Boris Johnson braced for loss of hundreds of local council seats and fresh Tory infighting

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Boris Johnson is braced for the likely loss of hundreds of council seats in crucial local elections expected to trigger fresh Conservative infighting over his future.

Voters across the country are delivering their verdict in the first big test of public opinion since the Partygate scandal broke – and with the Metropolitan Police set to announce further fines, once the polls have closed.

The Conservatives are likely to lose “a few hundred seats”, according to the elections guru John Curtice, paying the price for a collapse in support over the No 10 parties and the cost-of-living crisis.

At Westminster, Tory rebels hoping to topple Mr Johnson will resume “conversations” about their tactics as soon as the polls close at 10pm on Thursday, one MP has predicted.

Polling day also brought a fresh blast at the prime minister from his former chief aide, now bitter enemy, Dominic Cummings, who repeated his call for “regime change”.

A vote for the Conservatives was a vote for “more taxes regulation” he tweeted, as well as “neglect of security/armed forces” and “A&E disasters/NHS neglect” and “idiots babbling about trans”.

The first results are due from midnight on Thursday, with the verdicts from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, South Tyneside and Wigan indicating whether Labour’s vote is holding up in its northern strongholds.

After 2am, the result from Sunderland, where the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats hope to end 40 years of Labour control, will be a crucial ‘Red Wall’ test.

Key results from London will follow, first from Westminster which is a Labour long shot and where a loss will be disastrous for the Tories who have run the council since 1964.

After 5am, it will be revealed whether Labour has managed to retake Southampton from Conservative control and snatch Wandsworth, another flagship London Tory stronghold.

All 32 councils in Scotland and all 22 in Wales are holding elections – as well the Northern Ireland Assembly, where the nationalist Sinn Fein party is poised to secure an historic victory.

Mr Johnson voted early at a polling station in Westminster, arriving on foot and waving to reporters, although one perplexed member of the public wondered aloud: “Is that Simon Cowell?”

After voting, the prime minister tweeted a video in which he said of his party “it’s Conservatives who deliver, Conservatives who get the bins collected”.

Keir Starmer held hands with his wife Victoria as he arrived at a polling station in Kentish Town, north London, to cast his vote in the local elections for Camden Council.

The Labour leader tweeted afterwards: “Today is our chance to send the Tories a message they can’t ignore: Britain deserves better.”

Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat leader, voting in south-west London, predicted the Conservatives would be punished for failing to ease the pain of of fast-rising living costs.

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