Boris Johnson’s leadership faced fresh pressure on Friday after his Conservative Party lost more than 260 parliamentary seats and control of 11 authorities in UK local elections.
But the opposition Labour Party’s gains were overshadowed by a statement by Durham Police that it was investigating a “potential breach” of Covid-19 rules during a rally for leader Sir Keir Starmer in April 2021.
Labour has seized the prime minister’s two flagship parliaments in London: Westminster, the Conservative stronghold since 1964, and Wandsworth, the former prime minister Margaret Thatcher. Beloved, run by the Conservative Party since 1978.
While Starmer’s party also won the borough of Barnett, little progress has been made in the traditional “red walls” of northern England, giving Johnson some respite.
Electoral expert Sir John Curtis told the BBC that Labour’s results were not enough to indicate that Starmer would have a majority in the next general election, and outside of London Labour’s performance in the same parliamentary election was “actually down slightly. “. 2018.
Elsewhere, the Conservatives lost to the Liberal Democrats, who opened a second front against Johnson in some of the wealthier “Blue Wall” seats in southern England, while the Conservatives braced for a major loss in Scotland .
When the results came in, local Tory leaders turned to Johnson. John Mullinson, the Conservative leader of the Carlisle Council, said after Labour won the new Cumberland power: “I just think people no longer have the confidence that the Prime Minister can be counted on to tell the truth.”
After weeks of campaigning, many Conservatives are frustrated by national events – including the “Partygate” scandal and reports of sexual misconduct by Tory MPs – that have cost them votes.
Nearly 150 councils, including all 32 London boroughs, held votes across England on Thursday. Parliamentary seats in Scotland and Wales are also up for grabs, while a key election is also held in the Northern Ireland parliament, with the first results expected later on Friday.
Conservative MPs will scrutinise the results for any sign that Johnson, who has been heavily criticised for his party line and his handling of the cost of living crisis, has been permanently damaged as party leader. Several MPs urged the prime minister to raise his standards.
On Friday, Johnson said it was a “mixed result” but stressed he wanted to focus on issues such as building new infrastructure, increasing renewable energy and hiring more nurses.
“It’s been a tough night for the Conservatives in some parts of the country, while in other parts of the country we’re actually moving forward,” he told Sky News.
“I think the lessons I’ve learned . . . we have to keep working on what’s important and keep delivering on our agenda.”
Johnson is one of dozens of government figures fined by police for holding rallies during the Covid-19 lockdown, prompting Starmer to call for his resignation.
However, Starmer found himself in the spotlight on Friday after Durham Police issued a press statement saying it had received “important new information” about the Labour party’s rally in Durham on April 30, 2021.
Activists, including Starmer, went to their offices at 10 p.m. to order beer and curry, though leaders insisted it was a short work break.
“It was concluded at the time that no crime had been established,” the force said Friday afternoon. “Now, after the pre-election period, we can confirm that an investigation is underway into potential Covid-19 breaches related to this rally.”
Labour’s relatively poor performance outside the capital will give Johnson some political breathing room, although fellow Conservative Lord Gavin Barwell has called the London result “a disaster”.
The election is a huge test for Starmer, who needs to show that Labour is taking back ground from the Conservatives in the north and wants to overtake the Conservatives as the main opposition to the Scottish SNP.
Labour’s campaign chief Shabana Mahmood said: “This is a turning point. After a disastrous 2019, these early results show the progress we have made under Keir’s leadership.”
In about half of the results, the Lib Dems are making decent gains. Sir Ed David’s party has seized the northern city of Hull from Labour and taken control of the new united Somerset council. The Greens are also making progress across the country.
Sinn Fein appears poised to deliver on its predictions of a historic election victory in Northern Ireland that would mark the first time in the region’s century-old history that a nationalist party committed to Irish unity has outperformed unionists.
The centrist Coalition Party also believes it has shown a strong showing, underscoring the fact that many voters no longer accept Northern Ireland’s traditional tribal unionism and nationalist divisions. Full results are expected to be released throughout Friday and the weekend.
If pre-election polls are correct, a win for Sinn Fein would put the Democratic Unionist Party, the largest force dedicated to preserving the region as part of Britain, in second place behind a longtime Republican paramilitary IRA linked political parties. .