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Blair pays for Iraq in local polls

June 11, 2004 21:46 IST

The ruling Labour Party in Britain on Friday suffered heavy reverses in the local elections inĀ England and Wales with several city councils changing hands as voters gave a stinging rebuff to Prime Minister Tony Blair for his Iraq policy.

Elections were held for 6,084 seats in 166 city and local councils across England and Wales as also for the London Mayor and for the European Parliament.

Lastest results show Labour losing on 215 seats, while Conservatives gaining on 108 seats. Britain's third largest party, the Liberal Democrats, which opposed the Iraq war tooth and nail gained 62 seats.

Home Secretary David Blunkett said the war had "split" the party.

"I'm mortified that we're not doing better than we have done. The feeling has been that Iraq has gone wrong," Blunkett told BBC. "As things come right, so people's perception of whether we were right or wrong will change."

Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell too linked the Labour setback with Iraq.

"Iraq is certainly a factor. There is clearly a strong protest vote and we have to take account of what people are telling us," she said.

Adding to Blair's woes was the election result projection by the BBC, which showed Labour being pushed to the third place with just 30% vote. The Conservatives lead the BBC prediction with 38 per cent vote, while the Liberal Democrats come second with 30 per cent voteshare.

H S Rao in London
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