Local elections: Lib Dems benefit as voters snub Tories and Labour | Politics News
Voters have turned away from the two main parties in a sign the public is fed up of the Brexit turmoil at Westminster.
Local elections across England saw both the Conservatives and Labour lose control of councils, following a significant swell in support for the Liberal Democrats and the Greens and independent candidates also enjoying success.
More than 8,400 council positions were up for grabs across 248 English local authority areas on Thursday, with Northern Ireland also electing 462 seats in 11 councils.
As ballots were counted into the early hours of Friday, it became clear Jeremy Corbyn had failed to make the inroads that might have been expected of an opposition leader eyeing up 10 Downing Street.
By 6am, Labour had lost more than 60 seats and control of three councils – Hartlepool, Wirral and Bolsover – although they gained control of Trafford.
Labour shadow minister Dawn Butler admitted it was a “tough set of elections” for the party, but stressed the Brexit chaos had caused “very unusual times politically”.
The Conservatives shed control of 13 councils with the loss of more than 250 seats.
But Theresa May appeared to have avoided the complete bloodbath she might have feared, as her party gained control of Walsall and North East Lincolnshire councils.
The majority of Thursday’s elections in England were last contested in 2015, the same day as that year’s general election when David Cameron won a surprise House of Commons majority for the Tories.
Conservative MP Chris Philp claimed his party had done “unusually well” four years ago and explained his party’s performance as coming at a time when it is “trying to resolve the most difficult constitutional issue in living memory”.
The biggest winners from Thursday’s elections were the Lib Dems, as they gave the strongest sign yet they are recovering at a local level from their 2015 near-wipeout.
The party gained control of five councils, in North Norfolk, Bath and North East Somerset, Winchester, Chelmsford, Hinckley and Bosworth, and Cotswold – the latter five gained from the Conservatives.
The party’s Brexit spokesperson Tom Brake MP told Sky News: “We’re probably on track to have the best result that we’ve had, certainly for the last 15 years or so. So it’s a great night for us.”