Starmer 'determined to win trust' of voters who shunned party over Israel-Gaza stance

Labour lost some council seats to independents and George Galloway's Workers Party of Britain

Labour leader Keir Starmer speaks following Labour candidate for Mayor Richard Parker's victory following the declaration for West Midlands Mayor. Getty Images
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Labour leader Keir Starmer said he is determined to win back voters who snubbed his party over its stance on the Israel-Gaza war, as Rishi Sunak has vowed to press ahead with the Conservatives’ plan following its election losses.

While the overall picture for Labour in the local polls was a positive one, the party lost some council seats to independents and George Galloway's Workers Party of Britain.

Labour’s Richard Parker secured victory from Conservative mayor Andy Street by a mere 1,508 votes in the West Midlands, while in London, Labour’s Sadiq Khan secured a third term in office, with a majority of about 275,000 over Conservative rival Susan Hall.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer hailed the result in the West Midlands as “phenomenal” and “beyond our expectations”.

However, experts said Mr Parker's victory over the Conservative incumbent may have been higher had former Labour voters not lent their support to independent Akhmed Yakoob, who stood on a pro-Gaza ticket.

Speaking in Birmingham after the result, the Labour leader said: “I say directly to those who may have voted Labour in the past, but felt on this occasion they couldn't, that across the West Midlands we are a proud and diverse community.

“I have heard you. I have listened. And I am determined to meet your concerns and to gain your respect and trust again in the future.”

The party failed to regain control of Oxford after a string of prominent defections over its messaging on the Middle East crisis, and in a similar blow, lost control of Oldham Council in Greater Manchester to independents.

Labour also lost council seats to independents in Blackburn with Darwen and Bradford, while the Workers Party of Britain also gained Rochdale.

In Manchester, Labour deputy leader of the council Luthfur Rahman lost his seat to Shahbaz Sarwar of George Galloway's Workers Party of Britain.

Speaking at the Manchester count, Mr Galloway proclaimed a “Sarwar family victory” and signalled this was related to Gaza.

“It's a story of a group of people who were faithful to the Palestinian cause from the first to the last,” Mr Galloway said.

Results are in from 106 of the 107 councils in England that held elections on May 2 and they show Labour has won 1,140 seats, an increase of more than 200.

The Liberal Democrats beat the Tories into second place, winning 521 seats, up about 100.

The Tories are just behind on 513 seats, down about 400.

Despite grumbling from some rebel voices, Mr Sunak appeared resolute that his leadership was still right for the party and the country.

He said: “It's been disappointing of course to lose dedicated Conservative councillors and Andy Street in the West Midlands, with his track record of providing great public services and attracting significant investment to the area, but that has redoubled my resolve to continue to make progress on our plan.

“So we will continue working as hard as ever to take the fight to Labour and deliver a brighter future for our country.”

On Sunday, Transport Secretary Mark Harper insisted the Conservatives were still in with a chance of winning the next general election, despite the party's local elections trouncing.

"There is everything to fight for and the Conservative Party under the Prime Minister's leadership is absolutely up for that fight," the Transport Secretary told Sky News.

He added: "These were disappointing results but the point is what they demonstrate from that scenario is that Labour is not on course for that majority, Keir Starmer hasn't sealed the deal with the public.

"So that means there is a fight to be had, the Prime Minister is up for that fight, I am up for that fight, and I know the Conservative Party is up for it.

However, Conservative former home secretary Suella Braverman said the results were "terrible" for the party, adding Mr Sunak "needs to fix it".

"There is no spinning these results, there is no disguising the fact that these have been terrible election results for the Conservatives and they suggest that we are heading to a Labour government and that fills me with horror," she told BBC's Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg.

"I love my country, I care about my party and I want us to win, and I am urging the Prime Minister to change course, to with humility reflect on what voters are telling us, and change the plan and the way that he is communicating and leading us."

Updated: May 05, 2024, 8:43 AM