UK local elections | Setback for scandal-weakened Boris Johnson

(London) Undermined by the ‘Partygate’ scandal and rising prices, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party emerged weakened from Friday’s local elections, which also heralded a historic turning point in Northern Ireland.

Posted at 6:46 am
Updated at 9:30am

Sylvain PEUCHMAURD with Jitendra JOSHI in Belfast
Media Agency France

Mid-term air hole or beginning of the end for the Conservative leader? The renewal of 200 local councils in England, Wales and Scotland on Thursday resulted in a sharp backlash at the Tory ballot box, but without the collapse some feared after the cascading revelations about Downing Partys Street during confinement that brought the head of government one fine.

The slow count began on Friday morning with very symbolic victories for the Labor opposition, which in London won Westminster councils, controlled by the Tories since its inception in 1964, Barnet and Wandsworth, the ex-Prime’s ‘council darling’ Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Outside the capital, and particularly in the working-class areas of central and northern England, which the party must win back if it is to come to power, Labor Party gains are more limited.

Overall, the Conservatives lost 11 councils and more than 200 seats, while Labor won seven councils and more than 120 councillors, according to results that have not yet been finalised.

Boris Johnson spoke of “mixed” results. He conceded a “rough night” for Tories on Thursday in some areas but claimed to be making progress in others.

Encouraged by the results in London, Labor leader Keir Starmer hailed a “watershed moment”: “We have sent a message to the Prime Minister Britain deserves better,” he said, before tweeting: “Change starts now”.

“No strong signal”

These elections, traditionally characterized by very local issues and low turnout, showed for the first time the impact of the Downing Street bank holiday scandal during lockdown.

The Conservatives, who have been in power for 12 years, have also been criticized for their insufficient support for budgets choked by inflation, which is expected to exceed 10% in the coming months.

Though the popularity of Boris Johnson, 57, who will soon be three at Downing Street, has collapsed in recent months, he has weathered the storm so far, highlighting his leading role in Western support for Ukraine and saying he is determined stay in power and fight for the general elections in 2024.

Despite the Tories’ “poor showing” in the election, Open University political scientist Simon Usherwood believes the prime minister is not under immediate threat. “The signal is not strong enough to convince many MPs that it is time to get rid of Johnson,” he told AFP.

For Labour, the party is also being spoiled by the launch of an investigation by police into Keir Starmer, who is suspected of breaking health codes for sharing beers and curries with his team during an election campaign in late April 2021. What put him in a tricky position, he repeatedly asked the Prime Minister to resign in the “Partygate”.

danger of paralysis

In Northern Ireland, where the 90 elected members of Stormont’s local assembly are being renewed, the count could continue on Saturday or even beyond.

A political earthquake looms: polls give Sinn Fein the lead in a local assembly, strained since Brexit, for the first time in a hundred years of provincial Britain.

A win by Sinn Féin, the former political showcase for the paramilitary organization Irish Republican Army (IRA), would promote its vice president, Michelle O’Neill, to the post of head of local government, to be run jointly by nationalists and unionists 1998 peace agreement.

It would usher in a possible redefinition of the UK: the party advocates reunification with the Republic of Ireland, even if it has sidelined that aspiration in favor of social issues.

The risk of political paralysis looms. The previously leading trade unionists of the DUP tie their participation in a new executive to “decisive action” by the government in London, as their leader Jeffrey Donaldson repeated for them on Friday in view of the corresponding threat of post-Brexit customs controls the provincial location within the United Kingdom .

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