British premier blames global crisis for local election losses (Lead)

May 2nd, 2008 - 9:53 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Gordon Brown
By Dipankar De Sarkar
London, May 2 (IANS) British Prime Minister Gordon Brown Friday blamed the gloomy global economic climate after his party suffered its worst election losses in four decades and the opposition Conservative Party made deep inroads into Labour strongholds in the provinces of England and Wales. After 12 years in power, Labour took the third place behind the Conservative Party and Labour in its share of votes in elections to local authorities.

With results declared for 146 out of 159 local councils Friday evening, Labour had lost nine councils to take control of 15, while the Conservatives wrested 12 to be in charge of 60. The position of the Liberal Democrats remained largely unchanged, with the party forming the majority in 11 councils.

Speaking in Downing Street, Brown admitted that Labour had suffered a “bad night.”

“My job is to listen and to lead. We will learn lessons, we will reflect on what has happened and then we will move forward,” he said.

He blamed “difficult economic circumstances” for much of the bad performance, and claimed that measures taken by the government to counter problems would become clear “over the next few months”.

“I think people want to be assured, and indeed people are questioning and want to be assured that the government will steer them through these difficult times.”

But there were no calls for replacing Brown - rather a demand for a change in the government’s style of functioning.

Analysts said Labour’s share of votes - 24 percent, compared to the 44 percent for the Conservatives and 25 percent for the Liberal Democrats - was its lowest since the 1960s.

More than 4,000 seats on 159 councils were up for grabs in Thursday’s elections, as well as the London mayoralty and assembly.

The result of the high-profile mayoral battle - chiefly between Labour incumbent Ken Livingstone and his Conservative rival Boris Johnson - was set to be declared Friday night GMT.

Friday’s results were described as the best for the Conservative party since its general election victory of 1992, and almost identical, in the reverse, to the outcome of council elections in 1995 - when the Conservative party was drubbed by Labour, which then went on to win the next general elections.

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