Local elections 2023: Lib Dems make big gains in Tory ‘Blue Wall’, including Dominic Raab’s constituency
The Lib Dems have taken seats from the Tories in Dominic Raab’s Elmbridge - an area considered to be a key part of the ‘Blue Wall’.
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The Liberal Democrats have been celebrating local council victories in areas considered to be part of the ‘Blue Wall’, with party leader Sir Ed Davey saying Rishi Sunak has been “unable to revive” the Conservative Party brand.
The Prime Minister admitted that the local election results have been “disappointing”, as the Tories faced big losses across England. Meanwhile, Labour has made some key gains - with Sir Keir Starmer claiming the party is “on course” to win a majority in Westminster.
However, one of the most interesting developments from today’s (5 May) counts has been the Lib Dems - a party which in recent years has been seen to lose some of its former authority - making significant gains in areas represented by senior government MPs.
They took control of Windsor and Maidenhead, where Tory MP Adam Afriyie and former Prime Minister Theresa May hold their parliamentary seats, and in Stratford-Upon-Avon, where Nadhim Zahawi is the MP.
The Lib Dems also made further gains in Elmbridge, which sits in Tory MP Dominic Raab’s constituency in Esher and Walton. With nine newly-won seats - taking four from the Tories, and two from Residents’ Associations - the Lib Dems are now the biggest party in Elmbridge Borough Council.
They haven’t gained enough to have an overall majority though, so the council will continue to be a Lib Dem and Residents’ Association coalition.
Reacting to the results in Elmbridge, Lib Dem Monica Harding, who is hoping to defeat Raab in his Esher and Walton Parliamentary seat at the next general election, told NationalWorld: “This has been a great day for the Lib Dems. The people of Elmbridge have put their faith in competent councillors who will work hard for them.
“Looking ahead to a general election, what’s clear is that the Lib Dems are the main contender to the Conservatives. We’re now the biggest party in Elmbridge, whilst the Conservatives are in third place - and this is at the heart of the blue wall.”
Meanwhile, Claire Bailey, the newly-elected Lib Dem councillor for Walton North, told NationalWorld she was “ecstatic” with the results - adding that the “next step” was to get Ms Harding “elected and in Parliament”.
In the lead up to Elmbridge’s local elections, there was a lot of talk about whether the recent controversy surrounding Raab would influence any voters at a local level. The MP was found to have bullied staff following an investigation into his professional conduct, resulting in him stepping down from his ministerial roles as Deputy PM and Justice Secretary.
Discussing this possibility on Wednesday (3 May), voters in Elmbridge’s Esher High Street told NationalWorld they had a “low opinion” of Raab - with many saying they were planning on voting for the Lib Dems, Residents’ Associations, or the Green Party.
The results in Elmbridge will be welcomed by Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey, who said early on Friday (5 May) that his party was targeting “big gains” in the borough council. He added: “At the next general election, we will defeat Dominic Raab.”
The Lib Dems have called for Raab to resign from his seat in Esher and Walton in Surrey - insisting a by-election should be held. Davey told Sky News: “If he’s not prepared to do that to enable his constituents in Esher and Walton to have the MP they deserve, I think the fovernment should withdraw the whip from him.
“Otherwise, they’re sending a message that bullying is somehow okay in the Conservative Party.”
Likewise, Ms Harding told NationalWorld: “If he is not fit to be a minister, we feel he is also not fit to be an MP. The people of Esher and Walton deserve better.”
Elsewhere around the country, Labour has seen key gains in Medway, Stoke-On-Trent, and Plymouth, and the Lib Dems boldly took Windsor and Maidenhead from the Tories - marking the first time since 2007 that the council had a Lib Dem majority. Meanwhile, the Tories have been hit by losses in North West Leicestershire, Plymouth and Brentwood, among others.
Reacting to the results, Sunak, who is facing his first big electoral test since becoming Prime Minister, told Sky News: “It’s always disappointing to lose hard-working Conservative councillors. They’re friends, they’re colleagues and I’m so grateful to them for everything they’ve done.
“In terms of the results, it’s still early, we’ve just had a quarter of the results in, but what I am going to carry on doing is delivering on the people’s priorities – halving inflation, growing the economy, reducing debt, cutting waiting lists and stopping the boats. That’s what people want us to do, that’s what I’m going to keep hard at doing.”
Speaking to supporters in Medway, where Labour had made a gain from the Tories, Starmer said: “Make no mistake, we are on course for a Labour majority at the next general election.
“What we’ve shown together is that we can make change. We’ve changed our party. We’ve won the trust, the confidence, of voters, and now we can go on to change our country.”
However, speaking to PA, polling guru Sir John Curtice echoed what he previously told NationalWorld - and suggested it is too soon to say whether the Labour Party will win a majority at the next general election.
He explained: “The swing in the national polls since 2019 is 5%, the swing in the sample of results we have is 4%, therefore it’s a little bit lower. “In our sample, Labour’s vote is not up on last year, so it’s not the kind of performance Blair was achieving before 1997.
“Labour are going to have their biggest lead over the Conservatives in terms of votes than at any point since 2010, but it’s going to be as much to do with the Conservatives being down as much as it is Labour being up.”