Great Britain is turning right, with the incumbent left-wing Labor Party losing heavily in the Thursday local elections. The first unofficial results place the Labor in third place, far behind the leading Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.
The Labor Party won some 24 percent of the vote, the worst result in over 40 years. Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who replaced popular Tony Blair a year ago, admitted that it was a “bad night” for his party. “This has been a disappointing night, indeed a bad night, for Labor. We have to listen and learn from that and then we will move forward,” said the premier at a press conference held on Friday morning. According to the uncompleted outcome, the Labor Party lost 291 seats in 159 councils while the Conservative Party gained 232 more seats than four years ago. The centrist Liberal Democrats recorded an increase of 29 seats.
One of the greatest blows to the Labor was delivered in London, the party’s long-time stronghold. The capital’s incumbent Mayor Ken Livingstone, who ran for the third term, will probably have to leave his office in city hall as partial results project conservative Boris Johnson as the winner in the tight race. Johnson, dressed in black shorts and a light sweater for his morning jogging, told journalists that he was confident about the final outcome. As if to confirm his optimism, the Times newspaper reported one bookmaker already “paying out on a Johnson victory.”
The same optimism could be felt in all municipal councils where the Conservative Party won the majority. “The reason we did well is that we listened to the people of Bury,” a Tory politician of the northern town of Bury told the London Times. The results confirmed the earlier predictions that the Conservatives would win all but one seat in this traditionally Labor city. It was the first victory for the Tories there in 22 years. “We have worked really hard on this election so it feels very good to have won control of the council.”
Most British newspapers admit that such a brilliant victory of the Conservative Party was possible due to the charisma and strength of David Cameron, a young leader who is regarded as the conservative version of Tony Blair. In less than two years he has turned the ossified party into the most riveting political force in Great Britain. For millions of voters Cameron appears to be everything that Prime Minister Brown – a Scottish scholar – is not: straight-forward, honest and sociable. Even immigrants from Central and Eastern Europe who has arrived in Great Britain in droves since their countries joined the European Union four years ago cast their votes for the Tories, rather than support the Labor Party as they had done in the last general election.
The Thursday elections were the first test for Gordon Brown who came to power after Tony Blair secured the record fourth term for the Labor Party. But although the prime minister failed it, it is very unlikely he would make place for someone else. “Gordon will want to stay and I don’t think he’s movable, but he’s got to change,” one Labor politician told the Times. “The view is we’re stuck with him, for better or for worse.”