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Andy Street ousted as mayor in West Midlands in major blow for Rishi Sunak after Tory losses in local elections

PM RISHI Sunak suffered a major blow last night after Tory big beast Andy Street was turfed out of office — in a knife-edge photo finish.

The former John Lewis boss lost the race to be re-elected West Midlands mayor by about just 1,000 votes out of a total population of around three million.

Getty
Andy Street was ousted in the West Midlands[/caption]
LNP
London Mayor Sadiq Khan will serve a third term, pictured with wife Saadiya[/caption]
Reuters
Sir Keir Starmer with Labour’s Claire Ward in Mansfield[/caption]
Getty
Ballot papers being counted in Birmingham[/caption]

As the race went down to the wire, Labour’s Richard Parker scraped across the finishing line.

The dramatic result came after recounts and amid scenes of chaos.

Mr Street was originally estimated to have lost by a few thousand votes, but after a tense series of recounts, extra votes were found for him.

Sources said counters who had clocked off for the night had to be summoned back from the pub to help as the vote went long.

Mr Street’s nail-biting defeat ended a grim weekend for the Tories, who lost more than 470 council seats and were thumped by Labour’s Sadiq Khan in London.

The Tories now have fewer councillors than the Lib Dems for the first time in 30 years.

Mr Sunak is expected to come out swinging after the defeats with a policy blitz which could see him hint at the tax cuts he is planning for later in the year.

And in a rare glimmer of good news for the PM, Tory rebels said their plot to topple him is finished.

Deputy PM Oliver Dowden told The Sun on Sunday: “The settled will of the Conservative Party is that Rishi Sunak will be leading us into the next election.”

Mr Street was first elected in 2017 but failed to clinch a third term. It means Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen is the last Conservative mayor standing.

He is the only Tory top gun to have stayed on in power after the elections.

For the Tories, it was their worst local election result in 40 years.

It came as Labour’s Sadiq Khan yesterday thrashed Tory opponent Susan Hall to become Mayor of London for the third time, winning 44 per cent of the vote.

Labour’s Andy Burnham also comfortably won a third term as the Mayor of Greater Manchester and the party’s Claire Ward won the East Midlands mayoral election.

Tory MPs have called for the PM to put Ben Houchen in his Cabinet and beef up his team.

A new Opinium poll puts Labour 16 points ahead of the Tories.

The settled will of the Conservative Party is that Rishi Sunak will be leading us into the next election

Deputy PM Oliver Dowden

But it comes as Sir Keir Starmer faces a backlash over Gaza, with MP John McDonnell calling on him to apologise to the Muslim voters deserting the party.

The PM will try to come out fighting after the setbacks by hammering the policy red lines between the Tories and Labour.

His deputy insisted Rishi is the man to lead the Tory fight.

Speaking exclusively to the Sun on Sunday, Mr Dowden said: “The Prime Minister is full of energy for the weeks and months ahead.

“Whether it’s gearing up for the Nato summit in July talking about defence or whether it’s tackling challenges around extremism — the Prime Minister is up for the fight.

“Also, what I’ve taken from it is that Starmer can’t seal the deal.”

Key election battleground

In the weeks ahead, the PM is expected to hammer home his decision to hike defence spending to 2.5 per cent by 2030 — which Labour has refused to match.

He will also set out more steps to crack down on benefit spongers and protect Britain from extremism.

In a rallying cry for Tory unity, Mr Dowden said now is the time for the Conservatives to bang the drum on these stark dividing lines.

He said: “I think voters expect the Conservative Party to demonstrate that it believes in itself.”

Mr Sunak could also dangle tax cuts, expected to be announced later in the year.

Downing Street has gone cold on more National Insurance Contributions cuts after they failed to shift the polls.

They are looking at cutting inheritance tax or income tax thresholds instead.

They are expected to unveil another tax-cutting budget before the election if the vote is not called until October or November.

Gloomy Tory MPs said Mr Street’s defeat was a slap in the face. The West Midlands is a key election battleground which often predicts the next election.

I think voters expect the Conservative Party to demonstrate that it believes in itself

Mr Dowden

One Tory MP said: “Other than Ben, it’s been an absolutely dreadful set of results.”

Another said of the PM: “He should bring in a real political heavyweight to beef up No 10, like Sir Lynton Crosby.”

Known as the Wizard of Oz, Sir Lynton is an Australian strategist who helped run campaigns for Boris Johnson and David Cameron.

‘Call a general election’

In London, a victorious Mr Khan taunted the Tories by telling them to call a general election.

He said: “For the last eight years London has been swimming against the tide of a Tory government and now, with a Labour Party that’s ready to govern again under Keir Starmer, it’s time for Rishi Sunak to give the public a choice.

“A general election will not just pave the path to a new direction for our country, it will make bold action Londoners want to see a reality.”

Political scientist Professor Sir John Curtice said: “The results of these elections have, for the most part, been what we would have anticipated given the position of the parties in national opinion polls.

“They largely confirm the message of the opinion polls, which is the Conservative Party has made little or no discernible progress in reducing Labour’s lead over the Conservatives.

“Unless things change in the next six months the Conservative Party is at risk of losing pretty heavily.”

Other than Ben, it’s been an absolutely dreadful set of results

One Tory MP

Professor Curtice said there was no “realistic” glimmer of hope for the Tories.

He said there are signs the electorate is more intent on defeating them than backing one particular alternative.

He said: “When you look at what’s going on in wards the Conservatives were trying to defend, we found a tendency for the electorate to switch to whichever of Labour or the Liberal Democrats that were best placed to defeat Conservatives.”

Getty
Labour’s Richard Parker scraped across the finishing line with a West Midlands win[/caption]
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