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Local British Election Losses Hit PM Blair's Labor Party


Britain's ruling Labor Party has suffered local election losses in England and Wales and a swing to the pro-independence Scottish National Party in Scotland. Prime Minister Tony Blair is widely seen as the reason behind Labor's electoral downturn. For VOA, Tom Rivers reports from London.

Analysts say a government out of touch with the electorate over Iraq has translated into a large loss for the Labor Party in local elections in England, Scotland and Wales.

Projections show that the Conservatives took 41 percent of the vote nationally, with the ruling Laborites winning about 27 percent.

In balloting for municipal councils, Labor lost hundreds of seats. The vote apparently signals widespread disquiet that many blame on Prime Minister Blair and his decision to go into Iraq, considered a major part of his legacy.

Where there are losers, there are also winners. The Conservatives, the main opposition party, gained hundreds of local council seats and are back on top by a significant margin.

Conservative Party leader David Cameron says it points to a strong run in the next general election.

"There is no doubt that the government is unpopular," he said. "It has run out of steam. It is very tired. It is divided. There is no doubt that that has had an impact but you know, the votes do not have to come to the Conservatives, they can go to other parties but I think we have shown in our defense of the National Health Service and our championing of the environment and the changes we have made to the party, getting it back into the center ground, that it is there for people and we have won positive support."

Trying to make the most out of poor results, Mr. Blair says his party's numbers were not as bad as some had predicted.

"I think that yes, of course, it is a mid-term, you always take a hit in the mid-term," he said. "But these results provide a perfectly good springboard to go on and win the next general election."

While acknowledging the wide gap, Mr. Blair says the numbers can be turned around before the next general election.

"I think people will understand that if we could come from worse results in 2004 and go and win a general election, there is no reason why we cannot go on and do that," he said. "Now, we have got to work hard and should not be complacent about it. We have got masses to do, a lot of big challenges ahead, but I think that for those people who said we were going to get hammered, it has just not turned out like that."

The vote comes a week before Mr. Blair says he will announce when he will formally resign as prime minister. Political observers expect the prime minister to step down by July and be replaced by Finance Minister Gordon Brown.

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