Voters set to punish May’s Conservatives over Brexit delay

More than 8,000 council seats up for grabs in local elections across England

British prime minister Theresa May tours the Leisure Box while on the local elections campaign in Brierfield, Lancashire. Photograph: Reuters

British prime minister Theresa May tours the Leisure Box while on the local elections campaign in Brierfield, Lancashire. Photograph: Reuters

 

English voters were expected to use local government elections on Thursday to punish prime minister Theresa May’s Conservative Party over its failure to deliver Brexit, revealing a divided and dissatisfied electorate.

More than 8,000 seats on English councils – administrative bodies responsible for day-to-day decisions on local policy from education to waste management – are up for grabs in the first elections since Britain missed its March 29th Brexit date.

The results will paint a picture, albeit an imperfect one, of how that has affected support for Mrs May’s Conservatives and the opposition Labour Party.

Some observers were predicting a low turnout, amid concern many people are increasingly disillusioned with politics.

The Conservatives were forecast to lose hundreds of seats, and, according to one analysis, the final toll could top 1,000. Labour was expected to make gains, as were the pro-Remain Liberal Democrats.

“We think the Conservatives are suffering because of their incapacity to sort out the mess they’ve made of Brexit,” said Luisa Porritt, a Liberal Democrat councillor. “Voters also seem to be starting to make the connection that the Conservative-run government is cutting the grant funding available to local government, which is impacting on public services.”

A poor showing for the Conservatives could heap more pressure on Mrs May to resign, showing that the deep dissatisfaction with her handling of Britain’s EU exit extends beyond party members into the wider population, angering both those who want to leave and those who want to stay.

“Never did I think a time would exist where I’d get abuse from Conservatives for telling Conservatives to vote for Conservatives, but here we are,” said Stephen Canning a local councillor campaigning for the Conservatives in a pro-Brexit part of south-east England.

Mrs May has been unable to persuade parliament to approve her plan for leaving the EU, forcing her to ask Brussels to extend Britain’s membership until October. She has turned to Labour in search of a compromise that could get enough support, but how, when, and even if, Britain will leave the EU remains unclear.

The first results were due to be released in the hours after polling closed at 10pm on Thursday. – Reuters