LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s ruling Conservative Party suffered heavy losses as results poured in on Friday from the prime minister Rishi SunakHis first major election test since he took office last year.
In the midst of the worst cost of living crisis in decades, local council elections on Thursday across large swathes of England highlighted the position of the major parties ahead of a UK-wide general election expected next year.
The counting of votes will not be completed until later on Friday, from the 230 English boroughs electing more than 8,000 seats in the council, just as Britain prepares for Saturday. Coronation of King Charles III.
But the opposition Labor Party protested that the direction was already clear.
“These results have been a disaster for Rishi Sunak as voters are punishing him for the failure of the Conservative Party,” said Shabana Mahmud, coordinator of the Labor Party’s national campaign.
“These results show that we are on our way to a Labor majority government,” she added.
By 7:40 a.m. (0640 GMT), 60 councils have announced their results. Sunak’s Conservative Party lost 209 seats – a third of the total number they have been defending so far.
The trend would set the centre-right party on course for its worst defeat in a local election since the mid-1990s, before Labor overwhelmingly took power nationally under Tony Blair.
Transport Secretary Hugh Merriman noted his party was paying the price for a chaotic few weeks last year when it relinquished Boris Johnson and then Liz Truss as leader in quick succession.
Local voters have been “talking old news about previous prime ministers – but they say your current leader seems to have what it takes”, he told the BBC, insisting Sunak is on the right track.
“It seems to turn things around for us, but this is the opportunity for voters to give their vote about who we used to be,” Merriman said.
Labor won 110 seats, dominating the prized targets of Plymouth in the southwest of England, Medway in the southeast and Stoke-on-Trent in the Midlands.
Extrapolating the national outcome in the upcoming general election, Mohamud said Labor’s vote share is ahead of the Conservatives by more than eight per cent – enough for leader Keir Starmer to become prime minister.
In national opinion polls, Labor has a double lead over the Conservatives, and Thursday is portrayed as a referendum on “13 years of Tory failure”.
The party is particularly targeting its former strongholds in the north of England, the so-called “red wall”, which Johnson turned to the Conservative Party in the 2019 general election on a pledge to “finish Brexit”.
The smaller Liberal Democrat party had 56 seats, and was making its way in the affluent Tory areas on the outskirts of London represented nationally by members of Sunak’s government – the “blue wall”.
The opposition centrist party has taken control of councils in Windsor and Maidenhead, west of London, an area represented in Westminster by former Prime Minister Theresa May.
“We have exceeded all expectations,” said Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey.
We have dealt the Conservative Party a major blow in the blue wall ahead of next year’s general election.
Surveys show voters are deeply concerned about decades-high inflation and the crisis engulfing the state-run National Health Service, as doctors and nurses strike for better pay.
On Wednesday, Sunak acknowledged that his conservative party was facing a “difficult” trial with voters.
“I have only been prime minister for six months, but I think we are making good progress,” he said.
Sunak also defended a change his government made to this election that would require voters to show a photo ID for the first time, a move that Labor and others denounced as an attempt to suppress voting.
One of the critics, the Association for Electoral Reform, said Thursday it had seen “countless examples of people being denied their right to vote because of these new laws.”


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