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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s party suffered major losses in the early results of Thursday’s local elections, in a vote many observers say is a referendum on the embattled leader and his Conservative party, the New York Times reported.
Early results showed the Conservative party fared badly in the capital, London, losing the boroughs of Wandsworth and Westminster – the latter of which they have been holding for nearly 60 years.
The election results are expected to punish Johnson and his Conservative party for soaring costs of living and a scandal over parties in Downing Street that flouted strict Covid-19 lockdown rules.
Johnson is currently facing three probes over a series of gatherings that took place at government offices and the prime minister’s residence during strict coronavirus lockdowns. Last month, police fined Johnson and other officials for violating the rules, making him the first sitting prime minister punished for breaking the law, according to the Washington Post.
Parliament is also investigating whether Johnson “knowingly misled” lawmakers about whether the parties violated government lockdown rules.
Though local elections have no direct impact on the government’s fate, many consider them a litmus test for the prime minister’s popularity.
Opinion polls show that Johnson has seen a dip in popularity and “likability” with a majority of Brits saying he should resign. Meanwhile, Conservatives are behind the opposition Labour party by five to eight percentage points depending on the opinion polls.
Even so, analysts noted that the Labour party might still struggle to win certain areas, including the so-called “red wall” regions in north and central England. These areas have historically voted Labour but largely supported Brexit and turned toward the Conservatives in the 2019 general election, the Times reported separately.