The Conservatives have had a “really difficult night” in this year’s local elections, a Sussex Tory MP has admitted.

Speaking to the BBC, Bexhill and Battle MP Huw Merriman described the results announced so far as a “wake-up call” for the Conservative Party, but pinned the blame on the tumultuous year the government has had.

At the time of publication, the Conservatives have lost almost 200 councillors and six councils, including Plymouth, Stoke-on-Trent and Medway.

Mr Merriman, who serves as a rail minister in the government, said: “I recognise that we changed our leader and the Prime Minister three times in a year, and this is the first opportunity the electorate have had to give their verdict on that, and it has not gone well so far.

“However, I believe the policies Rishi Sunak has put in place are the policies the voters I speak to on the doorstep want from their government, so the test now is to be competent, united and deliver on those pledges.”

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He also said that the results so far suggest that voters are not fully committed to Keir Starmer and Labour.

Mr Merriman said: “There are a lot of dont-knows out there right now who may have fallen out of love with us, but they certainly haven’t fallen in love with Labour like we saw with Tony Blair in 1997.

“People are frustrated with our performance and I feel we have got it within us to turn it around.”

Also speaking to Laura Kuenssberg on the BBC, Labour MP for Hove Peter Kyle said that the results so far show the party is “back in business” and “hopefully moving towards government” at the next general election.

He said: “We’re going to places where the Labour Party has not succeeded in for two decades. In Medway, that has been a Tory council for 20 years and it has three Tory MPs - that’s an area we are making strides in.

“We have really moved forward tonight and Keir Starmer’s fingerprints are all over the gains we have made.

“This is a really good solid performance for the Labour Party; it’s encouraging, it shows we are targeting right, we are getting the messaging right centrally and locally.

“The Labour Party is back in business, we are moving forward and hopefully we are moving towards government.”

Results from Sussex have yet to be announced, with the first results expected later this morning.

Votes will be counted from 11 council across the county, from Chichester to Crawley and from Wealden to Worthing.