Johnson vows to press on as Tories lose ground in council elections

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Boris Johnson paints a portrait of the Queen during a visit to Field End Infant school, in South Ruislip (Daniel Leal/PA) (PA Wire)
Boris Johnson paints a portrait of the Queen during a visit to Field End Infant school, in South Ruislip (Daniel Leal/PA) (PA Wire)

Boris Johnson has admitted the Tories endured a “tough night” after suffering a string of losses in council elections but insisted he would not be deflected from his economic agenda.

The Prime Minister said that he took full responsibility for the results as Labour strengthened its grip on London and the Liberal Democrats also made gains at the Conservatives’ expense.

However, he faced a growing backlash from local Tories who blamed continuing public anger over lockdown parties in Downing Street for the losses.

One Conservative MP publicly warned it may require a change of leadership if the Government was to rebuild the trust of voters.

Sir Keir Starmer, meanwhile, hailed a “turning point” for Labour as they took the totemic Tory authority in Wandsworth, won Westminster for the first time since its creation in 1964 and clinched victory in Barnet.

Speaking to broadcasters during a visit to a school in his Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency, Mr Johnson said it had been a “mixed set of results” for the Tories.

“It is mid-term,” he said.

(PA Graphics) (PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics) (PA Graphics)

“We had a tough night in some parts of the country but on the other hand in other parts of the country you are still seeing Conservatives going forward and making quite remarkable gains in places that haven’t voted Conservative for a long time, if ever.”

He said the “message from voters” was that they wanted the Government to focus on getting the country through the economic aftermath of Covid.

“This Government is absolutely determined to keep going with every ounce of compassion and ingenuity that we have, get people through the economic aftershocks,” he said.

However David Simmonds, the Tory MP for neighbouring Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner, said the issue of lockdown rule-breaking in Downing Street had kept coming up on the doorstep.

(PA Graphics) (PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics) (PA Graphics)

“He (Mr Johnson) needs to find a way to restore confidence in the Government and I think there’s a number of ways he might do that,” he told the PA news agency.

“A change of leader would be one of them. Alternatively he needs to demonstrate what the alternative plan would be.”

Mr Johnson could face a leadership challenge if 53 Tory MPs – 15% of the parliamentary party – write to the chairman of the 1922 Committee, Sir Graham Brady, calling for vote of no confidence.

Some MPs who previously called for him to step down have since backed off amid the crisis in Ukraine, but the results may prompt a new round of soul-searching within the party.

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