LONDON – Britain’s ruling Conservatives suffered losses in their few London strongholds in local elections, according to results announced on Friday, which will put more pressure on Prime Minister Boris Johnson amid ethics scandals and a deteriorating economic picture.
The vote for more than 200 local councils will decide who picks up rubbish and fills potholes across the country, and is also seen as an important barometer of public opinion ahead of the next national election, which is due by 2024.
The main opposition Labor Party, in power nationwide since 2010, gained control of Wandsworth, Barnet and Westminster, three boroughs of London long held by the Conservatives.
With results from around half of England announced on Friday morning, Labor had not made major gains outside the capital, particularly in northern England’s working class – areas Johnson had successfully courted in the 2019 general election.
Conservative Party leader Oliver Dowden acknowledged the results in London were “difficult” but said the “more mixed picture” elsewhere showed Labor lacked the momentum to win the next general election.
Labour’s national campaign coordinator, Shabana Mahmood, argued that the results showed Labor was laying a solid foundation to regain power.
“Labour is making progress… taking over key Conservative councils and winning on key parliamentary battlefields across the country,” she said.
Results from the rest of England and all of Scotland and Wales are still pending. In Northern Ireland, voters are electing a new 90-seat assembly, with polls suggesting that Irish nationalist party Sinn Fein could win most seats and the post of First Minister in what would be a historic first.
The election campaign was marked by rising food and fuel prices that caused household bills to skyrocket.
Opposition parties are urging the government to do more to ease the cost of living crisis – fueled by the war in Ukraine, the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic aftershocks of Britain’s exit from the European Union. Both Labor left of center and the centrist Liberal Democrats support a windfall tax on energy companies that have reported record profits amid soaring oil and gas prices.
Johnson’s Conservative government argues that taxing big companies like Shell and BP would prevent much-needed investment in renewable energy, which is key to meeting Britain’s climate commitments.
The election also comes after months of turmoil for Johnson, during which he became the first prime minister to be sanctioned for breaking the law while in office. He was fined £50 ($62) by police for attending his own surprise birthday party in June 2020, when lockdown rules banned social gatherings.
Johnson has apologized but denies knowingly breaking the rules. He faces further fines for other parties – police are investigating a dozen gatherings – and a parliamentary inquiry into whether he misled lawmakers about his conduct.
The Prime Minister is also faced with dissatisfaction within his own party. A poor result could prompt Conservatives to try to replace Johnson with a less battered leader.
Dowden, the party leader, acknowledged there had been “challenging headlines in recent months”.
“But I think, in contrast to all that, these challenges that you would expect after 12 years in office, these are challenging results, but we’ve made progress on a lot of points,” he told Sky News.
“Labor is certainly not on the path to power and I believe Boris Johnson has the leadership, particularly the energy and momentum, that we need at this difficult time.”
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https://www.local10.com/news/world/2022/05/06/uk-conservatives-lose-london-strongholds-in-blow-to-johnson/ British Conservatives lose their strongholds in London in a blow to Johnson