The British municipal elections on May 5th represent a test of the popularity of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party, under pressure due to the cost of living crisis and the prolongation of the “Partygate” scandal, Lusa reported today.
London, United Kingdom | Although what is really at stake in the elections are local problems such as the state of the roads, cleaning of the streets or the functioning of services, the collection of garbage, some voters should take the opportunity to send a “message” to the Government about the national political situation.
In England, 4,360 seats will be contested in 146 municipalities, in Scotland there will be 1,227 seats in 32 localities and in Wales 1,200 seats will be voted on in 22 municipalities.
In Northern Ireland, all 90 seats in the Legislative Assembly are up for grabs, elected by each of the 18 constituencies.
Local elections in England are held almost every year, but in different municipalities. At last year’s venues in England, the Conservatives gained 235 more seats and the Labor Party lost 327, but this year the opposition party has a lead in the polls.
The post-pandemic economic crisis, exacerbated by the war in Ukraine, is weighing on the cost of living, especially on energy, fuel and food prices, coinciding with the increase in taxes to plug the budget hole caused by the health expenditure created by the Covid-19. Britons are on the cusp of the biggest drop in living standards since the 1950s, according to the Resolution Foundation, and could push 1.3 million people across the UK into poverty in the coming months.
In addition, Boris Johnson is suffering from the strain caused by the “Partygate” scandal related to the disregard by government officials of restrictions to control the pandemic, including at the prime minister’s official residence, in Downing Street.
Johnson, wife Carrie and Finance Minister Rishi Sunak were fined by police, who continue to investigate more “parties”, and parliament decided to open an inquiry to determine whether the head of government lied to MPs when he denied any wrongdoing.
Despite the war in Ukraine, the scandal managed to gain space on the media agenda, causing more and more discomfort within the Conservative Party due to voter discontent.
Although this is a different set of elections for 2021, as most seats are occupied by workers, it will still be a test of Boris Johnson’s leadership.
Johnson’s value as an electoral asset will be put to the test in traditionally conservative counties in London, such as Wandsworth and Barnet, and in other parts of the country, such as Harlow, Southampton, Newcastle-under-Lyme or Thurrock.
Some polls indicate that the Conservative Party could lose more than 800 seats in total. Political scientist Tony Travers admits that this has unleashed a “revolt” in the Conservative Party, if enough MPs see the results as a threat to their own re-election in the next legislative, to take place by 2024.
“It all boils down to the question: will I keep my seat? If they consider that the prime minister no longer guarantees that this happens, he is in trouble,” said the professor of political science at the London School of Economics.
However, adds Sara Hobolt, an academic at the same institution, Johnson is in favor of the fact that no potential succession candidate stands out today.
The Labor Party has in these elections the challenge of recovering voters lost to the “Tories” in the north and central regions of England because of “Brexit” in the 2019 legislative and to give credibility to the aspiration of leader Keir Starmer to come to power.
Although attention in England is focused on the test of strength of the “Labour” and the “Tories”, these elections are also important for the Liberal Democrats, who want to restore at the local level support lost in recent years.
Local elections are also an opportunity for the Greens, smaller parties and independent candidates to “shine” and win some seats, which at the national level is more difficult due to the simple majority electoral system.
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