UK Conservatives lose key local councils as Boris Johnson’s troubles bite – POLITICO

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LONDON – Boris Johnson’s Conservatives have lost control of key councils in London and southern England as the Labor Party claimed the local elections were a “watershed moment”.

The local polls are seen as a litmus test for Johnson’s mid-term leadership as he grapples with a cost-of-living crisis and the Partygate scandal.

Labor took control of Wandsworth and Westminster – traditional Conservative strongholds in the capital – while the Liberal Democrats took control of Hull in north-west England and won a number of seats in the south-west.

With dozens of local authorities yet to issue statements, Labor national campaign coordinator Shabana Mahmood hailed “a turning point” that shows “electorates have put their faith in the change that Keir Starmer’s Labor represents”.

All has not been rosy for the opposition, however, as they have lost share of the vote compared to 2018 in the North and Midlands, where they need big wins in the next general election to take power at the national level.

A Conservative Party official admitted the Tories were facing “difficult” competition in London but insisted it was “a bad night for Labor in the rest of the country”.

Voters also went to the polls in a central Northern Ireland Assembly election and in Scottish local elections, but those results will not be announced until later on Friday.

Local Conservative leaders attributed their losses to both the cost of living crisis and the leadership of Johnson, who has faced ongoing questions about his integrity over the long-running Partygate scandal.

Ravi Govindia, leader of the Tories in Wandsworth, said “other events have inevitably clouded the judgment of the people of Wandsworth” and admitted that “the problem of Boris Johnson” was raised during the election campaign.

Royston Smith, a Conservative MP in Southampton, where the party also lost control of the local council to Labour, urged the Prime Minister and Chancellor to do more to help people with the pressures of rising inflation and energy bills to get the household budgets ready.

Conservatives were more positive about their fortunes in the North East and Midlands, with a party official pointing out that Labor had “gone backwards” in places like Sunderland, Hartlepool, Nuneaton and Sandwell.

Robert Jenrick, a former Cabinet minister, said the results did not indicate that “people are flocking to Keir Starmer’s banners” or that Labor is on track to win the next general election.

Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader Daisy Cooper claimed her party was “making progress across the country”, citing good results in Colchester in Essex, south-west London and Gosport in Hampshire, as well as taking control of Hull.

The Green Party made headway, winning seats in South Tyneside in the North East and Wirral in the North West.

The city of Bristol has voted to abolish its directly elected mayor, a position introduced a decade ago.

Turnout fell by an average of 2.5 percent compared to last year’s local elections, but John Curtice, a professor of politics at Strathclyde University, said there was no evidence it had disproportionately hurt the Tories. UK Conservatives lose key local councils as Boris Johnson's troubles bite - POLITICO

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