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UK Local Polls Rishi Sunak's Fate in Balance This Week

Photo : AFP

In a crucial electoral showdown, the ruling Conservative party in Britain braces for significant losses in local elections this week, intensifying pressure on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. These polls represent the final major electoral hurdle before an impending general election, one that Sunak's party, in power since 2010, appears increasingly likely to lose to the opposition Labour party.

Sunak has expressed intentions to schedule the nationwide vote in the latter half of the year, but a poor showing in Thursday's elections could prompt earlier action. The outcome serves as a pivotal assessment of Sunak's leadership, scrutinizing the efficacy of his policies and the extent to which they resonate with voters.

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Typically, incumbent governments face setbacks in local elections, and forecasts suggest the Conservatives could lose roughly half of the council seats they currently hold. The political fate of Sunak is intricately tied to the re-election prospects of two prominent Conservative regional mayors in the West Midlands and Tees Valley regions. Success for mayors Andy Street and Ben Houchen could bolster confidence within the Tory ranks, while defeat may fuel calls for Sunak's replacement.

Speculation abounds in parliamentary circles that a poor electoral performance could trigger a challenge to Sunak's leadership, as discontented Conservative MPs reportedly prepare for a potential leadership change. However, such a move would require a substantial number of MPs to express no confidence in Sunak, posing a significant hurdle.

Despite internal turmoil and ongoing challenges, Sunak has provided a semblance of stability since assuming office in October 2022. Nevertheless, the Conservatives continue to lag behind Labour in opinion polls, prompting concerns within the party about their electoral prospects.

The local elections also feature London's Labour mayor Sadiq Khan seeking re-election for a historic third term, alongside over 2,500 councillors vying for seats in England. These contests, largely last contested in 2021 during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, serve as a barometer of public sentiment amidst ongoing political turbulence and uncertainty.

May 1, 2024 4:18 p.m. 9793

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