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‘Defeatist’ Sunak and ‘robot’ Starmer: Grimsby audience members give their verdicts on leaders at Sky News event | Politics News

The prime minister seemed “defeated” to audience members in Grimsby after Sky’s Battle For Number Ten.

Some also questioned whether Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer had fully answered the questions they asked.

The 90-minute TV grilling left the audience asking how the prime minister could fight back and win the election.

Latest updates on the general election

Amy Green had travelled from Leeds to ask a question and said he seemed beaten.

“Sunak needs to drop the act, speak to us like an electorate as humans,” she said.

“I think he was quite defeatist – if I was fighting for my job, I would be out there socking it to people… he has given up and lost the will.”

Rishi Sunak addresses the audience in Grimsby. Pic: PA
Image:
Rishi Sunak addresses the audience in Grimsby. Pic: PA

She used to play a prominent role in her local Conservative Party but quit a few years ago.

She had started the night unsure of who to vote for and afterwards was still no closer to a decision.

“I am still undecided to be honest,” she added.

Grimsby resident Sharon Westerman asked the first question of the night to Sir Keir about inequality in her hometown.

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Starmer: ‘I was a toolmaker’s son’

She told Sky News she wasn’t 100% convinced by him, but thought he would become the next prime minister.

“I think Labour will get it, but there will be fierce competition from other candidates – it’s not just about Labour and Conservatives,” she said.

“There were some questions answered, but others such as the NHS and housing and child poverty we still need to know how it is going to be achieved.

“Not enough detail from both men.”

Christina Ashibogu had travelled to Grimsby from London. The lawyer had asked about rebuilding trust between the police and communities.

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In full: The Battle for Number 10

“I feel a bit bad for Rishi, he does look defeated… with Starmer, I wasn’t entirely impressed,” she told Sky News immediately after the event.

“Someone asked Starmer why he seems like a robot and he was startled by it.”

She thought it was the audience that actually came out on top: “We did well, when we weren’t satisfied with the answer people went back to try and get clarity.”

Retired teacher Ian Miles from Grimsby said the longer format really helped understand the two men better.

Read more:
What we learnt from Sunak and Starmer
Starmer performed best in Sky News event, poll suggests

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He too saw a prime minister who didn’t seem confident enough.

“After the D-Day disaster [when the prime minister departed early from commemorations] it’s like he doesn’t believe in himself anymore,” he said.

“For Keir Starmer, I think it’s a question of him not giving people enough to get people to be enthusiastic about him.”

Some left the Town Hall in Grimsby still undecided but agreed the Battle for Number Ten had challenged both leaders.

Rishi Sunak ‘deeply patriotic’, ally insists, as D-Day snub furore continues | Politics News

Rishi Sunak is “deeply patriotic”, a Cabinet colleague has told Sky News, as the controversy over the prime minister’s D-Day snub rumbles on in the run-up to the election.

Responding to ongoing criticism of the Tory leader, Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride said his boss had recognised he had made a mistake over his decision to leave the 80th anniversary events in Normandy early to carry out a TV interview and would be “feeling this very deeply”.

In the face of a backlash from rivals, veterans and some within his own party, Mr Sunak was forced to apologise for skipping an international ceremony attended by world leaders including US President Joe Biden to mark the allied landings.

Among those to wade into the row was Reform UK leader Nigel Farage who told Sky News that the debacle proved Mr Sunak was “not a patriotic leader of the Conservative Party”.

Election latest:
Tories accused of putting policy through ‘desperometer’

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PM apologises for D-Day departure

PM’s ‘patriotism is beyond doubt’

Mr Sunak is campaigning in Yorkshire without the usual media pack today after facing accusations of “dodging” reporters’ questions on Saturday amid the continuing D-Day furore.

Speaking to the Sunday Morning With Trevor Phillips show on Sky News, Mr Stride said: “I do know Rishi pretty well, in fact I consider him as something of a friend, and I know he is a deeply patriotic person who cares greatly about this country.

“I know he will be feeling this very deeply.”

He added: “His commitment and his patriotism is in my opinion beyond doubt.

“Now that is not the same thing as saying a mistake was not made. He accepts that – he didn’t run away or resile from that situation.

“What he did is he stood up, he put his hands up, he accepted a mistake has been made and he unequivocally apologised.”

Pensions secretary Mel Stride speaks to Sky News' Trevor Phillips
Image:
Mel Stride was questioned by Trevor Phillips on Sky News

Mr Stride also dismissed the suggestion that Mr Sunak could hand over the leadership of the Tory Party before the 4 July poll.

He said Sunak would “absolutely” lead the party into the election and added: “There should be no question of anything other than that.”

But Conservative commentator Tim Montgomerie branded Mr Sunak’s early D-Day event departure as “the biggest gaffe I can remember in politics” and said morale in the party was at “rock bottom”.

Read more:
Sunak pledges to cut rising costs of benefits
Labour promises thousands of new prison spaces

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Sunak ‘utterly disconnected from ordinary folk’

Meanwhile, Mr Farage has defended his claim that Mr Sunak’s early departure from commemoration events in France showed he did not understand “our culture”.

Pressed over whether he was trying to highlight Mr Sunak’s British-Asian background, Mr Farage highlighted the wartime contribution made by Commonwealth troops and suggested he was talking about the prime minister’s “class” and “privilege”.

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Farage: PM ‘not patriotic leader’ over D-Day

He told the BBC: “I know what your question is leading at – 40% of our contribution in World War One and World War Two came from the Commonwealth.

“He is utterly disconnected by class, by privilege from how the ordinary folk in this country feel. He revealed that, I think spectacularly, when he left Normandy early.

“And out there now there are millions and millions of people who were Conservative voters, traditional Conservative voters, not the Red-Wallers, who are now thinking ‘Do we go on supporting the Conservatives or do we support Reform?’

“And this is going to be, I think, the acid test of this election.”

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‘Classic Nigel Farage trick’

In his own interview with the BBC, Mr Stride argued Mr Farage’s remarks were “deeply regrettable”.

He said: “I think they are suggesting things – I’m not going to go any further than that because I didn’t want to stoke this whole thing up – but it just seems to me that that’s an ill-advised thing to have said.

“I feel very uncomfortable with that. We’ve had in our country, and it’s a source of great personal pride – as somebody who supported the prime minister, wanted him to be the leader of our party and our prime minister – that I’ve sat around a cabinet table that’s the most diverse in history.

“And I’m very proud of the fact that we have a British Asian who is right at the top of our government.”

On the same subject, Labour shadow justice secretary Shabana Mahmood told the BBC: “I think this is a classic Nigel Farage trick, lean just enough to signal a bit of a dog whistle and then lean straight back and sound perfectly reasonable and say something good about the contribution that Commonwealth soldiers, ethnic minorities made towards the war effort.”

Shabana Mahmood
Image:
Shabana Mahmood

She added: “We can all see exactly what Nigel Farage is doing, he’s got form, it is completely unacceptable.

“This is a man that has a track record of seeking to divide communities who just wants to do it with a veneer of respectability whilst he’s at it.”

Rishi Sunak laughs as GP heckler says NHS is ‘disintegrating’ | Politics News

Rishi Sunak has laughed at a heckler after she shouted at him about the state of the NHS.

The prime minister was speaking at a rally in Wiltshire on Friday when the woman – understood to be Dr Jane Lees-Millais – began questioning government policies that see patients being sent to other primary care staff, rather than GPs.

Politics live: New poll shows what people think of Sunak’s early exit from D-Day

A GP herself, Dr Millais claimed the NHS was “disintegrating”, adding: “The country is not stupid. They know when lesser qualified people are being used to conduct consultations which are massively complex.”

But when she was then heckled by a man shouting, “most GPs spend more time on holiday than in the surgery, love”, Mr Sunak laughed.

The second heckler was heard again, adding: “You can’t get an appointment, can you?”

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Responding to the doctor, the prime minister highlighted how his father had been a GP and his mother had been a pharmacist, adding: “My parents dedicated themselves to primary care. I know a thing or two about it.”

He said the government was “supporting” GPs, mentioning money being put into new digital telephones, before continuing: “We are also making it easier for people to see other primary care practitioners to get the treatments they need and that’s where I will respectfully disagree with you.

“Because I do think it is right that people can now see their pharmacist to get medicines for several common ailments.”

The incident comes after a difficult day for the prime minister, who is facing criticism from all sides over leaving D-Day commemorations in France early on Thursday in order to do a TV interview back in the UK.

Labour accuse Rishi Sunak of ‘profoundly failing’ pensioners over tax rises | Politics News

Labour have accused Rishi Sunak of failing pensioners and posing a threat to their living standards, claiming a record number of pensioners are paying income tax.

The party said the number of over-65s paying income tax has almost doubled, from 4.5 million in 2009/10, to 8.5 million in 2023/24.

Shadow pensions secretary Liz Kendall said the Conservatives have worsened the quality of retirement.

Ms Kendall will visit pensioners in Essex on Thursday, while the Labour leader and Mr Sunak take a step back from campaigning to attend D-Day commemoration events.

She said: “Rishi Sunak was recently asked why he hates pensioners.

“It’s not hard to see why when they have so profoundly failed pensioners, from increasing levels of pensioner poverty, to breaking their promise on the triple lock, Rishi Sunak and the Tories have worsened the quality of retirement.

“Now the Tories pose a new threat to pensioners’ living standards, with reckless unfunded spending commitments and a £46bn tax black hole that threatens the economy and the future of the state pension.

More on General Election 2024

“Combined with this is the fact that under their watch a record amount of over-65s are paying income tax.

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“My message to pensioners at this general election is simple – look at your wallet, look at the quality of your healthcare and look at the lack of housing for your children and grandchildren and ask yourself, is this as good as it gets?”

The party claims the rise in the number of pensioners paying income tax is because of freezing of income tax thresholds and people needing to work later in life, adding that Labour will “turn the page on Tory chaos with economic security and political stability”.

Rishi Sunak came out fighting and just about shaded first TV debate – but it probably won’t work in the election | Politics News

Behind in the polls, Rishi Sunak needed to come out fighting and take the gloves off in the first TV leaders’ debate.

And he did. He was aggressive, repeatedly challenging Sir Keir Starmer, particularly on tax, placing the Labour leader on the defensive.

Election latest: Voters think Rishi Sunak beat Keir Starmer in first TV debate, snap poll finds

The YouGov snap poll scored it at 51% for the prime minister and 49% for Sir Keir Starmer and that’s about right.

The prime minister probably just about shaded it. But Sir Keir needs to raise his game and match Mr Sunak’s fire with fire in the second debate later this month.

Mr Sunak stuck to a simple message on tax rises under Labour. Starmer repeatedly hammered Sunak on the Tories’ record over the past 14 years.

From the start, the prime minister went on the attack and rammed home his message accusing Labour of planning £2,000 tax rises.

He did it over and over again. Simple message: Labour will put up taxes, even for pensioners. It was crude, but effective.

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First leaders’ debate – what happened?

The debate was almost over by the time Sir Keir finally dismissed the tax claim as “garbage” and for much of the debate the Labour leader was forced to react defensively rather than go on the attack himself.

This was raw politics. Yet vegetarian Rishi Sunak was the leader who sounded as though he’d been devouring red meat before the contest. Gorilla biscuits, even.

The Labour leader, a former director of public prosecutions (and how he reminded us of that fact repeatedly), is more used to addressing judges or juries. But not so much a TV audience.

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YouGov poll suggests Sunak won first election debate

This was the bear pit of politics, far less suited to the Labour leader’s lawyerly approach than facing Sunak at Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons.

Presenter Julie Etchingham was brilliant throughout, particularly when the two leaders were shouting over each other. When Sir Lindsay Hoyle tires of keeping order in the Commons she’d make an excellent Speaker!

The prime minister appeared to have learned from his debates with Liz Truss for the Tory leadership. Then he was the measured, responsible one while she made the wild claims.

But she won then, because the Tory audience didn’t care.

Read more:
Panic will spread through Tory ranks after stunning poll
Poll suggests PM came out on top in first debate
Farage has milkshake thrown over him

Rishi Sunak during the ITV General Election debate at MediaCity in Salford.
Pic:ITV/PA
Image:
Pic: ITV/PA

This time it was Sunak throwing accusations around, not just on tax, but on terrorism and defence as well. “Insulting!” complained Sir Keir, but somewhat weakly and also too late.

At times in the first half of the one-hour debate, Sir Keir appeared slow and ponderous. He did better on the NHS than he did on tax, raising a laugh on NHS waiting lists by declaring: “You’re the guy who’s supposed to be good at maths.”

And Sir Keir did surprisingly well when he spelled out Labour’s controversial policy for VAT on private schools and then predictably did well on the plan to tax non-doms.

But he struggled again when the prime minister accused Labour of planning to tax state pensions.

Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer during the ITV General Election debate at MediaCity in Salford.
Pic: ITV/PA
Image:
Pic: ITV/PA

Perhaps surprisingly, though, honours were even on immigration, with Sunak not getting applause for his stop the boats policy, although he then recovered by claiming: “You might not like it, but I’ve got a plan.”

He then put Sir Keir on the defensive again by challenging him: “What would you do with illegal immigrants who come to our country?”

They clashed again on defence and security, with the prime minister aggressive and on the attack again.

But even during that exchange the prime minister came back with his tax attack: “As clear as night follows day, he is going to put up your taxes.”

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Starmer won audience support for ridiculing the prime minister’s “teenage Dad’s Army”, but Mr Sunak concluded with the line: “In uncertain times we simply can’t afford an uncertain prime minister.”

That was the sort of argument Gordon Brown used against David Cameron in the general election campaign of 2010. That didn’t work for Mr Brown then.

And unless there’s an almighty turnaround in the opinion polls, despite all his aggression and coming out fighting with the glove off, it probably won’t work for Mr Sunak in 2024.

General election 2024: Starmer to promise to ‘close the door’ on Putin – as Sunak prepares to put forward plan to cut immigration | Politics News

Sir Keir Starmer will promise to “close the door” on Vladimir Putin with his homegrown energy plan – while Rishi Sunak will propose an annual visa cap to try to reduce immigration as election campaigning continues today.

The prime minister will look to win over voters after what was perhaps his toughest day of the campaign so far on Monday – with some Conservatives fearing Nigel Farage’s decision to lead the Reform party could split the Tory vote.

Mr Farage is also standing to be an MP in Clacton and will launch his campaign in the Essex constituency today.

A difficult day was made worse for Mr Sunak when a YouGov poll suggested Labour could be on course to win a historic landslide – with the party projected to win a 194-seat majority.

General election latest: Follow live updates

On day 14 of the campaign, Labour leader Sir Keir will claim his party’s plan to set up a publicly owned clean energy company, GB Energy, will help to protect the UK from spikes in the price of fuel like those that followed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

He will say: “With Great British Energy, my changed Labour Party will close the door on Putin.

“Energy policy is now a matter of national security. It is a key component of our country’s resilience and capacity to weather future shocks.

“We simply cannot afford to remain as vulnerable to price spikes as we have been in the past.

“Keeping the lights on and heating our homes should not mean leaving our front door open to Russia.”

Labour has said GB Energy will be headquartered in Scotland and funded through a windfall tax on big oil and gas firms, with an initial £8.3bn capitalisation over the course of a parliament.

Read more about the general election:
Analysis: Panic will spread through Tory ranks after poll
Who will win the election? Check our poll tracker

Labour has launched its GB Energy policy – do we need it?
What could possibly go wrong? A history of TV debates

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Who loses most from Farage move?

Meanwhile, the Conservatives will propose an annual cap on worker and family visas in their efforts to ensure immigration figures fall year on year if they are still in government after the election.

More than 10,000 migrants have arrived in the UK so far this year after crossing the Channel and immigration has become a key campaign battleground.

The proposed plan would give parliament a direct role in setting levels of migration, with MPs having a vote on the number.

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Grant Shapps calls Sam Coates live on TV

Mr Sunak will say: “We have taken bold action to cut the number of people coming to this country. The plan is working but migration levels are still too high, so we are going further.

“Labour’s migrant amnesty will make the UK a global magnet for illegal immigrants and they have no plan to reduce net migration, while we have a clear plan to stop the boats and put a legal cap on numbers.

“The Conservatives are the only party that is willing take the bold action needed to cut immigration figures.”

The annual cap would be imposed on the number of visas that can be granted to those coming to the UK on work or family routes.

Temporary work routes, such as seasonal agricultural workers, would not fall within the cap.

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Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats are promising action on an issue described as “deeply personal” for party leader Sir Ed Davey, as they say day-to-day care for adults in need, including the elderly and disabled, would be free.

Provision of care should be based on need rather than ability to pay, the party said, as it promised what it described as free personal care for people either at home or in care homes.

This would cover nursing care, help with mobility, hygiene and medication, it said, adding that people in residential care would still have to contribute towards their accommodation.

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Sir Ed said: “As a carer for my disabled son, and after caring for my ill mother when I was young, care is deeply personal for me.

“That is why I am putting fixing the care crisis at the heart of the Liberal Democrat offer to the country at this election.”

The party said its plan for England – based on the model introduced by the Lib Dems in government in Scotland in 2002 – would cost £2.7bn a year by 2028-29 and would be “fully funded” by reversing tax cuts for the big banks since 2016.

General election: Sunak and Starmer to go head-to-head in first leaders TV debate | Politics News

Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer will go head-to-head in their first televised debate of the general election on 4 June.

The two leaders will appear on ITV at 9pm for an hour, the channel has announced.

“Sunak v Starmer: The ITV Debate” will be moderated by journalist Julie Etchingham and will take place live in front of a studio audience.

The programme is the first in a series of head-to-head debates set to be held by various broadcasters.

Sky News is planning its own leaders event in the key battleground seat of Grimsby and Cleethorpes.

Voters will be given the opportunity to put questions directly to the leaders.

Labour leader Sir Keir has agreed to attend, while negotiations are ongoing with Mr Sunak’s team.

The decision to hold the debate in Grimsby comes after the seat turned Conservative in 2019 for the first time since the end of the Second World War.

Many people at the time felt a cultural rift with the Labour Party.

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Sunak has gambled on election date knowing success under any definition is hard | Politics News

Rishi Sunak has made the calculation that 4 July is, if not the best date for an election for the Conservatives, then – as far as he can see – the least worst.

Firstly, he thinks there is a story to tell on the economy – albeit one that is not without peril.

Britain is out of recession, while inflation today is statistically within “normal” levels.

Politics Live: Sunak ditches jacket for first election rally – as he asks ‘who do you trust?’

Secondly, it’s likely a plane will possibly take off for the Rwanda within the election campaign. While this will be branded a success, it avoids the judgement on the true purpose of the policy – to stop the boats.

Thirdly, I understand it was no longer possible to have a budget or further fiscal statement after the big promise to increase military spending to 2.5% by 2030.

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In full: PM announces election

One Tory source told me that the moment they saw that, they knew there wouldn’t be further tax cuts and an election would be sooner rather than later.

More on General Election 2024

But more than that, there was a real – perhaps existential – question about how long Sunak could continue to hold it together.

Read More:
General election called for 4 July
What happens now an election has been called?
Find your new constituency and how it’s changed

There are revolts in parliament looming – on abortion, on smoking and on shorter prison sentencing. This potentially avoids some of those.

He was also facing questions whether he would have to do a reshuffle after Chris Heaton Harris, Northern Ireland Secretary, announced his departure at the next election. Precedent that should have prompted a reshuffle – perhaps this has avoided that.

There are also claims – that might never be proved one way or another – that more and more Tories wanted him gone and he could have been tiptoeing closer to a vote of no confidence. Only Sir Graham Brady may know the truth of this.

All of that is now in the past. Sunak has gambled, knowing success under any definition is hard.

Rishi Sunak: General election not a ‘foregone conclusion’ | Politics News

The results of the next general election are not a “foregone conclusion” according to Rishi Sunak, after his party’s slate of defeats in the local elections.

The prime minister was speaking off the back of analysis of the results conducted by Sky News which indicated the country was heading towards a hung parliament.

This projection, however, does not account for Labour now being the most popular party in Scotland, nor does it recognise that people are less likely to vote for an independent or small party in a Westminster election when compared to council seats.

Politics live: New SNP leader sticks to independence aim

Speaking from a charity in north London, Mr Sunak said: “Well, the independent analysis shows whilst of course, this was a disappointing weekend for us, that the result of the next general election isn’t a foregone conclusion and indeed actually is closer than the situation is closer than many people are saying.”

Mr Sunak also paid tribute to the almost 500 Tory councillors who were unseated over the weekend, as well as West Midlands mayor Andy Street.

“Well, obviously disappointing to lose Conservative councillors and a fantastic mayor for the West Midlands in Andy Street,” the prime minister said.

“And I’m grateful to them for their public service and all their hard work.

“For my part, reflecting on it, I’m determined more than ever to demonstrate to the country that we are making progress on the areas that matter to them, and we are going to deliver for them.”

Asked about the disquiet from within his party about the direction the Conservatives are taking, Mr Sunak said: “What unites all members of our party, MPs and beyond, are our values as Conservatives and the type of country that we want to build.”

The PM visited a food, wellness and yoga charity in north London. Pic: PA
Image:
The PM visited a food, wellness and yoga charity in north London. Pic: PA

In the wake of the local election defeats, Mr Sunak was facing calls to tack both further right and further to the centre.

Mr Street called on the prime minister not to drift to the right, telling Sky News that he “would definitely not advise that drift”.

“The message is clear: winning from that centre ground is what happens,” he added.

Meanwhile, former home secretary Suella Braverman wrote in the Daily Telegraph that “the hole to dig us out of is the PM’s, and it’s time for him to start shovelling”.

She called for the Conservatives to take a tougher stance on tax, migration, small boats and law and order.

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Mr Sunak said: “I’m absolutely determined to fight incredibly hard for what I believe and for the future country that I want to build, and that’s what I’m going to do.

“Fight for this country, fight for the things I believe and deliver for everyone on the things that matter to them.”

Rishi Sunak admits Tories may not win general election and claims UK heading for hung parliament | Politics News

Rishi Sunak has admitted the Tories may not win the general election after grim defeats in the local polls.

The prime minister suggested the UK was on course for a hung parliament and claimed voters would not want to see Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer “propped up in Downing Street” by the SNP or smaller parties.

In an interview with The Times, Mr Sunak pointed to Sky News analysis of the local election results by election expert Professor Michael Thrasher which suggested Labour would be the largest party in a hung parliament.

Politics live: PM told to ‘wake up and smell the coffee’ after elections

“These results suggest we are heading for a hung parliament with Labour as the largest party,” Mr Sunak told the paper.

“Keir Starmer propped up in Downing Street by the SNP, Liberal Democrats and the Greens would be a disaster for Britain.

“The country doesn’t need more political horse-trading, but action. We are the only party that has a plan to deliver on the priorities of the people.”

Meanwhile, Tory rebels have warned the prime minister to change his political course after the weekend’s local election results.

Read more:
The local election winners and losers
Charts tell story of Conservative collapse

Analysis: Labour’s future success is less clear-cut

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PM on ‘disappointing’ election results

Sunak urged to take party towards right

Former home secretary Suella Braverman urged him to mould the party towards the right in order to win back voters.

But she told the BBC a change of leadership was not a “feasible prospect,” adding: “There is no superman or superwoman out there who can do it.”

Ms Braverman urged the prime minister to adopt several measures to win back voters, including further tax cuts and a cap on legal migration.

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Rishi Sunak ‘up for the fight’ in general election

Tories ‘up for the fight,’ minister insists

But Transport Secretary Mark Harper insisted Mr Sunak and the Tories are “up for the fight” of a general election despite their terrible results in the local contests.

Talking to Sky News’ Sunday Morning With Trevor Phillips, the minister said: “I think the key thing that people need to do now is get behind the prime minister, focus on the things the government is focused on delivering – the British people’s priorities around the economy, dealing with migration – and get out there and take that fight to the country ahead of the general election.”

Labour won 1,158 seats in the 107 councils in England that held elections on 2 May, an increase of more than 232.

The Liberal Democrats won 552 seats, up nearly 100, while the Tories came in third place on 515 seats, down nearly 400.