4th May was not a good day for David Cameron, with his Conservative party losing 405 council seats in the mid-parliamentary local elections. Coalition partners the Liberal Democrats hardly fared better, losing 336 seats, as voters expressed their displeasure at the government’s handling of Britain’s problems. Meanwhile, opposition party Labour reaped the rewards, with 823 new councillors across the country.
However, it would appear that apathy is the prevailing emotion amongst British voters, with the BBC reporting turnout to be only around 32%. Britain’s continuing economic problems - the economy is back in recession, and growth is poor- have led to disenchantment with the coalition, but it would seem that many people do not see Labour - or indeed, anyone else - as a viable alternative.
There was also worrying news for British Europhiles, as the UK Independence Party, who want the UK to leave the EU, gained its best ever result in local elections, averaging 13% of the vote in seats they contested.This led to Tory backbenchers claiming that David Cameron has not been “conservative” enough, and needs to take a firmer stance on Europe, amongst other things.
But any further move to the right by the Prime Minister would surely cause friction with his coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats. Cameron’s vetoing of the EU fiscal treaty late last year led to angry reactions from senior Liberal Democrats, including the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.
These are tough times for the British Prime Minister. The British electorate are dissatisfied, and Labour’s star seems to be rising. As he attempts to win back public support, he must try to appease two very different camps in his backbenchers and his coalition partners. And he will be fully aware that in the last year alone, 10 EU governments have either collapsed or been voted out of office. The economic crisis has not been kind to incumbent leaders, and he will be hoping against all hope that things have greatly improved when Britain next goes to the polls in three years time.