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PM May faces test of power as local polls open in UK

Friday, May 04, 2018

London: Local polls for council and mayoral seats opened yesterday across England, the first electoral test for Prime Minister Theresa May since the snap general election last year. May's Conservative Party in June last year suffered a major blow in the election after it failed spectacularly to maintain its majority in Parliament, creating new uncertainties ahead of the Brexit negotiations.

The local elections, covering over 150 local authorities, spanning metropolitan and district councils, unitary authorities and London boroughs, will prove a crucial test for her Conservative party-led government as the first reflection of public opinion since the snap general election in June last year. May was among the first politicians to turn out to vote.

The Conservatives, Labour and Lib Dems, as well as other smaller parties and resident groups will battle it out to either keep hold of or take control of around 4,371 seats in the country. Watford, Hackney, Newham, Lewisham and Tower Hamlets areas of London will elect mayors and the Sheffield City Region will choose its first-ever mayor. The majority of councils will declare votes overnight after polling closes at 10 PM (local time), but some will release results during the day tomorrow.

There are no local elections taking place in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, with a parliamentary by-election for the Westminster seat of West Tyrone in Northern Ireland the only poll outside England.

Five councils will also be trialling a voter ID scheme to crackdown on electoral fraud. It could lead to a wider roll-out of the scheme in future elections if proved successful. May walked with her polling card alongside husband Philip May to vote at Westminster's Methodist Hall, near her 10 Downing Street office-cum-residence.

Opposition Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn gave the cameras a thumbs-up as he posed outside his local station in Islington, north London.

Both parties have suffered bad publicity in recent weeks, with the Tory government criticised over the ongoing Windrush immigration scandal and Labour struggling with anti-semitism allegations. A strong showing in the local elections will be seen as a sign of public opinion on issues such as immigration and Brexit, nearly a year after the Tories lost their majority in Parliament following the June 2017 general election. - PTI

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