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Tuesday, 18 February 2020

Conservatives make strong gains in UK local votes

Reuters , Friday 5 May 2017
uk
Ballot papers are sorted during the West Midlands mayoral Election count in Birmingham, Britain May 5, 2017 Reuters
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Britain's governing Conservative Party made strong gains in local elections on Friday, suggesting that Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit strategy is winning over voters who should hand her an easy victory in a parliamentary election on June 8.

Early results in the polls, which voters often use as an opportunity to protest against the ruling party, showed May's Conservatives had gained more than 100 council seats and secured victory for their candidate as mayor for the West of England.

The main opposition Labour Party lost control of councils in Wales, but the biggest losses were suffered by the anti-EU UK Independence Party, which has struggled to find a new footing since the vote to leave the European Union last June.

By calling an early national election for next month, May has made the local votes a gauge of her leadership, and many of her Conservative candidates have campaigned in recent days using her campaign mantra of "strong and stable leadership".

But turnout was low and the Conservatives were careful not to overplay their expected victory next month, which could reshape the British political landscape for years to come.

"(They are) encouraging results but I am cautious about predicating the general election on them," Defence Minister Michael Fallon told BBC radio.

The opposition Labour Party also played down its losses, with Labour finance spokesman John McDonnell saying that despite it being "tough ... it hasn't been the wipe-out that some people predicted or the polls predicted".

The early results suggested that May's Conservatives had taken votes from both Labour and UKIP, signalling that her bid to position her party in the political centre ground and take a strong stance on Brexit may be paying dividends.

Opinion polls give May a runaway lead in the national election on June 8 of around 20 percentage points, which could hand her more than 100 more seats in parliament and bolster her hand in divorce negotiations with the EU.

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