Britain’s opposition Labour Party won a parliamentary seat in northern England on Friday and control of several councils, inflicting heavy losses on the governing Conservatives to pile more pressure on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

The thumping victory set the tone for what will be a closely watched two days of local results before a national election this year, which polling shows could put Labour leader Keir Starmer in power and end 14 years of Conservative government.

While suffering what were expected losses, the Conservative Ben Houchen won re-election as the mayor of the northern region of Tees Valley, offering some comfort to Sunak. He is also hoping the party’s mayoral candidate in the West Midlands will hold onto power to help silence calls for him to step down.

Voters cast their ballots on Thursday for more than 2,000 seats on local authorities across England and a handful of high-profile mayoral elections, including in the capital, London.

Blackpool South was the only parliamentary seat up for grabs after the Conservative lawmaker quit over a lobbying scandal, and Starmer was quick to say it was the vote that mattered.

“Here in Blackpool, a message has been sent directly to the prime minister,” Starmer told supporters in the coastal resort. “This was directly to Rishi Sunak, to say we’re fed up with your decline, your chaos, of your division, and we want change. We want to go forward with Labour.”

Labour candidate Chris Webb won with 10,825 votes to the Conservative candidate’s 3,218. The swing of 26% to Labour from the 2019 result was the third biggest in post-war by-election history, polling expert John Curtice said.

The right-wing Reform party narrowly missed out on beating the Conservatives, finishing third.

The chairman of the Conservative Party, Richard Holden, said it had been “a tough night”.

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