan.

“So we will continue working as hard as ever to take the fight to Labour and deliver a brighter future for our country.”

Pic: Reuters
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Rishi Sunak with Tees Valley mayor Lord Ben Houchen Pic: Reuters

However, Suella Braverman, the former home secretary, was quick to lay the blame for Tory losses firmly at the door of Number 10.

But she said ousting Mr Sunak “won’t work”, adding: “The hole to dig us out of is the PM’s, and it’s time for him to start shovelling.”

She urged him to adopt “strong leadership, not managerialism” on tax, migration, small boats, and law and order.

But Mr Street took a different view, encouraging the party not to veer to the right.

Asked if he is worried the party is drifting to the right and over-emphasising the threat from Reform UK while “ignoring other voters”, the outgoing mayor told Sky News: “I would definitely not advise that drift.

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Analysis of local election and mayoral results

Read more:
Charts tell story of Conservative collapse
Who is the new West Midlands mayor Richard Parker?

“The psychology here is really very straightforward, isn’t it? This is the youngest, most diverse, one of the most urban places in Britain, and we’ve done, many would say, extremely well over a consistent period,” Mr Street said.

“The message is clear: winning from that centre ground is what happens.”

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‘We will give this region a fresh start’ – Labour’s Richard Parker

Results are in from 106 of the 107 councils in England that held elections on 2 May, and Labour has won 1,140 seats, an increase of more than 200.

The Liberal Democrats beat the Tories into second place, winning 521 seats, up nearly 100.

The Tories were just behind on 513 seats, down nearly 400.

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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
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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.
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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
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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
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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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