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Labour’s strategy ‘won’t last’ until the general election, says Cabinet minister

Labour’s “ming vase” strategy will not last until the general election, a cabinet minister has claimed after a day of heavy local election losses for the Conservatives and large gains for the opposition.

The Conservatives lost more than 300 seats and Labor gained 200, and 98 of 107 councils have declared their results.

Meanwhile, the Conservatives were crushed by Labor in the Blackpool South by-election. The Conservatives lost the seat and only held off Reform UK to finish in second place.

But in a major positive for Rishi Sunak, Ben Houchen was re-elected as Conservative mayor of Tees Valley, securing his third term by defeating his Labor and Liberal Democrat rivals in the five local authority areas that make up the Tees Valley.

Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride admitted it had been a “difficult” day for his party and insisted the general election, expected to be held in the second half of the year, would be a different story.

Stride told Sky’s Politics Hub: “As we approach the general election, quite rightly, it will be framed as the Conservatives against Keir Starmer, Rishi Sunak, Keir Starmer, who will get the keys to No 10 and govern the country?

“And I think at that point people will expect more from the Labor Party in terms of telling us what they really stand for. We’ve had this ming vase strategy, where Keir Starmer has carried this ming vase, trying to protect his electoral advantage across this slippery floor for fear of it falling over.

“That won’t last, it won’t translate into a general election. So I think we’ll see a very different dynamic going forward. But I accept that, of course, these results have been difficult and it pains me that so many great conservative communities who have stood up for their communities no longer represent them.”

It was not all good news for the Labor Party, as it lost several councilors amid a backlash from Muslim voters over its handling of the Israel-Gaza conflict.

This included two defeats in Rochdale to George Galloway’s British Workers’ Party, in a possible preview of what could be a major challenge to Sir Keir in dozens of seats at the general election.

Meanwhile, any prospect of a Tory plot to unseat Sunak appeared to have faded on Friday night, with not a single Tory MP calling for his dismissal.

Dame Andrea Jenkyns, an arch critic of the Prime Minister who demanded his resignation last autumn, urged her party to unite, while Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg, a former business secretary, insisted Sunak should lead the party in the next national election and Nothing good could come from a change of leader.

The results of two key mayoral elections will be announced on Saturday, with Labor mayor Sadiq Khan and Conservative incumbent Andy Street seeking third terms in London and the West Midlands respectively.