Britain awaits local election results in test for PM

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LONDON, May 5: Results of Britain’s local elections are due on Friday in what will serve as a key indicator of Prime Minister Theresa May’s chances in next month’s Brexit-dominated national election.

Voters across England, Scotland and Wales went to the polls on Thursday to choose nearly 5,000 new local councillors, in the shadow of campaigning for the surprise June 8 general election and bitter discussions over Britain’s departure from the European Union.

While local issues are usually the main influencer in such polls, May’s decision last month to call a snap general election ensured her own record and Brexit would be on voters’ minds Thursday.

The prime minister has styled herself as offering the most stable leadership to take Britain through two years of tough Brexit negotiations, and she took aim at Brussels on the eve of the local elections.

Speaking outside her Downing Street office on Wednesday, May accused Brussels of toughening its stance in statements “deliberately timed to affect the result of the general election”.

Brussels was quick to dismiss the claims, with EU President Donald Tusk on Thursday cautioning against letting “emotions get out of hand” before formal negotiations are due to begin after Britain’s June vote.

European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker’s chief spokesman dismissed May’s comments as electioneering.

“We are not naive. We know there is an election taking place in the United Kingdom,” Margaritis Schinas said on Wednesday.

While May’s hardened rhetoric has raised tensions with Brussels, she will be hoping it will also translate into local votes for her Conservative Party and serve as a boost ahead of the general election.

The Conservatives already have a strong lead in the polls ahead of the June vote, with a YouGov poll of 2,066 adults on Tuesday and Wednesday for The Times newspaper putting the ruling party on 48 percent.

The main opposition Labour party are on 29 percent, followed by the Liberal Democrats on 10 and the UK Independence Party on five ahead of the general election.

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