Saturday 4 May 2019 2:00 AM UTC
LONDON May 4: Britain’s two main political parties, the ruling Conservatives and the Opposition Labour Party, suffered a severe Brexit bruising as local election results poured in from around the country on Friday.
The Liberal Democrats celebrated a major boost to their figures as voters overwhelmingly used the polls, to elect local councillors in nearly 250 councils across England and Northern Ireland, to punish the main parties for failing to find a solution to the ongoing Brexit uncertainties.
Smaller parties like the Green Party also gained hundreds of seats, but the far-right pro-Brexit UK Independence Party (UKIP) lost much ground.
British Prime Minister Theresa May, who is facing renewed calls to resign, appeared at a Conservative party conference as the damaging results continued to pour in and admitted that voters had sent the “simple message” that her party and Labour had to “get on” with delivering Brexit.
“These were always going to be difficult elections for us and there were some challenging results for us last night, but it was a bad night for Labour too,” she said, amid chants of “out, out, out” from the audience.
“I just don’t think we can continue like this. We need change, we need a change of leadership. Perhaps the time has now come for that,” said Priti Patel, a prominent Brexiteer and former Indian-origin minister in May’s Cabinet.
Speaking in Greater Manchester, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said he had “wanted to do better” and conceded that voters who disagreed with the party’s backing for Brexit had deserted Labour.
“I wanted us to do better, of course. We’ve lost some seats across the country… Some of them were local factors, some of them were people probably disagreeing with both parties on attitudes towards the European Union,” he said.
Lib Dem leader Sir Vince Cable described the outcome for his anti-Brexit party as a “brilliant” result, adding that “every vote for the Liberal Democrats is a vote for stopping Brexit”.
“Voters have sent a clear message that they no longer have confidence in the Conservatives. But they are also refusing to reward Labour while the party prevaricates on the big issue of the day: Brexit,” said Cable, who has been actively campaigning for a second EU referendum to end the current Brexit deadlock.
Some newer parties, such as anti-Brexit Change UK and Nigel Farage’s new Brexit Party, were not contesting the local elections but will join the fray in the May 23 European Parliament elections, during which they are expected to appeal to a lot of the electorate disgruntled over Brexit.
The UK has been forced to contest the EU elections after it failed to meet two previous Brexit deadlines, of March 29 and then April 12.
It must now come up with a parliament-backed plan to exit the 28-member economic bloc by October 31, while the main political parties still remain deeply divided over the nature of this exit.
On Thursday, elections took place for 248 English councils, six mayors and 11 councils in Northern Ireland. It was the biggest set of local elections in England’s four-year electoral cycle, with more than 8,400 seats being contested and a further 462 seats up for grabs in Northern Ireland.
There were also elections taking place for 47 unitary authorities and 33 metropolitan boroughs which look after education, public transport, policing and fire services, as well as all the services of district councils.
The complete results will be announced by the end of Friday, but the decisive defeat of the main political parties was the consistent picture up and down the UK.
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