British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Conservatives faced dismal results in local elections on Friday, with voters punishing his party after a year of political scandals, soaring inflation and stagnant economic growth.

While ruling parties often battle in mid-term elections, the council’s results in England will be the biggest, and possibly the last, test of voter sentiment ahead of the next general election expected to take place next year.

Sunak came to power in October amid a cost-of-living crisis, growing health care concerns, widespread industrial action that has disrupted public services and waning enthusiasm over Britain’s decision to leave the Union. European.

The count has only been done in about a quarter of the 8,000 council seats in local government authorities, which have responsibility for the day-to-day delivery of services such as rubbish collection and schools.

The results, which do not affect the government’s majority in parliament, showed the Conservatives suffered a net loss of 235 seats, while the main opposition Labor Party added 122 seats and the Liberal Democrats won 63.

Labor’s Stephen Blakemore and Adrian Knapper celebrate after winning the votes for Birches Head and Northwood in Stoke on Trent, England on May 5, 2023. Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

Labor said in a statement that, based on these results, they were on track to win the next general election with an eight-point lead over the Conservatives.

Sunak’s party suffered losses to Labor in key target seats in the north and south of England, while the Liberal Democrats advanced in wealthier parts of the south.

The prime minister told reporters the results so far showed people wanted their ruling party to deliver on their priorities, but it was still too early in the process of announcing the results to draw any firm conclusions.

John Curtice, Britain’s best-known pollster, said the Conservatives were in «considerable electoral trouble» based on the results so far and could face a net loss of around 1,000 seats, in line with the party’s most pessimistic forecast.

He added that the four-point shift to Labor since 2019 was below expectations given its double-digit lead in opinion polls, though he added that smaller parties fare better in local elections.

Labor leader Keir Starmer joins party members in Chatham, England
Labor leader Keir Starmer joins party members in Chatham, England on May 5, 2023.Gareth Fuller/AP

«While the voters’ rejection of the Conservatives was unequivocal, there may still be a question mark over the level of their enthusiasm for the Labor alternative,» he said.

A full picture of the state of the matches will not become clear until later on Friday, when most councils announce their results.

Sunak has tried to restore the credibility of the Conservatives since he was appointed prime minister in October, the party’s third prime minister in the past year.

Boris Johnson was ousted as leader in part because of parties held in government buildings during the COVID-19 lockdowns, while Liz Truss was ousted following a bet on tax cuts that shattered Britain’s reputation for financial stability.

Sunak’s party lost control of at least eight councils in what Johnny Mercer, a member of parliament for Plymouth, said was a «terrible» night for the Tories.

The last time most of these seats were contested in local elections was in 2019, when the Conservatives lost more than 1,300 seats that were expected to help limit losses in these elections.

Labor made progress in some areas that supported leaving the European Union in the 2016 Brexit referendum, which the party will need to win if it is to win a majority in the next general election.

In the early hours of Friday morning, Labor gained control of Plymouth, Stoke-on-Trent and Medway councils, three key battlegrounds seen as important to the party’s hopes of a return to national power.

“Make no mistake, we are on our way to a Labor majority at the next general election,” Labor leader Keir Starmer said on a visit to Medway.