May 25, 2024

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UK local elections: Labor flips seats it hasn’t held in decades

UK local elections: Labor flips seats it hasn’t held in decades

LONDON (AFP) – Britain’s ruling Conservative Party suffered heavy losses in local election results on Friday, strengthening expectations that the Labor Party will return to power after 14 years in the UK general election that will be held in the coming months.

Labor won control of councils in England that the party had not held for decades, and succeeded in a special by-election to Parliament, which, if repeated in a general election, would result in one of the biggest Conservative defeats ever.

Although overall the results make bleak reading Prime Minister Rishi SunakHe was able to breathe a sigh of relief when the mayor of Tees Valley in north-east England was re-elected, albeit with a low share of the vote. A victory for Ben Houchen, who ran a highly personal election campaign, may be enough to protect Sunak from any revolt by Conservative lawmakers.

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to Keir StarmerIt was generally an excellent set of results, with the only real negatives emerging in some areas with large Muslim populations, such as Blackburn and Oldham in northwest England, where the party’s candidates appear to have suffered as a result of the leadership’s staunchly pro-Israel stance in Conflict in Gaza.

Perhaps most significant in the context of the imminent general election, which is due to take place by January but could take place next month, Labor has won the parliamentary seat of Blackpool South in northwest England. The seat had gone to the Conservatives in the last general election in 2019, when he was then Prime Minister Boris Johnson It had major successes in the parts supporting Brexit.

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In the contest, which was sparked by the resignation of a Conservative lawmaker in the wake of a lobbying scandal, Labour’s Chris Webb received 10,825 votes, compared to 3,218 votes for his second-placed Conservative rival. The switch from the Conservatives to Labour, at 26%, was the third largest since the Second World War, which would be more than enough to see the party back in power for the first time since it was ousted in 2010.

Starmer went to Blackpool to congratulate Webb on his success and urged Sunak to call a general election. Sunak has the power to set the date, and he has indicated that it will be in the second half of 2024.

“This was directed directly at Rishi Sunak to say we are tired of your regression, your chaos and your division and we want change,” he said.

Thursday’s elections In large parts of England it was a task in itself, with voters deciding who would manage many aspects of their daily lives, such as litter collection, road maintenance and local crime prevention, in the coming years. But as the general election approaches, they are being viewed through a national lens.

Counting begins in the Blackpool South by-election at the Blackpool Sports Center in Blackpool, England, Thursday, May 2, 2024. The by-election began after the resignation of Scott Benton. (Peter Byrne/PA via AP)

John Curtis, professor of politics at the University of Strathclyde, said the results so far suggested the Conservatives were losing about half the seats they were trying to defend.

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He told BBC Radio: “We may certainly be seeing one of the worst, if not the worst, Conservative performance in local government elections in the last 40 years.”

As of early Friday afternoon, with about a third of the 2,661 seats counted, the Conservatives were down 185 seats while Labor was up 73 seats. Other parties, such as the centrist Liberal Democrats and the Green Party, are also making gains. The UK Reform Party, which is trying to usurp the Conservatives from the right, can also point to some successes, particularly in Blackpool South, where it was less than 200 votes away from clinching second place.

Labor won in areas that voted heavily for Brexit in 2016 and where it was crushed by pro-Brexit Johnson, such as Hartlepool in north-east England, and Thurrock in south-east England. It also took control of Rushmore, a leafy, military-laden chamber in southern England, which it never won.

One bright spot for the Conservatives was the result in the Tees Valley, which before Brexit was a traditional Labor stronghold. However, Houshen’s vote share has fallen by about 20 percentage points to 54% since 2021.

Sunak hopes Andy Street will also remain Mayor of the West Midlands when that result is announced on Saturday. On Saturday, Labour’s Sadiq Khan is also expected to remain mayor of London.

Sunak became Prime Minister in October 2022 after his predecessor’s short tenure. Liz Trusswho left office after 49 days in the wake of an unfunded tax cut budget that rocked financial markets and drove up borrowing costs for homeowners.

Her chaotic and shock leadership has exacerbated the difficulties faced by the Conservatives in the wake of the circus surrounding her predecessor Johnson, who was forced to resign after being sentenced to lie to Parliament about coronavirus lockdown breaches in his Downing Street offices.

Sunak did not try to do anything that would change the political balance, as the Labor Party consistently leads by 20 percentage points in the opinion polls. If this translates into a general election, Labor will achieve a landslide victory on par with that achieved by Tony Blair in 1997.

Whether anyone else can do better than Sunak is a question that may be on the minds of nervous Conservative lawmakers in Parliament ahead of the weekend.