UK's Main Parties Punished in Local Elections Amid Brexit Fury

Britain's two major political parties have both fared poorly in local elections.

The results, seen as an indication of Brexit sentiment by some, saw smaller parties profit on the back of Conservative and Labour losses.

Voters in England appeared to have punished both UK Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservative Party and the Labour opposition, as local council election results emerged on Friday.

Both parties, which pledged to carry out Brexit in their 2017 election manifestos, appeared to have suffered badly, with almost half of council results declared.

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While the Conservatives lost by far the most seats, shedding more than 400 local councilors, Labour dropped more than 50 when they had been hoping to make gains at the Conservatives' expense.

The loss of seats meant the Conservatives had lost control of at least 16 councils, while Labour relinquished its control over at least three.

The Conservatives lost most heavily in southern England, where it is traditionally strongest, while the Labour Party had its worst setbacks in its northern strongholds.

Both parties had expected a difficult night, with many voters unhappy at the way each has handled Britain's exit from the European Union.

Brexit has proved a particularly divisive issue for Labour, whose membership is largely pro-Remain but whose leadership is filled with euroskeptics and whose post-industrial heartlands in the North, Midlands and Wales voted strongly in favor of leaving the EU.

The party is split over whether it should support a second referendum that could see Brexit canceled — thus alienating pro-Leave voters — or continue to support Brexit to the chagrin of Remainers.

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Meanwhile, a large number of Conservative voters are thought to have stayed away from the poll in protest at Britain's exit from the EU being delayed.

The biggest surge in support went to the pro-EU Liberal Democrats, traditionally seen as the third-biggest political force in England, with the Green Party and independents also making gains. Both the Liberal Democrats and Greens have declared themselves in favor of a second referendum.

Absent from the ballot was former UKIP party leader Nigel Farage, whose new euroskeptic Brexit party is expected to prosper from Conservative losses at the European elections later this month.

More than 8,000 seats were being contested on local councils, which are responsible for day-to-day decisions about how local services, including waste management and education, are provided.

While there were also some council elections in Northern Ireland — where results were expected later on Friday — there were none in Scotland and Wales.

You can read this story as it originally appears at Deutsche Welle here.

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This article originally appeared at Deutsche Welle.