Monday 25 March 2019

May to push for hard Brexit after election gains

Theresa May addresses Conservative members during a visit to Finchley, London
Theresa May addresses Conservative members during a visit to Finchley, London

Anna Mikhailova

British Prime Minister Theresa May has been urged to pursue a "no compromise" Brexit after the Tories saw off Jeremy Corbyn's challenge with a stronger-than-expected local election result.

On what Mrs May described as a "strong night" for the Conservatives, her party made gains across the country, including London, as Leave supporters backed the prime minister and Labour's predicted clean sweep in the capital failed to materialise.

With the Labour leader facing questions over whether "peak Corbyn" has now been and gone, Tory grandees claimed Mrs May had a stronger mandate than ever to press ahead with a clean break from the EU.

The Liberal Democrats, the only major party with an anti-Brexit agenda, made the biggest net gains, putting pressure on Labour to rethink its confusing Brexit policies by offering stronger opposition to the UK government's stance.

The Conservatives gained control of four councils largely thanks to a total collapse in support for Ukip.

In Barnet, there was clear evidence of voters from the area's large Jewish community turning their backs on Labour after the party became embroiled in allegations of anti-Semitism.

Mr Corbyn sought to put a brave face on overnight results which saw Labour pick up more than 50 seats but gain control of only one council, in Plymouth in the south-west.

Meeting activists in the Devon city, Labour's leader denied his party has passed the moment of "peak Corbyn".

"No, no, there is much more to come and it's going to get even better," Mr Corbyn said.

"If you look at the overall picture, Labour gained a lot of seats across the country, we gained a lot of votes in places we never had those votes before."

Labour sources described their results as "solid", saying it had consolidated advances made at last year's election.

But the impact of its underwhelming performance was amplified by a failure to damp down expectations of victory in Tory strongholds which have not voted Labour in decades.

Other dramatic scenes in the capital saw Liberal Democrats gain 25 seats in Richmond to regain control of the Remain-backing borough for the first time in eight years.

Ukip's general secretary Paul Oakley compared his party to "the Black Death" as he struggled to find positives in a night of virtual wipeout.

Irish Independent

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