Britain’s governing Conservative party made significant gains in local elections across the U.K., early results showed on Friday, in what was largely viewed as a bellwether for June’s snap general election.
British voters headed to the ballot box Thursday to elect thousands of local-level government seats throughout the U.K. with less than five weeks to go before turning out once again to potentially elect a new prime minister.
As of 12 p.m. London time, the Conservatives had accrued more than 786 council seats, a net gain of 215, and would assume control of at least 10 local authorities, according to the BBC. Meanwhile, Labour, Britain’s center-left opposition party had the control of five authorities and 517 council seats, a net loss of more than 159 on Friday morning.
U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May and her ruling Conservative government appeared on course for a sweeping victory on June 8, early local election results suggested.
Outcome could be seen as ‘foregone conclusion’
In April, May announced a sudden change of mind to hold a surprise general election, seeking to take advantage of her opponent’s perceived weakness in the polls and strengthen her mandate in order to begin Brexit talks with the European Union with more political freedom.
John Curtice, Professor of Politics at Strathclyde University, told CNBC he expected the Conservatives to win by a “landslide”.
May’s Conservatives currently boast a runaway lead of around 48 points, according to the latest opinion poll by Kantar research firm, while support for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour stood unmoved at 24 percent.
However, the results from Thursday’s regional elections do not necessarily act as a direct proxy for next month’s general election. Typically, the governing party could expect to lose ground to opponents when the electorate cast their vote on a national scale.
“There is a danger that voters will consider the outcome a foregone conclusion and turnout (next month) could be low, maybe around 65 percent,” Larissa Brunner, analyst for Western Europe at think-tank Oxford Analytica, told CNBC.
Key litmus test
A key litmus test for May ahead of the general election could prove to be how the Conservatives perform in Scotland – a traditional stronghold for Labour now almost completely dominated by the Scottish National Party (SNP). Polls show the Conservatives could win more seats in Scotland in the national election than it has held for decades, Reuters reported.
Several authorities, including all of those in Scotland would only begin counting votes on Friday.
Here’s how the UK local elections offer a taste of what’s to come in the national vote – CNBC