Labor overturns 24 years of Tory control as it wins home of the British Army

Labor has won a key breakthrough in the home of the British Army for the first time, suggesting it is on course for a seismic general election win.

In a landmark result, Sir Keir Starmer’s party clinched Rushmoor council, overturning a quarter of a century of Tory control to secure its first-ever majority.

The district includes Aldershot Garrison, a military town which has been considered the home of the British Army since it was built in 1854.

Labor said its historic victory proved the party has moved on since its days under Jeremy Corbyn and was now trusted by voters on defence.

But the result will prompt alarm in No 10 as it suggests even the safest of Conservative seats will be under threat at the general election.

A Labor spokesperson said: “This is a truly historic result. Rushmoor – the home of the British Army – has never had a majority Labor council before, and has been run by the Tories for the last 24 years.

“This result demonstrates just how much the Labor Party has changed and people in Rushmoor know that only Labor can deliver the change they want to see.

“A Labor gain for Rushmoor is a result Rishi Sunak cannot ignore. “It’s time for a general election.”

Labor won nine of the 13 seats being contested on Rushmoor Borough Council, with the Tories winning just three and the Liberal Democrats taking the other.

The result suggests the parliamentary constituency of Aldershot, which has been Tory ever since its creation in 1918, could be in play at the election.

Leo Docherty, the Europe minister, is the current MP and won a near 17,000 majority over his Labor rival in 2019.

Aldershot is number 216 on the list of Labor target seats, requiring a 17 per cent swing, and winning it would suggest Sir Keir was on course for a landslide.

Reform UK could also play a defining role in the future of a constituency where the UK Independence Party came narrowly in third at the 2015 election.

The result in Rushmoor came on yet another dire night for the Tories, who also lost the Blackpool South by-election to Labor by a massive 22 per cent swing.

Labor also clinched Hartlepool council from the Tories in a symbolic result which represented the latter’s changing fortunes in the Red Wall.

It was three years ago that a massive Boris Johnson balloon was floated in the town as the Tories took the parliamentary seat from Labor in a by-election.

The former prime minister’s success in the North East even forced Sir Keir into thoughts of resignation and appeared to cement a new Conservative dominance.

But the tables have now turned with the Tories struggling to hold onto the coalition of new voters across the North and Midlands that they won in 2019.

Labor chalked up another council win in Thurrock, Essex, in a further sign that it is on track to secure a 1997-style landslide at the next election.

The parliamentary seat in Thurrock, held by Tory MP Dame Jackie Doyle-Price, has been blue since 2010 and was last red during the New Labor years.

Labour’s Chris Webb celebrates with his wife and daughter after defeating the Tories in Blackpool South – Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Thurrock was one of the most heavily Leave-supporting areas in the country, with the result suggesting Sir Keir has put his party’s Brexit woes behind it.

A Labor Party spokesperson said: “This is exactly the kind of place we need to be winning to gain a majority in a general election.

“The people of Thurrock have sent the Conservatives a message that they want change.”

Andrew Jefferies, the outgoing Tory leader of Thurrock council, said that Rishi Sunak needed to “give people a reason to vote Conservative”.

He told the BBC: “We’re very disappointed in the result that we’ve had this evening. It was to be expected, all the polls were telling us that that was going to happen.

“The Conservative Party, the Government, needs to give people a reason to vote Conservative. At the moment people feel disheartened and disappointed.

“We need a reason to vote and I believe the Prime Minister will set out and give people that reason again.”

Pat McFadden MP, Labour’s National Campaign Coordinator, said: “These results show that Labor is making progress in the places needed that will decide the general election.

“The Tories needed to be making gains in an election year. Instead, their vote has collapsed in a key by-election and they are suffering losses of council seats. Responsibility for this sits firmly with Rishi Sunak who is being punished by voters for the Tories’ failure.

“These results are sending a clear message that people across the country are demanding change, and only the Labor Party will deliver that. It’s time for a general election now.”