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

LONDON (AP) — Britain’s ruling Conservative Party suffers heavy losses as numerous election results come in Friday, increasing pressure on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak ahead of a British general election in which the main opposition Labor Party looks increasingly likely to return to power after 14 years.

Labor took control of city councils in England that it had not held for decades and won a special by-election for Parliament which, if repeated in a general election in the coming months, would lead one of the conservatives’ biggest defeats.

So far, the only negative for Labor has been in some areas with large Muslim populations, such as Oldham in northwest England, where the party’s candidates appear to have suffered because their leader Keir Starmer Israel’s staunchly pro-Israeli stance in the Gaza conflict.

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Perhaps most importantly in the context of the looming general election, which is due to take place by January but could be as early as next month, Labor easily won back Blackpool South, in the northwest of England , who became Conservative in the last general election in 2019. when Boris Johnson, then Prime Minister, won a big victory. In this election, triggered by the resignation of a Conservative MP following a lobbying scandal, Labor’s Chris Webb obtained 10,825 votes, compared to 3,218 for his second Conservative opponent.

Labor leader Starmer visited Blackpool to congratulate Webb on his success and urged Sunak to call a general election.

“It was straight to Rishi Sunak to say we are fed up with your decline, your chaos and your division and we want change,” he said.

Thursday’s elections in large parts of England were important in their own right, with voters deciding who would run many aspects of their daily lives, such as rubbish collection, road maintenance and local crime prevention, in the years to come. But as a general election approaches, they will be viewed through a national prism.

John Curtice, professor of politics at the University of Strathclyde, said the results so far indicate the Conservatives are losing about half of the seats they are trying to defend.

“We are probably seeing one of the worst Conservative performances, if not the worst, in local elections in the last 40 years,” he told BBC radio.

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

The results so far provide more evidence that Labor is likely to form the next government – ​​by a wide margin – and that Starmer will become prime minister.

As of Friday morning, with barely a quarter of the 2,661 seats to be filled, the Conservatives were down 122 while Labor was up 52. Other parties, such as the centrist Liberal Democrats and the Green Party, are also making gains. earnings. Reform UK, which is trying to usurp the Conservatives on the right, can also boast a string of positive election results, even though it is only contesting a minority of council seats. The party’s threat to the Conservatives was evident in Blackpool South, where it was within 200 votes of second place.

Labor won in areas that voted overwhelmingly for Britain to leave the European Union and where they were previously crushed by Johnson, such as Hartlepool in northeast England and Thurrock in the south-east of England. He also took control of Rushmoor, a leafy and militarily important council in southern England where he never won.

FILE - A woman leaves a polling station after casting her vote in London, Thursday, May 2, 2024. Britain's ruling Conservative Party suffers heavy losses as local election results trickle in on Friday, piling pressure on the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak ahead of the 2024 UK general election. The main opposition Labor Party looks increasingly likely to return to power after 14 years.  (AP Photo/Kin Cheung, file)

FILE – A woman leaves a polling station after casting her vote in London, Thursday, May 2, 2024. Britain’s ruling Conservative Party suffers heavy losses as local election results trickle in on Friday, piling pressure on the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak ahead of the 2024 UK general election. The main opposition Labor Party looks increasingly likely to return to power after 14 years. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung, file)

Results will be available until Saturday. Sunak hopes he can build on his successes, including in several key local council elections, to quell rumors that the Conservative Party will change leaders again ahead of the UK’s main elections.

The key to its survival could be the results of municipal elections in Tees Valley, in the north-east of England, and the West Midlands. The first is expected Friday noon and the second Saturday. If Conservative mayors Ben Houchen and Andy Street hold their ground, Sunak could get some respite from his party’s restive lawmakers. If both lose, he could be in trouble. Labour’s Sadiq Khan is expected to remain mayor of London when the results are announced on Saturday.

FILE - Former British Prime Minister Liz Truss speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference, 2024 CPAC, at Oxon Hill National Harbor in Maryland on February 22, 2024. During her 49 days in As Britain's shortest-serving prime minister, Liz Truss sparked chaos in financial markets and unrest within her Conservative Party.  In interviews and in a new book, Truss vigorously defends his economic record, blaming the

Sunak could preempt any challenge by threatening to call a general election which should take place before January 2025. He has the power to decide the date and has indicated that they would take place in the second half of 2024.

Sunak became Prime Minister in October 2022 after the short-lived tenure of his predecessor, Liz Trusswho left office 49 days after a budget of unfunded tax cuts that roiled financial markets and drove up borrowing costs for homeowners.

His chaotic – and traumatic – leadership compounded the Tories’ woes following the circus surrounding his predecessor Johnson, who was forced to resign after being put on trial for lying to Parliament about lockdown breaches at his Downing Street offices.

Nothing Sunak has attempted to do appears to have changed the political situation, with Labor consistently ahead by 20 percentage points in opinion polls, which would, if it resulted in a general election, lead to a landslide victory comparable to that obtained by Tony Blair in 2017. 1997.

Whether anyone else can do better is one that could occupy the minds of nervous Conservative lawmakers in Parliament as the weekend approaches.

News Source : apnews.com
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