— Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives suffered heavy losses in local government elections as British voters punished the government for unpopular austerity measures that failed to avert a double-dip recession, early results showed Friday.
Cameron hopes a likely win for his party’s larger-than-life London mayoral candidate, incumbent Boris Johnson, will soften the blow, but there was no mistaking the message from voters to the Conservatives and their Liberal Democrat coalition partners.
With results declared in more than half of the local councils being contested across the country, the opposition Labor Party had gained 457 councilors while the Conservatives had lost 274 and the Liberal Democrats 127.
According to a BBC projection, this would amount to a 39 percent share of the national vote for Labor, up 3 points since the last local elections in 2008 when they were in government and fared very badly. The Conservatives were seen down 4 points on 31 percent, with the Lib Dems unchanged at 16 percent.
As well as the council elections, three cities including London were electing mayors while 10 others were holding referendums on whether to have elected mayors — one of Cameron’s cherished policies aimed at boosting local democracy.
But voters in Manchester, Bradford, Coventry and Nottingham rejected the idea of an elected mayor and the omens did not look good for Cameron in Britain’s second largest city, Birmingham, where referendum results were not yet out. Labor also seized control of the Birmingham council, results showed on Friday, after eight years of joint Conservative-Liberal Democrat control.
British governments often experience mid-term dips in popularity. However, a strong presence in local councils is a key platform from which to build success in parliamentary polls.
Having failed to win an outright majority in the last such polls, in 2010, Cameron needs to do better in 2015 for the Conservatives to have a chance of forming a government without back-up from the beleaguered Liberal Democrats. Friday’s results were not helpful for the Conservatives in that respect. — Reuters