Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative Party lost more than 30 seats in yesterday’s local elections as voters increasingly backed the U.K. Independence Party, which gained more than 40 seats in early results.
With counting continuing, the Tories lost control of two councils in Essex, to the east of London. UKIP, which campaigns for a British withdrawal from the European Union and a reduction in immigration, made gains in towns including Basildon and Southend. Cameron’s party also lost Peterborough, north of the capital.
The opposition Labour Party won seven seats, with results from 12 out of 161 councils across England declared at 2:30 a.m. local time. More than 4,000 seats were being decided. Cameron’s coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats, lost more than 12 local lawmakers.
The elections, which coincided with voting for the European Parliament, are a test of support for Cameron’s coalition government just under a year before the next general election. They will also be seen as a sign of how ready opposition leader Ed Miliband’s Labour Party is to push for a return to office four years after the ousting of former Prime Minister Gordon Brown in 2010.
Tony Travers, who studies local elections at the London School of Economics, estimated last week that the Conservatives may lose as many as 200 council seats and the Liberal Democrats as many as 350, given the state of opinion polls. Labour is set to gain 400 to 500 seats, with UKIP adding as many as 75.
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