British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative Party fared better than expected in local elections in England as the final results were announced early Saturday, in her first test at the polls since losing her parliamentary majority last year.
The centre-right party held on to key London councils despite a big push by Labour, the main opposition, which failed to live up to its own hype.
The ruling party also scored highly in areas that voted in favour of Brexit in the 2016 referendum, while losing some ground in more pro-EU heartlands.
The UK Independence Party (UKIP), which has seen its support collapse since cheerleading the 2016 vote for Brexit, was all but wiped out while the pro-European Liberal Democrats made the biggest gains.
Labour’s leftist leader Jeremy Corbyn had sought to build on momentum from last year’s June general election, when an unexpected surge for his party deprived May of her majority.
But Labour admitted “mixed” results despite a tough week for May, who has been plagued by cabinet divisions over Brexit as well as a row over immigration that toppled one of her top ministers.
“We’ve done better than expected,” Conservative Party chairman Brandon Lewis told Sky News television.
“We have seen Labour — who thought they would be sweeping the board in London… not gaining a single council in London.”
Matt Singh of Number Cruncher Politics noted: “Opposition parties are supposed to do well in mid-term contests, and these aren’t the results of one that’s about to storm the next general election.”
The final count over 150 councils showed Labour gain 62 seats and the Conservatives lose 32, with the Lib Dems up 75 seats and UKIP down 132. The Green Party were up eight council seats.
The votes equated to a 35 percent national vote share for both Labour and the Conservatives, though such projections are an inexact science.
A BBC projection suggested that such results at a general election would mean a hung parliament, with Labour on 283 seats compared with the Conservatives’ 280, both well short of the 326 needed for a majority. – AFP