Rishi Sunak defends claim local election results point to a hung parliament

Rishi Sunak defends claim local election results point to a hung parliament

Rishi Sunak has defended his claim that there will be a hung parliament after the general election, despite Tory MPs and polling experts describing it as “wishful thinking”.

The prime minister said the result was not a “foregone conclusion”, and repeated his insistence that the result would be closer than current opinion polls suggest.

Those current opinion polls point to a Labour landslide, with the Tories on average 20 points behind.

Rishi Sunak defended the claim the general election will lead to a hung parliament (Getty)

But the prime minister pointed to Sky News analysis of the local election results which suggested Labour would be the largest party in a hung parliament. Elections expert Michael Thrasher had said that if Labour’s seven-point local election lead over the Conservatives was repeated at a general election then a hung parliament would be the result.

Challenged over the claim on Monday, Mr Sunak said: “The independent analysis shows that whilst of course this was a disappointing weekend for us, that the result of the next general election isn’t a foregone conclusion and indeed actually is closer than, or the situation is closer than, many people are saying or indeed some of the opinion polls are predicting.

“And that’s why I’m absolutely determined to fight incredibly hard for what I believe and for the future country that I want to build, and that’s what I’m going to do.

“Fight for this country, fight for the things I believe and deliver for everyone on the things that matter to them.”

Tories were shocked by the scale of the defeat, with 472 council seats lost and a dreadful result for the party in London, where Sadiq Khan was returned as the city’s mayor for a third term.

The Independent revealed Mr Sunak has called MPs in for two mini summits with party chairman Richard Holden and campaign manager Isaac Levido, in an attempt to ease nerves on the back benches after the drubbing.

But a Tory MP told The Independent it was “wishful thinking”, while Chris Hopkins, political research director at pollster Savanta, said it was “completely disingenuous”.

Mr Hopkins told The Independent: “Any suggestion that the country is headed for a hung parliament after this most recent set of local election results is either wilful ignorance and a tactic to show Conservative MPs and supporters that there’s still something to play for, or a genuine misunderstanding of what has just played out across the country.”

Polls put Labour on course for a comfortable majority, with the Conservatives trailing by 20 points on average (PA Wire)

It came as Downing Street shelved plans for a summer general election, with a vote now widely expected in October or November.

The PM has also come under pressure from the Tory right, with ex-home secretary Suella Braverman urging him to change course to win back voters.

But, in a sign Tory plotters are throwing in the towel, she said a change of leadership was not a “feasible prospect”, adding: “There is no superman or superwoman out there who can do it.”

Among the measures Ms Braverman has urged Mr Sunak to adopt to win back voters are further tax cuts and a cap on legal migration.

As furious plotters accused colleagues of “giving up on beating Labour“ and “accepting their fate”, the PM invited backbenchers to attend “local elections presentations” later this month.

The summits will be held by Mr Sunak, Mr Holden and Mr Levido. “Both sessions will be an opportunity for colleagues to provide feedback, ask questions and receive an update on our campaign strategy,” an email sent to Tory MPs and seen by The Independent, said.

They come as Sir Keir Starmer faces his own challenges, with trade union leaders warning that Labour cannot take their members’ votes for granted in the upcoming general election if promises of a new package on rights have been betrayed.

Speaking to The Independent, TUC president Matt Wrack, who is also general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), revealed that he and other union leaders have arranged a crunch meeting with the Labour leader.

It follows reports that Labour has “watered down” a policy document on workers’ rights. This is denied strongly by the party. Trade unions will meet Sir Keir this month to “compare and contrast” the list of items they previously agreed with those that have made it into the document.

Speaking after the local election results, Mr Sunak told The Times: “These results suggest we are heading for a hung parliament with Labour as the largest party.

“Keir Starmer propped up in Downing Street by the SNP, Liberal Democrats and the Greens would be a disaster for Britain.”

Ed Miliband in Alex Salmond’s pocket – a 2015 Tory campaign poster claiming Labour would be forced into a ‘coalition of chaos’ (Getty)

Mr Sunak’s claim about a hung parliament is an attempt to revive the message used successfully by David Cameron ahead of the 2015 general election warning voters would face an SNP-Labour “coalition of chaos” if they did not back the Tories.

A slew of senior Conservatives told The Independent after the results that their colleagues are “spineless” for not trying to replace Mr Sunak, while others warned that another Tory leadership election would only do more damage to the party’s fortunes.

One said: “Some are standing down and don’t care. Some are motivated by their own self-interest and patronage Rishi has. Some are deluded and some have just given up and don’t think anything will make any difference and it would be just as bad if not worse with a new leader.”

And another told this paper: “I think there is some concern that there is no clear candidate.

“Concern someone like Penny Mordaunt could get it and is unsound.

“The further damage that changing again could do and some are holding onto shreds of silver linings in the local election results in their areas.”

Another said: “Most of my colleagues are spineless cowards. And have given up trying to stop a Labour government. It’s maddening. Most of them won’t be back in parliament.”

Source: independent.co.uk