Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservative Party made major gains in local elections across Britain on May 4, suggesting a comfortable victory for the Tories in next month's general election. Usually, it is opposition parties that do well in local elections, as voters punish power holders for unpopular policies. But despite being in government for seven years, last week the Conservatives won their biggest share of the vote in local elections since 1992. Is May a political mastermind? No. Her victory owes more to the collapse in support for the UK Independence Party (UKIP) and the chaos that continues to engulf the main opposition Labour Party.
Although local results cannot perfectly anticipate the outcome of a national election, last week's ballot certainly bodes well for May's chances of improving her current parliamentary majority of 17 in the general election on June 8. But May's prospects are not as rosy as they first appear.
Despite gaining 563 new councilors, compared to Labour's loss of 382, the Conservatives received just 38 percent of the vote. Academics suggest that this would translate into a majority of approximately 48 in next month's general election, far short of the landslide victory predicted by much of the Tory-leaning British press. Yet even a modestly improved majority would be enough for May to steamroller her version of Brexit and her domestic reforms through Parliament. As Britain tackles the titanic task of negotiating its departure from the European Union, it needs a strong parliamentary opposition, not least to represent the 48 percent of voters who did not support Brexit in the 2016 referendum.