Theresa May′s Conservatives beat expectations in England elections | News | DW | 04.05.2018
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Theresa May's Conservatives beat expectations in England elections

An anti-Semitism row plaguing the opposition Labour Party has dented its hopes for widespread gains. Meanwhile, the pro-Brexit UKIP has all but disappeared from local councils across England.

British Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservative Party performed better than expected in local elections in England, according to partial results published on Friday.

Analysts described the local elections as a bellwether for May's government as it navigates the UK's departure from the EU.

With 95 out of 150 councils declared, the Conservatives had gained two councils and lost three, while the opposition Labour Party had gained one and lost two. The Conservatives also made gains in Brexit-supporting regions.

Read more: Brexit: What's the 'no deal' fallout for the UK and EU?

The Conservatives managed to hold Wandsworth council, which was targeted by an ambitious Labour Party campaign. The council is considered a Tory stronghold — one of very few within the Labour-dominated capital London — since former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's time in office.

The UK Independence Party (UKIP), considered the force that pushed the Conservatives into calling the 2016 Brexit referendum, lost 86 seats, continuing its implosion since the public vote on EU membership. The Liberal Democrats, considered the only British party to oppose Brexit, made significant gains, claiming more than 40 seats in local councils.

Anti-Semitism haunts Labour

Labour's national campaign coordinator, Andrew Gwynne, said that their defeat in Barnet, a London borough they had previously won from the Tories, was due to an anti-Semitism row that has engulfed the opposition party.

"We have got a job to do to rebuild trust and confidence with the Jewish community across the country," Gwynne, who also serves as a shadow communities minister, told BBC Radio 4. "There are so many Jewish people who do share Labour's values."

Read more: UK's Labour shedding traditional voters

From lawmakers to Jewish interest groups, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has been criticized for failing to curb anti-Semitism among his supporters and even within the party — the most notable example being former London Mayor Ken Livingstone.

Labour's Adam Langleben, who lost his seat in Barnet, told The Guardian newspaper that Corbyn had planned to visit the borough on Saturday for a victory speech, but that has changed now.

"We want him to come to Barnet anyway, to apologize to Jewish Labour activists, to Barnet Labour and to the Jewish community here so we can start the healing process," said Langleben.

Jeremy Corbyn at a polling station

Even Labour lawmakers have called on Corbyn to do more to uproot anti-Semitism from the party

ls/msh (Reuters, AFP)

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