Britain: Fad Tories avoid defeat in local elections

by Andrew MacAskill

LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Conservative Party lost two strategically important parliamentary seats, results showed on Friday, but unexpectedly retained Boris Johnson’s former constituency – in a blow to the Labor opposition.

These local elections were seen as an indicator of the prospects of the two main British parties ahead of the next year’s general election.

The ruling party retained the Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency, a suburb of the capital, with fewer than 500 votes, after Boris Johnson resigned as deputy last month.

It is a relief for Rishi Sunak, who thus avoided becoming the first head of British government in more than five decades to lose three local elections on the same day.

Since taking office last October, Rishi Sunak, a former investment banker and former finance minister, has been trying to restore the Conservatives’ credibility after months of economic chaos, repeated strikes and political scandals that forced Boris Johnson to leave Downing Street. Johnson’s successor, Liz Truss, resigned after only six weeks due to economic turmoil.

The Conservative Party feared three defeats in as many elections, in terms of persistent inflation, economic stability, increases in taxes and lending rates, among others.

However, the two seats lost on Thursday evening were in constituencies traditionally favorable to the Conservatives: one in rural northern England where they have recorded strong results in the past, and the other in the south-west, the usual conservative bastion.

In the north, in the constituency of Selby and Ainstey, Labor won by 4,000 votes, a success they presented as a historic reversal, while the Conservatives had won there by a margin of over 20,000 votes in previous legislative elections.

The Liberal Democrats managed to win the constituency of Somerton and Frome, where another Tory MP had quit following an alleged sexual assault and cocaine use scandal.

According to noted political analyst John Curtis, given these local results, it is unlikely that the Labor Party will win a majority at the next general election.

Labor’s defeat in Uxbrigge reflected the party’s “potential weakness” in the election, while the Tories, he said, were weak in parts of southern England.

(Reporting by Andrew MacAskill; French edition by Jean Terzien)

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