Under the shadow of a prolonged Brexit deadlock, Prime Minister Theresa May’s ruling Conservatives suffered a massive drubbing in the UK local elections, losing 37 councils and 1,334 seats. This was the Conservatives’ worst local election performance in 24 years when the party lost more than 2,000 seats in 1995 under John Major.
However, the picture was also not rosy for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party, with voters instead turning to smaller parties and independents in Thursday’s polls.
The Labour Party lost 82 seats in the elections, while the Liberal Democrats – who have campaigned for a further vote on leaving the European Union gained 703 seats.
The Green Party and independents also made gains in the elections, that focused on local issues such as garbage collection. What especially benefitted the Green Party, which has gained more than 90 seats, are the recent climate protests in London, which brought environmental issues to the forefront.
Elections were held for 248 English councils, six mayors and all 11 councils in Northern Ireland, with more than 8,000 seats up for grabs.
The council elections decide who sets local tax rates and runs community services but are often swayed keeping in mind the overall national picture.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid linked the poor performance of the Conservatives to voters having “trust issues” over Brexit, while May said voters had sent a clear message to both the ruling and opposition parties, BBC reported.
“There was a simple message from the elections to both us and the Labour Party: just get on and deliver Brexit,” Theresa May said. AFP quoted Corbyn as saying that he was “very sorry” for the party’s losses, adding there was now “a huge impetus” for the talks to succeed.
Britain was due to have left the European Union on March 29, but Brexit was postponed until October 31 because May was unable to get lawmakers to approve her divorce deal with the EU.
The results raise the pressure on May and Corbyn to strike a deal and avoid having to hold European Parliament elections on May 23, where they face being wiped out by Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party.
The Conservatives, which previously had members filling about 60 per cent of the more than 8,000 seats that were contested in local races in England and Northern Ireland, will be concerned about losing seats in its traditional heartlands, which voted heavily to leave the EU.
If results were replicated nationwide, pollster John Curtice said both the Conservatives and Labour would each get only 28 per cent of the total vote, asserting that the days of two-party domination “may be over”.