Polls close in local election test for Government

Polls have closed in local elections that were predicted to deliver a political blow to Prime Minister Theresa May.

The contests across England and Northern Ireland came as the Government was engulfed in controversy following the dramatic sacking of Gavin Williamson as defence secretary.

Mrs May has also been under fire from Brexiteers for delaying the UK’s exit from the EU until the end of October.

The Tories fought the elections amid predictions the party could lose more than 800 seats.

Prime Minister Theresa May (David Mirzoeff/PA)
Prime Minister Theresa May (David Mirzoeff/PA)

Elections took place in 248 English councils outside London, and 11 local authority areas in Northern Ireland.

There were also polls for six elected mayors in Bedford, Copeland, Leicester, Mansfield, Middlesbrough and the new North of Tyne devolved regional authority.

Close to 60% of the 8,425 seats that were in play in England were Conservative, with a quarter held by Labour.

The last time a majority of the seats were fought over in 2015, the Tories were on an electoral high as they secured their first Commons majority since 1992 on the same day.

Most of the electoral battles took place in the Tory shires or Labour strongholds in northern cities, limiting the prospects for large-scale gains by Jeremy Corbyn’s party.

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

The results are unlikely to be a guide for European elections scheduled for later in the month, as neither Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party nor the Remain-backing Change UK fielded candidates.

However, Brexit was believed to have played a major role in the elections.

Conservatives were concerned Leave-backing supporters would stay at home or switch to Ukip in anger at Mrs May’s failure to deliver Brexit on time on March 29.

Councils to watch include Dudley, Trafford and Derby, where Labour could gain overall control, and Swindon, Great Yarmouth, Redditch and St Albans, where control could slip out of Tory hands.

The Liberal Democrats hoped to seize Winchester.

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