London: Britain’s Conservative Party endured big losses in early results from local elections being viewed as a test of support for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government as a national election approaches. The opposition Labour Party and Liberal Democrats made significant gains.
The Conservatives acknowledged it had already been “a disappointing night” as ballots were counted from Thursday’s voting. The bulk of results were due later Friday.
Labour leader Keir Starmer said “we are on course for a Labour majority at the next general election,” though the scale of the party’s surge wasn’t yet clear. The left-of-center opposition party hopes the results will confirm its front-runner status for a general election that is due by the end of 2024.
With about a third of results in, the Conservatives had lost more than 250 seats in elections for more than 8,000 seats on 230 local councils across England. The right-of-center party lost control of several councils, including Medway in southeast England, which it had run for a quarter-century, and the naval city of Plymouth in the southwest.
Labour gained about 150 seats and won control of at least three new councils, while the centrist Liberal Democrats grabbed control from the Conservatives in Windsor, an affluent town west of London that is the location of royal residence Windsor Castle.
Sunak said that “it’s always disappointing to lose hard-working Conservative councilors.” But he insisted that “in terms of the results, it’s still early.” The results aren’t a complete snapshot of the UK. There were no elections in London, Scotland or Wales, while Northern Ireland will vote on May 18.