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Has handling of Brexit penalised Conservative and Labour parties in local elections?

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Has handling of Brexit penalised Conservative and Labour parties in local elections?
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REUTERS/Phil Noble
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Britain's two biggest parties — Conservative and Labour — suffered big losses in Thursday's local elections in England and Northern Ireland, according to partial results.

With just over half the results declared, the Conservative Party had lost 551 councillors and Labour had lost 73 councillors, according to a BBC tally.

The biggest winners were the Liberal Democrats who had gained 354 councillors at the time of writing. Independent candidates gained 251 councillors and the Greens won 68 seats.

The votes could be an indicator of the countrywide disagreement over how Brexit has been handled by the Conservative government. Analyists predicted that anti-Brexit parties, like the Liberal Democrats, would pick up more seats.

More than 8,000 seats on English councils — the administrative body in charge of daily decisions on local policy — are available, while 462 are up for grabs in Northern Ireland.

No local elections were held in Scotland and Wales.

Robert Hayward, a polling specialist and former Conservative MP, told Reuters he expected the Conservatives to lose more than 800 seats, the Liberal Democrats to gain more than 500, and Labour to pick up fewer than 300.

John Curtice, a British poll expert, told the BBC: "We knew that voters were unhappy with the way that the Conservatives had handled Brexit but it looks as though they are also unhappy with Labour's response to the government's position on Brexit.

"The hold of the Conservative and Labour parties on the British electorate is frankly looking now as weak as it has done at any point in post-war British politics," he added.

The full results will be available later on Friday.