Local elections 2022: Sir Keir Starmer hails 'turning point' as Tory vote collapses in face of Labour and Lib Dem resurgence

Sir Keir Starmer has hailed the local elections as a “turning point” after the collapse of the Tory vote led to a swathe of Labour and Lib Dem gains.

The Labour leader was celebrating the capture of Tory councils such as Wandsworth, Westminster and Barnet in London, as well as victories in Southampton and the new Cumberland Council.

In the face of a resurgent Liberal Democrats gaining more than 180 new councillors, Boris Johnson’s only solace will be police deciding to investigate Sir Keir over claims he breached lockdown rules in April last year by drinking beer with colleagues.

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Speaking during an early-morning visit to Barnet, Sir Keir said: “This is a massive turning point for the Labour Party from the depths of 2019.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer hailed the results as a "turning point" for his party.

"We’re back on track now for the general election, showing the hard change that we have done in the last two years. What a difference it has made.

“This is a big turning point for us. We’ve sent a message to the Prime Minister – Britain deserves better.”

In a clear attempt to frame expectations, Labour's shadow international trade secretary pointed to 2019 and said the results of the local elections had given party members "great hope".

Emily Thornberry said: "Some people were saying it was the end of the Labour Party, we weren't going to get anywhere, that was it. And we are turning things around.”

She added: "We are not saying we would win the general election tomorrow. What we are saying is we are on our way."

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Labour sources painted the victories in London as “monumental”, claiming the win in Barnet was a sign the party was finally rebuilding bridges with the Jewish community.

Confronted over the allegations of rule breaking, Sir Keir told reporters there was “no breach of the rules”.

He said: “Well I was working, I stopped for something to eat, no party, no breach of the rules.

“Obviously I understand the police need to do their job, we need to let them get on with that, but I’m confident there was no breach of the rules.”

With an apparent five-point lead, the result represents Labour’s biggest local election margin in favour in a decade.

Despite the breakthroughs in the UK capital, Labour were left frustrated in the key Red Wall areas of the Midlands and the North, failing to make any great inroads.

For the Prime Minister, the results were a blow that will raise further concerns among Tory MPs about his premiership, but not enough for Downing Street to face any immediate challenge.

The Tories lost more than 280 councillors in England, with Labour up by nearly 60 and the Lib Dems up by more than 150.

Speaking to broadcasters during a visit to a school in his Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency, Mr Johnson said it had been a “mixed set of results” for the Tories.

He said: “It is mid-term. We had a tough night in some parts of the country, but on the other hand in other parts of the country you are still seeing Conservatives going forward and making quite remarkable gains in places that haven’t voted Conservative for a long time, if ever.”

Mr Johnson said the “message from voters” was they wanted the Government to focus on getting the country through the economic aftermath of Covid.

The Prime Minister added: “This Government is absolutely determined to keep going with every ounce of compassion and ingenuity that we have, [to] get people through the economic aftershocks."

Tory MPs were quick to blame the results on Mr Johnson, but only a few were brave enough to do so in public.

Former Minister Tobias Ellwood warned the party was "haemorrhaging" support in parts of England and needed to consider his future, while Sir Roger Gale said he thought Mr Johnson should resign.

A No. 10 insider insisted on Friday there was simply no better option than Mr Johnson.

They said: “Keir Starmer is clearly not making the progress he needs to even dream of being in government and it’s hard to imagine any other Conservative leader doing better than this.”

With both leaders now facing questions over rule breaking, the leader celebrating the most in England was Sir Ed Davey, who declared the Lib Dems were “winning across the country again”.

The party has gained over 180 new councillors across England, Wales and Scotland, representing the biggest net gain of any party so far.

These wins were not just in Remain-supporting areas, and included gains in Tory heartlands in southern England, as well as seizing Hull City Council from Labour.

The Kingston and Surbiton MP hailed Lib Dem gains in council seats and claimed Conservatives were being dragged down by a “discredited” Prime Minister.

Speaking in front of party activists on Wimbledon Common, Sir Ed said: “We are going to have a Liberal Democrat MP for Wimbledon at the next election.

“And I think there are other places where we’re going to see Liberal Democrat success for the first time ever.

“I’m really excited about the South West of England and coming back there. I’m excited about all those seats across the Blue Wall which, frankly, we haven’t been players in for a long time.”

He warned Conservative MPs that if Mr Johnson remained in place, then “the Liberal Democrats are coming for you”.

Sir Ed continued: “The British people deserve far better than this discredited Prime Minister and this out-of-touch Conservative Government."

Most troubling of all for the Prime Minister, a BBC projection on the results found Labour would be the biggest party in a general election on 291, with the Tories on 253.

With more fines set to come, this “tough night” could soon turn into lights out for Mr Johnson’s premiership.

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