Minister blames Ukraine war for Tory local election losses

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - APRIL 25: Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Lucy Frazer leaves 10 Downing Street after attending the weekly Cabinet meeting in London, United Kingdom on April 25, 2023. (Photo by Rasid Necati Aslim/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Culture secretary Lucy Frazer has blamed the Tory losses in the local elections on the party being in power for 13 years, the pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. (Getty Images)

A cabinet minister has claimed the Ukraine war is one of the reasons why the Conservatives lost more than 1,000 council seats in the local elections.

Culture secretary Lucy Frazer said the war - and by extension rising inflation - was the “context” in which 1,058 seats were lost.

“Let’s just look at the context in which those local elections took place,” Frazer told the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg programme.

“We’ve been in power for 13 years, we’ve just come out of a pandemic that’s affected everybody’s life and has affected the cost of living, we’re still at war in Ukraine and supporting Ukraine.”

There was no mention, however, of the two other governments she has served in during this parliamentary term: Boris Johnson’s scandal-hit premiership and Liz Truss’s disastrous 49-day spell as his successor.

Watch: Politics daily briefing: 7 May

Frazer didn’t recount, as “context”, how public support for Johnson drained away last year amid the Partygate scandal, with him becoming the first prime minister to receive a police fine (along with then-chancellor Rishi Sunak) for attending a party when COVID lockdown restrictions applied. He was eventually forced to quit last summer after a cabinet revolt against his leadership.

Nor did Frazer mention how Liz Truss, the shortest-serving prime minister in history, oversaw the infamous mini-budget, promising £45 billion of unfunded tax cuts, which caused economic chaos.

Sunak has responded to the council losses by once again listing his “five pledges”: to reduce inflation, boost the economy, reduce debt, cut NHS waiting lists and stop small boat crossings over the English Channel.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks during Britain's King Charles III and Camilla, Queen consort Coronation Ceremony inside Westminster Abbey in central London on May 6, 2023. - The set-piece coronation is the first in Britain in 70 years, and only the second in history to be televised. Charles will be the 40th reigning monarch to be crowned at the central London church since King William I in 1066. Outside the UK, he is also king of 14 other Commonwealth countries, including Australia, Canada and New Zealand. Camilla, his second wife, will be crowned queen alongside him and be known as Queen Camilla after the ceremony. (Photo by PHIL NOBLE / POOL / AFP) (Photo by PHIL NOBLE/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Rishi Sunak speaks during the King's coronation on Saturday. (AFP via Getty Images)

Frazer added: “So the prime minister’s focusing, quite rightly, on what he’s heard over the last six months… about what people want us to deliver. They want us to cut inflation and do those other things he talked about.”

When it was suggested voters this week were rejecting his government, Frazer said they need to “see us deliver on those priorities”. She said one deliverable has been cutting inflation… which Kuenssberg pointed out is still at 10.1%.

It comes as Labour said it is “confident but not complacent” ahead of the next general election after gaining 536 council seats.

Read more: Senior Tories 'Looking Over Their Shoulders' As Lib Dems Make Huge Local Election Gains

Speaking to Sky’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme, shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said: “We are pretty pleased. The results that we saw right across England, in every corner of England, were encouraging.”

He added: “I think for the next general election Labour feels confident but not complacent."

Sunak, while conceding on Friday the results were “disappointing”, said he was “not detecting any massive groundswell of movement towards the Labour Party or excitement for its agenda”.