Voters head to local elections as Tories brace for big losses

Conservatives fear they will be fined for Partygate saga as Keir Starmer’s Labor tries to rally support

Prime Minister Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson’s Tories are expecting big losses in town halls across the UK as voters go to the polls in local elections.

Polling stations have opened, with town hall seats in Scotland, Wales, London and many parts of England, and Northern Ireland is electing its new assembly.

Millions of voters are expected to cast ballots to choose the local representatives who wish to operate services and facilities in their area.

Conservatives fear they will pay the price for the Partygate saga at Downing Street, which saw Prime Minister and Chancellor Rishi Sunak fined for breaching coronavirus laws.

Tory Party leader Oliver Dowden wanted to emphasize to voters the local choice they are making amid reports some candidates had tried to distance themselves from Westminster during the election campaign.

In a statement at the opening of polling stations, Mr Dowden said: “Today’s election is about one thing: who do you want to lead on your council?

Union leader Keir Starmer


AFP via Getty Images)

“The choice couldn’t be bigger – between Conservatives who keep council taxes low and serve well, or the opposition parties who squander money on political shenanigans and vanity projects.”

Education Secretary Michelle Donelan argued that Mr Johnson was “an asset, not a liability” in elections.

Ms Donelan told Sky News she could “understand” why the councillors’ hopefuls wanted to show they will be “working hard on all the things that impact daily life” rather than focusing on what’s happening in Westminster happens.

Tory supporters are likely to be anxiously awaiting the results in real London local authorities like Wandsworth – under Conservative control for 44 years – Westminster and Barnet, where pollsters YouGov believe Labor could stir things up.

Labor leader Keir Starmer used his campaign appeal to highlight the “constant drip of filth and scandal” in Mr Johnson’s government.

As well as Partygate, the Tories have been plagued by a range of controversies, including former Wakefield MP Imran Nasir Ahmad Khan, who was found guilty of sexually assaulting a teenager, and veteran MP Neil Parish, who quit after admitting , having seen pornography in the House of Commons.

Mr Starmer said the government had “consequently” flouted the Covid regulations it had enacted and that the Tory’s “failure” to deal with the cost of living crisis had been a “shame” along with the Chancellor’s decision to close the state increase insurance last month.

Mr Starmer wrote in the Daily Mirror: “The British public should not have to put up with a government that refuses to take seriously the very real problems you and your family are facing.”

There have been Tory calls for Durham Police to investigate whether the opposition leader broke Covid rules while campaigning ahead of the 2021 Hartlepool by-election.

But the Labor leader said it was “slander” to claim he broke the rules while “having a snack and a beer while I was working late at night”.

Sir Ed Davey, leader of the Liberal Democrats, said voters on Thursday had a chance to “send Boris Johnson a message he cannot ignore”.

“Conservatives have failed to deal with the cost of living crisis, voted to pollute our rivers and shut down our ambulances,” he said.

“Whether it’s Somerset or Stockport, Winchester or Wimbledon, St Albans or South Cambridgeshire, I’ve spoken to lifelong Conservative voters who feel completely taken for granted by a law-breaking Prime Minister and a tax-raising Chancellor.”

The Lib Dems are hoping to stir things up in Hull by taking it out of Labor’s control while battling for victory over the Tories in places like Wokingham and Sutton.

In England, more than 4,000 councilors are standing for election on 146 councils in major cities including Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham and all 32 London boroughs.

All 32 councils in Scotland and all 22 in Wales also hold elections, with polling stations open between 7am and 10pm.

Meanwhile, tensions ran high in Northern Ireland ahead of the Stormont general election, which will see voters in 18 constituencies go to the polls to elect 90 MLAs.

Opinion polls have indicated that Sinn Fein is likely to lead the poll, with the Alliance Party forecast for a rise in support.

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