Chris Mason: Bleak picture for Sunak but no sign of rebellion against PM

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By Chris Mason
Political editor, BBC News

There has been lots of noise and lots of numbers.

And, for plenty of us, not a lot of sleep.

And there are still more results to come this weekend.

But how do things look right now?

Firstly, dire election results are becoming a dangerous habit for the Conservatives.

There were last year’s local elections.

Several by-elections since.

And now these elections.

The picture for Rishi Sunak has been consistently bleak.

If his premiership set out with two aims, steadying the ship of government and reviving Conservative fortunes, it’s fair to say he did achieve the first of these.

Gone was the rolling psychodrama of Boris Johnson’s last few months and Liz Truss’s entire vanishingly brief tenure.

But as for the second, making the Tories popular again? The evidence suggests this has been a spectacular failure.

He yanks various policy levers. He sets ideas out with passion. And they appear to make barely any difference whatsoever to either his or his party’s fortunes.

In contrast – and blackening the Tory mood still further – is Labour’s relatively newly discovered knack of winning where they need to win in a general election.

They used to be rather good at stacking up loads of votes in places where they won already, and nowhere near enough votes in places where they didn’t.

That appears to be changing.

Strikingly, though, there is no sign, yet at least of this prompting a Conservative insurrection against the prime minister.

Why? Because the results for them are grim but perhaps no more grim than feared.

Watch: England and Wales local elections… in 60 seconds

One senior figure suggested Conservative MPs were “remarkably chilled”.

A former cabinet minister said the results were “not catastrophic” – while also tacitly accepting they pointed to likely general election defeat.

Labour are confident of exactly that – that these results point to them being on track to winning a majority when the whole country goes to the polls.

The Liberal Democrats see evidence of their capacity to capitalise on Conservative woe; Reform UK too.

And the trend of a steady rise for the Green Party in local politics continues.

In essence these results cement the status quo – a buoyant Labour Party, the Conservatives morose, the smaller parties chipper.

This brings us to the big picture point – yes, the Conservatives are in dire straits and Labour are in a strong place.

But, remember, Labour have to do astonishingly well by any historical comparison to win a general election, and that remains the case.

It is this central fact – as well as the relative fortunes of the parties – that will shape the conversation between now and the general election.

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