Brexit: UK local elections underway amid delay controversy
Tory councillors in Plymouth face a wipe out in local council elections, as anger among the party faithful continues to simmer over an act of “eco-vandalism”. The Tories continue to cling to power in Britain’s Ocean City despite the loss of two leaders in the past year and the decision of five former councillors to leave the party and stand as independents. However, the elections on Thursday could see disgruntled Tory voters changing their party allegiances or staying at home, handing overall control of the council to Labour.
Tory supporters are still fuming at the decision in March to cut down 110 mature trees under the cover of darkness on Armada Way, so as to make way for a £12.7 million regeneration project.
The public backlash at that decision forced the resignation of Richard Bingley, the council leader and resulted in the appointment of a third leader for the beleaguered Tories in just over a year.
Tory supporters are still furious with their councillors and look set to hand their party a devastating defeat in the local elections.
Annie Head, 75, a retired training officer who has voted Conservative all her life, insists this time her vote will go elsewhere, albeit not to Labour or the Greens.
She told The Times: “Certainly not Conservative, with what they did to this town.
“They decimated the trees and the place is a complete and utter tip. It’s a shame.
“I have voted Conservative all my life but I think this council is rubbish.
“I think everyone feels the same at the moment.”
During a visit to Plymouth to drum uo support for Labour, Sir Kerr Starmer sought to exploit the anger caused by the tree-felling episode for political gain.
He accused the Tories of carrying out “environmental vandalism” and said the subsequent calls from Tory MPs for Labour to take power “shows how shambolic the situation is”.
Currently, only 23 of the city’s 57 councillors represent the ruling Conservative Party.
Labour is the largest group on the council with 25 councillors, while the Green Party now has three. There are six independents.
A third of the city’s council seats are being contested on Thursday, with Labour defending eight seats, the Conservatives six, the independents four and the Greens one.
Given the present composition of the council, it means Labour and the Tories both start the election with 17 seats.
Therefore, whoever gains the most in this election will more than likely run the council.
Labor looks set to perform strongly in the Midlands and the north of England, according to polling carried out by YouGov for Sky News.
The data suggests that Tory support in the Red Wall constituencies is starting to fall apart.
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In the Red Wall, YouGov found councils including Dudley, North East Lincolnshire, and Hyndburn were likely to see Labour making significant gains.
Sunderland – where as recently as 2021 a surging local Conservative Party was threatening to take away Labour’s majority control – now looks to be solidly Labour.
Nearby in the north east, the unitary authority of Darlington is leaning Labour – a gain here would be a significant marker in Labour’s road to Red Wall recovery.
The Tories are also facing a strong challenge from the Lib Dems in Blue Wall areas, according to YouGov’s data and prediction model.
It expects Lib Dem gains across each of Wokingham, Chichester, and Windsor and Maidenhead, but council control in each remains too close to call.
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