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Labour loses local councils to Tories

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown faces increasing criticism within his Labour party as initial results of local elections revealed major gains for the Conservative party on Friday.

world Updated: May 02, 2008 12:16 IST

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown faced increasing criticism within his Labour party as initial results of local elections revealed major gains for the Conservative party.

The Conservative party had gained control of six councils, according to initial results by 6.30 am (IST), while the Labour party had lost power in two councils.<b1>

The elections are Brown's first major electoral test since assuming office in June 2007. Over 4,000 local council seats are at stake amidst dwindling support for Brown within Labour and the opinion polls.

Labour insiders fear that the party could lose up to 200 council seats. The result of the key London mayor election is expected by Friday evening.

Political observers and Labour MPs admit that Labour would fare badly, but the question everyone asking is, how bad the final results would be for Labour.

In all, 4,023 seats are up for election in England and Wales on Saturday. The last time most of them were contested was in 2004 when Labour lost 412 councillors and slumped to 26 per cent of the vote.

Commentators believe that Brown's goal is to beat last year's result of 27 per cent of the vote. He will have limited reason to cheer if he hits 28 to 30 per cent, while more than 30 per cent would be a triumph in the face of adversity.

Anything less than 27 per cent will raise questions about when Brown will join former Prime Minister Tony Blair in retirement.