Labour takes Wandsworth, Westminster and Barnet from Tories in shock local election results
Tap above to watch video report by Political Correspondent Simon Harris
The Labour party has won control of three flagship Conservative London boroughs in the local elections.
Wandsworth and Barnet borough councils, and Westminster City Council, all previously controlled by the Conservatives, are now in Labour hands.
Labour leader Keir Starmer said the gains “sent a message” to Boris Johnson on a visit to Barnet, north London, on Friday morning.
“We’ve sent a message to the Prime Minister: Britain deserves better,” he said.
Speaking to Good Morning Britain's Richard Gaisford, Starmer said winning in Barnet, a Jewish-populated area, was "very special, because I said I would root out anti-semitism."
He told supporters: “My first words as leader of our party, when I took over in April 2020, was that we were going to root out antisemitism from our party, not tolerate it any more in our party, change our party.
“I said the test of that will be whether voters trust us again in places like Barnet, and they’ve done it. That is your hard work, that is the change we’ve collectively brought about in our Labour Party, the trust that we’re building, putting us on the road to Number 10, on the road to that general election.
“That change these last two years has been really hard for us as a party, but we’ve done it, we’ve built those solid foundations, we’ve won here in Barnet, we’ve won across London, we’re winning from coast to coast.”
London mayor Sadiq Khan said Labour’s route to 10 Downing Street is “through London” as he praised Starmer for tackling antisemitism in the party.
He said: “I think Keir (Starmer) over the last few years has made huge progress in root-and-branch reform, getting rid of those who are antisemitic, putting forward a positive vision, being pro-business, we’re on the side of hard working families.
“In this borough there are seats we need to win to form a Labour government, in Barnet there are seats we need to win to form a Labour government.
“The route for us to get to 10 Downing Street is through London.”
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It is the first time Labour has ever won Barnet and Westminster since both councils were created in the 1960s.
The new Labour leader of Wandsworth suggested his party’s victory signalled “time for a change” at the top of Government.
Barnet’s Conservative group leader said the result did not “bode well” for the Conservatives at the next general election, as the partygate scandal and the cost of living crisis impacts on the party’s vote share.
Labour victories in the three London councils are regarded as a bellwether for the party’s performance at the next general election.
Wandsworth first turned blue in 1978 and has been in Tory control ever since, until Labour’s overnight gain.
Reportedly Margaret Thatcher’s favourite Conservative council, the authority was an early proponent of Thatcherite policies, including the right-to-buy and the privatisation of local services.
Wandsworth boasts one of the lowest average council tax rates in England, with Boris Johnson pointing to the low rates as an example of Conservative party competence in local office.
'It is time for change at the top'
A Labour party source described the loss as “monumental” for the Conservatives.
“This was the Tories’ jewel in the crown,” they added.
The borough’s new Labour leader Simon Hogg promised to “build a compassionate council that truly listens, and keep that same low council tax”.
He added: “When we were calling around on voters we didn’t even have to raise partygate, we didn’t have to mention Boris Johnson. People have formed their own views on this Government, so I am afraid it is time for change at the top as well.”
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Barnet council has only ever been in Conservative control since it was created in 1964.
In 2014, Labour came close to gaining control, but the Tories retained a narrow majority.
In 2018 the gap between the ruling Conservatives and the Labour opposition widened, with concern among the north London borough’s large Jewish population about the Labour antisemitism scandal cited as a reason.
Conceding defeat, the Conservative leader of Barnet, Daniel Thomas, said Labour’s gain was a “warning shot” from Tory voters.
He added: “Clearly if Labour are to get a majority in Parliament they need to win Barnet. They won the council, if they win our parliamentary constituencies as well, then it doesn’t bode well for us to form a Government in future general elections.”
Westminster City Council had been in Conservative hands since the authority was created in 1964.
The symbolically-important council oversees local services on Parliament’s doorstep.
The Conservative party also lost several seats in Hillingdon, the borough which covers Boris Johnson’s Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency, although it retained control of the council.
In Richmond, the Tories won only one seat on the newly redrawn council, with the Liberal Democrats winning the majority.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson accepted it was a "tough night" for the Conservatives.
"It's a message from voters telling us they want us to focus," says Boris Johnson - watch Martin Stew's report from the prime minister's constituency of Uxbridge and South Ruislip
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