LONDON (AP) – Britain’s Conservative Party endured a drubbing from voters on Friday in local elections that delivered a warning to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government, and a boost to the opposition, as a national election approaches.
The left-of-centre main opposition Labour Party made gains that raised its hopes of winning a nationwide parliamentary vote that is due by the end of 2024. Labour leader Keir Starmer said “we are on course for a Labour majority at the next general election”. The Conservatives acknowledged it had been “disappointing” election for the party.
With almost all the results from Thursday’s voting in, the Conservatives had lost more than 1,000 seats in elections for more than 8,000 seats on 230 local councils across England.
Before the vote, the party had used the 1,000 figure as a reasonable worst-case scenario.
The right-of-centre party lost control of more than 40 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 more than 500 seats and won control of several new councils, while the centrist Liberal Democrats also made gains and grabbed control from the Conservatives in Windsor, an affluent town west of London that is the location of royal residence Windsor Castle.
There were also surprise wins for the environmentalist Greens.
The BBC projected that if the results were replicated nationally, Labour would have a nine-point lead, likely enough to form a government, and possibly win an outright majority of seats in Parliament.
While many contests turned on local issues such as potholes and garbage collection, voters appeared to punish the Conservatives for the turmoil that engulfed the party under former prime minister Boris Johnson.
He resigned amid multiple scandals and was replaced by Liz Truss.