'Grabbing At Straws!' Trevor Phillips Calls Out Minister For Spin On Local Elections Disaster

Mark Harper interviewed by Trevor Phillips
Mark Harper interviewed by Trevor Phillips Sky News

Trevor Phillips called out transport secretary Mark Harper for his bizarrely optimistic take on the Tories’ terrible performance in the local elections.

The Conservatives lost almost 500 councillors, along with 10 police and crime commissioners.

The governing party also has just one metro mayor now after voters in England and Wales went to the ballot box on Thursday.

But, overlooking these devastating losses, Harper seemed to focus on just one piece of analysis in his interview – Sky News’ forecast that the next general election will result in a hung parliament.

He told the broadcaster: “That means Keir Starmer is not on course to win a majority, and that is before an election campaign where Labour’s lack of policy will come under scrutiny.

“So what that shows me is very clear: the polls are not correct, there is everything to fight for, and the Conservative Party under the prime minister’s leadership is absolutely up for that fight.”

That same projection from Sky still shows the Tories losing 130 seats.

Sky News host Phillips said: “This is grabbing at straws a bit – you actually took a whacking.”

“I was very clear – these are disappointing results,” Harper replied. “The point is, what they demonstrate from that scenario is that Labour’s 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’m up for that fight and I know the Conservatives are up for it.”

“I’m wondering if you’ve really got to grips with the scale of this,” Phillips said. “On Thursday, you won fewer council seats than Labour. And more importantly, you won fewer council seats than the Liberal Democrats.”

Labour now have 1,140 councillors in England, the Liberal Democrats 521 and the Conservatives 513.

The presenter said: “I know these are local elections so you can’t translate completely, but is it morally right that what is now the third most popular party is now squatting in Downing Street?”

“I don’t accept that analysis at all,” the cabinet minister replied.

“The Liberal Democrats beat you,” Phillips reminded him.

“No they didn’t,” Harper insisted. “If you look at the national equivalent vote share, that’s not correct.”

He said local elections are “always difficult” for the party in government, and that the results of the next general election “are not pre-determined”.