British voters have shown their anger against the Conservative-Liberal Democrats’ coalition government’s failure to revive the economy in local elections.
The Conservatives were outflanked on the left by Labour Party and on the right by the anti-European fringe party, UKIP.
Labour gained 32 councils and 800 seats, while the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats lost hundreds of councillors nationwide.
David Cameron, UK prime minister, blamed the defeat on the “difficult times” facing Britain after it slipped back into a recession last week.
“There aren’t easy answers,” Cameron said, referring to the seats lost by the Conservatives to Labour in the rural constituency he represents in parliament.
“What we have to do is take the difficult decisions to deal with the debt, deficit and broken economy that we have inherited.”
Labour well placed
Labour said the results were a wake-up call for the government to soften its flagship deficit-cutting agenda, as the party made huge gains in England, Scotland and Wales.
With most results in, Labour was projected to end up with a 38 per cent national share of the vote, up three points, with the Tories down four on 31 per cent.
The Liberal Democrats’ projected national share of the vote was estimated to be unchanged at 16 per cent, but the overall turnout was only 32 per cent.
Conservative Party’s Boris Johnson won a second term as mayor of London on Friday. But the bigger story was the potential damage to the Conservative party’s electoral prospects at national level.
“People are hurting, people are suffering from the recession, people are suffering from a government that has raised taxes for them and cut taxes for millionaires, I think that’s what we saw last night,” Ed Miliband, Labour Party leader, said.
Clegg ‘really sad’
Nick Clegg, deputy prime minister and Liberal Democrats’ leader, said he was “really sad” that so many Lib Dem councillors had lost their seats.
“I am determined,” he said, “that we will continue to play our role in rescuing, repairing and reforming the British economy.”
Britain’s return to recession was bad news for a government that has staked its reputation on economic competence.
Two years into a painful austerity drive, a recent cut in the income tax rate for high earners upset millions struggling with high unemployment, above-target inflation and weak wage growth.
UKIP, which stands for UK Independence Party, was contesting only a fraction of the total seats up for grabs but where it did field candidates, it averaged a record 14 per cent of the vote.
This translated into just eight councillors because UKIP’s support is geographically scattered, which makes it hard for the party to win any individual ward.