Malcolm Turnbull is not ruling in or out supporting more independent candidates in forthcoming election contests, noting he has resigned from politics “but I haven’t resigned as an Australian citizen”.With a New South Wales state byelection looming in the upper Hunter, Turnbull has urged voters to support independent candidate Kirsty O’Connell – who has been upfront about the inexorable decline of the coal industry as a consequence of climate change – rather than a National party candidate.Given there will be a federal election this year or next, Guardian Australia asked Turnbull whether the recent endorsement was a pattern that might continue beyond the current NSW byelection contest later this month.The former prime minister said it was premature to speculate, but he reserved his right to express views. “As I said in my book, I resigned as prime minister, but I have not resigned as an Australian citizen,” Turnbull said.“I wouldn’t rule anything in or out, and I wouldn’t expect anyone else to be ruling things in or out at this point. It will depend on the issues and how parties and candidates deal with them at the time.”Turnbull – who lost the Liberal party leadership first in 2009 because of his support for emissions trading, and again in 2018 amid a rancorous internal debate about a policy that would have driven emissions reductions in the electricity sector – has been accused by the state Nationals leader, John Barilaro, of engaging in conduct that is “nothing short of treachery”.But Turnbull says this is nonsense. “Whenever I say anything which is critical or different from the government’s policy, I’m immediately accused of being bitter or seeking revenge.”He said there was a tendency among some Australian politicians and commentators on the centre right to resort to “personal abuse” and “thuggery”, rather than reflecting on the substance of various issues or the merits of various causes. He said the reaction to his support for O’Connell was a “classic example” of that problem.Turnbull said his intervention in the byelection contest wasn’t part of any “grand political strategy”. He said he was deeply committed to the region of the upper Hunter, being a longstanding property owner in the electorate. He noted his father was buried at the family property.He said he was entitled to express his views as a citizen without having the interventions interpreted through a prism of whether he was “threatening [Scott] Morrison’s leadership” or being disloyal to Coalition colleagues in the state legislature.Turnbull has publicly backed calls for a moratorium on new coalmine approvals in NSW, warning they are devastating the landscape, shortening lives by reducing air quality and – given declining global coal demand – potentially leaving taxpayers with a huge remediation bill.The former prime minister was appointed earlier this year by the Berejiklian government as the chair of the Net Zero Emissions and Clean Economy Board.But that appointment was later revoked following his comments.Turnbull’s appointment had been approved by the Berejiklian cabinet, but it was publicly questioned by Barilaro after Turnbull backed the moratorium on new coalmines and mine expansions in the state, triggering negative coverage in news outlets owned by News Corp.Barilaro declared: “Under the NSW government there will be no moratorium on coal in the upper Hunter or anywhere else in the state.”If O’Connell wins the byelection on 22 May, rather than the National party candidate, the Gladys Berejiklian-led Coalition government will be forced to govern in minority.Addressing that point in a post on Facebook, Turnbull said: “Gladys Berejiklian is a great friend and, most importantly, a great premier. I know that Kirsty O’Connell also admires our premier.“But Kirsty O’Connell knows, as we all do, that Gladys Berejiklian does not have a free hand on coal mining policy. Barilaro is calling the shots.“The truth is that Kirsty O’Connell would be a much more reliable supporter of the Berejiklian government on matters of supply and confidence than Barilaro.Last year, the Nationals leader threatened to end the Coalition during an internal brawl over koala protections imposed in the state.
Glasgow, Scotland – Scotland’s ruling party secured an unprecedented fourth successive term in government on Saturday after cruising to victory in the Scottish parliamentary election.
The pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP) took 64 of the 129 seats up for grabs, just one short of an overall majority, with its nearest rivals, the unionist Scottish Conservatives, taking 31.
The result, which also saw the pro-independence Scottish Green Party secure eight seats, could pave the way for a second referendum on Scottish independence.
Voters across Scotland went to the polls on May 6, but coronavirus restrictions meant that tallying began later than normal.
Counting on the constituency part of the two-section ballot started on Friday, but not until Saturday evening, when the so-called regional lists were also allocated, were the full figures known.
The result means that, just as has been the case for the last 10 years, parties in favour of Scotland becoming a sovereign state outnumber parties which advocate remaining in the United Kingdom.
The SNP, headed by its leader and Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, has now won four of the Scottish Parliament’s past six elections ever since the devolved legislative body was established in the Scottish capital, Edinburgh, in 1999.
This was Sturgeon’s second Scottish Parliamentary victory in her seven years at the helm of the SNP, and will be seen as a vote of confidence in her premiership.
“There is something about the SNP’s mixture of cautious centre-leftness, public duty and Nicola Sturgeon’s leadership that voters like,” Gerry Hassan, a high-profile Scottish political commentator and author, told Al Jazeera.
“It’s no accident that she’s had huge personal opinion poll ratings consistently.”
🏴 The people of Scotland have spoken – it’s an SNP landslide.
✅ Highest number of votes✅ Highest number of constituency seats ever✅ Highest vote share ever in a Scottish election
👇 Once we rebuild Scotland from COVID, there will be an independence referendum. pic.twitter.com/k5Oq4hndh1
— The SNP (@theSNP) May 8, 2021
But wrangling over Scottish independence, rather than domestic policies, appeared once more to drive voters to the ballot box.
Scots rejected independence from the British state by 55 to 45 per cent in a referendum in 2014, but recent opinion polls have seen support for Scottish sovereignty often matching or exceeding support for the Union, and voting preferences have long been tied to Scotland’s constitutional future, especially since Scotland opted overwhelmingly to remain in the European Union in Britain’s 2016 Brexit referendum.
“We have a fresh mandate – the people have voted the SNP in and we will have another referendum because that’s democracy,” SNP candidate Roza Salih, who narrowly missed out on securing a seat on the regional list part of the ballot, told Al Jazeera.
The pro-EU SNP has committed to holding another plebiscite once the current COVID crisis is over.
With the Scottish Greens, the SNP has the numbers to win a vote on the matter in the newly elected chamber, just as the party did in the previous parliament.
But the UK’s Conservative Party Prime Minister Boris Johnson has repeatedly refused to sanction another referendum, with the constitution a reserved matter for the Westminster Government in London, and a tense standoff between the two administrations began even before all the votes were counted.
“We would proceed with the legislation that is necessary, and that would only happen if it was passed by the Scottish Parliament,” Sturgeon told the media.
“If [Johnson] wanted to stop that it would be the case that he would have to go to the Supreme Court to challenge it – and that would be his decision, not mine.”
“What [the SNP and Sturgeon] are looking for is a fight,” Kevin Hague, a Scotland-based entrepreneur, pro-UK campaigner and chairman of These Islands, a pro-union think-tank, told Al Jazeera.
“Because that’s how their grievance machine works. [Sturgeon] does not want an independence referendum any time soon because the people don’t want it and frankly she’d lose it.”
Despite Scotland’s mixed voting system making it enormously difficult to do so, Sturgeon will be disappointed not to have secured an outright majority for her party – something the SNP did in 2011.
But, with a renewed – and hefty – mandate from a record high turnout, the Scottish first minister will likely feel emboldened as she looks ahead to another five-year term in office.
She will also look to put behind her controversies surrounding her predecessor as both SNP leader and first minister, Alex Salmond, which threatened to destroy her premiership.
Once committed friends and allies, Sturgeon and Salmond’s relationship sensationally and publicly broke down after the latter was accused of sexually assaulting several women.
Salmond was acquitted by an Edinburgh court early last year, but Sturgeon has distanced herself from her former mentor whose own attempt to re-enter the Scottish political arena with his newly established pro-independence Alba Party hit the buffers after it failed to win any seats.
Arresting Scotland’s worsening drug crisis, as well as steering the constituent nation out of the current coronavirus pandemic, will be high on the list of Sturgeon’s priorities during her new term in office.
But, as ever, Scotland’s constitutional future will remain front and centre as Edinburgh and London gear up for what will likely be a very bitter showdown.
Good morning. Many of the votes cast on “Super Thursday” are still being counted and today there will be particular focus on Scotland, where the SNP will win – but with its chances of having an absolute majority now looking slim. This is what Prof Sir John Curtice, the leading psephologist, told the Today programme this morning about the state of the contest in Scotland.
There is still a chance but in truth it’s a remote chance. It rests on whether or not the SNP can pick up Galloway and Aberdeenshire West, these two Conservative-held marginal seats, but those do look more like a long shot.
And it also depends on whether or not they can pick up a couple of list seats, one in the Highlands and one in the south of Scotland. But they would need to get at least three of those four seats in their lap and the truth is, on the evidence of what we’ve seen so far, they will be lucky to make it.
So we’re probably not looking at an SNP overall majority.
But there will be a majority of pro-independence MSPs, ie the SNP and the Greens in combination.
Unionists argue that, without an absolute majority, Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP leader and Scotland’s first minister, would find it harder to claim that she has a mandate to call a second independence referendum. But nationalists argue that what counts is having a majority of MSPs in favour of independence and, as Curtice says, this outcome is certain.
Last night Sturgeon said that, with a majority of MSPs backing independence, it would be “absurd” to argue that Scotland should not have a referendum. She said:
If this was in almost any other democracy in the world it would be an absurd discussion.
If people in Scotland vote for a pro-independence majority in the Scottish parliament, no politician has got the right to stand in the way of that.
But Johnson has restated his opposition to allowing one. In an interview with the Daily Telegraph he said:
My impression was that they [the SNP] moved away from the idea of a referendum, and I think very wisely.
Because I don’t think this is anything like the time to have more constitutional wrangling, to be talking about ripping our country apart, when actually people want to heal our economy and bounce forward together. That’s what people want.
However Johnson has not categorically ruled out ever allowing a second referendum, and when the Telegraph asked him if it was true that privately he has said he would never sanction one, Johnson just replied: “I think a referendum in the current context is irresponsible and reckless. Let me leave it at that.”
Today we are expecting this argument to develop as counting continues in Scotland.
But we are also getting another slew of election results for councils and mayoral contests in England, including the elections for mayors in London, Greater Manchester and the West Midlands, and results are still being counted in Wales.
Here is our results tracker with the results so far.
And you can read our entire elections coverage here.
I’m afraid we’re having to launch with the comments turned off, but we should be able to turn them on later.
I try to monitor the comments below the line (BTL) but it is impossible to read them all. If you have a direct question, do include “Andrew” in it somewhere and I’m more likely to find it. I do try to answer questions, and if they are of general interest, I will post the question and reply above the line (ATL), although I can’t promise to do this for everyone.
If you want to attract my attention quickly, it is probably better to use Twitter. I’m on @AndrewSparrow.
Sir Keir Starmer is under pressure from his own party to clarify what he stands for, after Labour suffered a historic defeat in Hartlepool this morning.In-fighting broke out almost immediately after the results were announced, with former shadow home secretary Diane Abbott tweeted: “Not possible to blame Jeremy Corbyn for this result. Labour won the seat twice under his leadership. Keir Starmer must think again about his strategy.”John McDonnell, the former shadow chancellor, told Radio 4’s Today programme the party’s candidate had been sent in “almost naked” and “policy-less”.Lloyd Russell-Moyle, a former shadow minister, attacked the ” valueless flag waving and suit wearing” the leadership had adopted in recent months.Steve Reed, shadow secretary for communities and local government, said the party should accept the results “with great humility”, but insisted Sir Keir was the man for the job.A Labour source said Sir Keir would “take responsibility for these results” and for “fixing” the party’s electoral woes.Follow the latest updates below.09:44 AMHave your say: What is the biggest challenge for Labour?The parties and commentators are picking through the results of yesterday’s elections, and in the main, interpreting them according their long-held view.For the Labour left, it’s proof that Sir Keir Starmer is weak and lacking in policies – and should be more radical.Blairites argue that Brexit and Jeremy Corbyn are still casting a long shadow over the party.But Tories have pointed to a more general paradigm shift in voter patterns: a rejection of Labour’s metropolitan approach in favour of more traditional values alongside a focus on economic security.Story continuesBut what do you think is the biggest challenge? Have your say in the poll below.09:35 AMTrust is ‘a real issue for Labour’ in pro-Brexit seats, says Tory MPA Conservative MP has hit back at suggestions that Boris Johnson has an issue of trust, saying voters have less faith in Labour to stick by their wordRichard Holden, MP for North West Durham, said trust had been raised by voters in relation to “whether Keir Starmer means what he says””It is a real issue around Labour and Brexit – they said in 2017 the would go with it and they didn’t. Keir Starmer was at the forefront of that in 2019 and now he is leader,” he added.”The people here don’t trust Keir Starmer to fulfil what he says he is going to do – that is one of the real issues Labour face here.”09:30 AMLabour reshuffle would be a mistake, says John McDonnellSir Keir Starmer’s office has been too “controlling”, a former shadow chancellor has said.Asked about a possible reshuffle, John McDonnell said it would be “a mistake” to undertake one on the basis of apportioning blame for Labour’s performance in the elections.”The leader’s office has largely controlled the whole nature of campaigning,” he said. “Shadow cabinet members can’t make statement without approval… so to blame them would be unfair.”It would be real mistake as well – you shouldn’t be blaming other people when you have so centrally controlled the campaign.”But he called on Sir Keir to “learn lessons” from previous leaders, to “build a cabinet of left, right and centre”.09:25 AMLabour must be ‘more radical’, says John McDonnellSir Keir Starmer is presiding over a “policy vacuum”, the former shadow chancellor John McDonnell has said.The MP for Hayes and Harlington told BBC News that the Labour leader had been “trading off for quite a while the idea that the party is “under new management” – but if you are saying that, you have got to say what that means in policy terms and what sort of society you want to create.”He called on Sir Keir to set out a “vision” including pledges to abolish child poverty, setting an income guarantee and a jobs guarantee.Mr McDonnell said there was also a “Brexit overhang”, saying: “People voted the way they did in the referendum. Respect that, accept that and move on so we can start tackling the real issues people are facing.”He added that Labour needed to be “more radical than we were in 2019” because of the economic impact of Covid.09:13 AMWhy the UK’s political realignment is a tough nut for Labour to crackLord Mandelson might be blaming the election result on Jeremy Corbyn (again), but Gavin Barwell is having none of it.In a lengthy Twitter thread, the former adviser to Theresa May said the “realignment” in politics is down to more than just the former Labour leader and Brexit.”In many parts of the world, politics is becoming less about economics and more about culture, allowing the centre right to win more working class support,” he says. “The Conservatives have embraced this realignment; it is very hard for Labour to do so.”The whole thread is too long to post here but this gives you a taste:09:05 AMScottish Parliament elections count gets underwayAlex Salmond watches votes being counted for the Scottish parliamentary elections – PAThe elections drama is likely to continue over several days, with counting only just underway in the Holyrood vote.Results are due to come in over two days as coronavirus safety measures ruled out the traditional overnight count.Votes in 46 of the 73 constituency seats began being counted at about 9am, with the first results expected in the afternoon. The P&J Live/Teca arena in Aberdeen was among the first to start counting at 9am on Friday, and Alba Party leader Alex Salmond is at the centre to watch votes being tallied.The remaining 27 constituency seats will be counted from 9am tomorrow, after which the regional seats will be allocated. All results are expected to be declared by Saturday evening.08:52 AMSir Keir Starmer forces a smile as he leaves his homeSir Keir Starmer leaves his home after local elections – ReutersWe can expect a statement from the Labour leader later today.08:41 AMLabour took Hartlepool ‘for granted’, says town’s new Tory MPLabour has taken Hartlepool “for granted”, the constituency’s new Conservative MP has said, following a stunning victory that punches another hole in the Red Wall.The seat has switched from red to blue for the first time since the constituency was created. Jill Mortimer, the Tory candidate, was elected with 15,529 votes to Labour’s 8,589 votes.Ms Mortimer said it was “a tough contest, but one that has been fought with dignity and respect”.In a sideswipe to Labour’s focus on sleaze allegations, her campaign was “based on local issues of real concern to the community here,” she said.”I am immensely proud to be the first Conservative MP in more than 50 years. And not only that, I am the first woman MP to be elected for this town,” she added. “It is a truly historic result and a momentous day.”Labour have taken people for granted too long… people have had enough and now through this result, the people have spoken and made it clear – it is time for change.”08:35 AMTories take control of Dudley councilThe Conservatives have taken control of Dudley from no overall control, at a council where Labour previously had the highest number of seats.With 22 seats declared of the 26 being contested, the Conservatives had taken 21 and Labour just one.Here is how the current tally looks.08:31 AMLabour sent candidate into Hartlepool ‘almost naked’, says John McDonnellJohn McDonnell has downplayed suggestions that Labour needs a new leader, saying Sir Keir Starmer has “got to be given his chance”.But the former shadow chancellor attacked the handling of the Hartlepool campaign, which left candidate Paul Williams “almost naked”.He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Keir’s got to be given his chance and I’ve said that all the way along.”I’m not going to be one of those people treating (him) the way they treated Jeremy (Corbyn) – always challenging him, coups and all the rest… [but] we must never again send our candidates into an election campaign almost naked, without a policy programme, without a clear view on what sort of society you want to create.08:23 AMNumber crunching: Just how significant is the Hartlepool result?Colleagues have been crunching the numbers to understand just how significant the Hartlepool result is today – and the short answer is ‘very’.At 28.7 per cent, this is the lowest vote share for a Labour-affiliated candidate since 1943 – 78 years – when they gained 11.3 per cent of the vote.This is a 16 per cent swing from 2019 to the Conservatives. The Labour vote is down by nine per cent since 2019, and 23.8 per cent from 2017.The Conservative vote is up 23 per cent since 2019 – not as much as the Brexit Party gained in 2019 (25.8 per cent).This is the first time Hartlepool has elected a Tory since 1959, when the constituency was called “The Hartlepools”.With 51.2 per cent, this is the highest vote share for the Conservatives since 1943. Hartlepool voted 69.6 per cent in favour of Brexit – 22nd highest vote out of 650 constituencies08:18 AMBe like ‘Uncle Joe’ and work with left-wingers, Labour MP tells StarmerCorbynite Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle has called on Sir Keir Starmer to bring left-wingers from the party to the top table rather than ‘pillory’ them.The Brighton Kemptown MP, who resigned as a shadow minister last year citing a “campaign by the right-wing media” that had resulted in abusive calls to his staff, tweeted: “If Keir wants to be a ‘British Biden’ he should learn from USA Democrats/”Uncle Joe speaks for woke liberals and blue collar left at same time,” he added.08:03 AMLisa Nandy and Andy Burnham joint favourites to take Labour crownLisa Nandy and Andy Burnham are joint favourites to take the reins from Sir Keir Starmer, after Labour’s dismal performance at the polls.Sir Keir is 4/1 to be replaced this year, although Ladbrokes gives the same odds for him to cling on for another year.Shadow foreign secretary Ms Nandy, who lost out during last year’s leadership campaign, would worry the Conservatives given her focus on towns and her long-standing acceptance of Brexit, which saw her plead with the Corbyn regime not to back calls for a second referendum.Greater Manchester mayor Mr Burnham was seen as a powerful voice for the North during wrangling over financial support during lockdown.The pair are level-pegging to take over, at 8/1 apiece.07:56 AM’Covid and Corbyn’ to blame for election result – not Brexit – insists Lord MandelsonLord Mandelson has claimed Labour’s dismal performance at the polls is down to “the two Cs – Covid and Corbyn”.The Blairite architect of New Labour claimed it was “wrong to obsess over Brexit” as the reason for Hartlepool’s switch to the Conservatives, saying it was more about “social and cultural attitudes” over “normal” economic and class patterns.”As a result of Brexit people are learning new habits of voting in Northern England and elsewhere but believe it or not, not on one door did people raise Brexit with me.”The one thing they did raise with me was Jeremy Corbyn – he is still casting a very dark cloud,” the peer added. “He still gets them going on the doorstep.”07:51 AMJohn McDonnell: Labours Hartlepool campaign was ‘almost policy-less’Former shadow chancellor John McDonnell said the Labour Party went into the Hartlepool by-election campaign “almost policy-less”.The one-time Corbyn ally told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Part of the problem in this election campaign was it was almost – well, in any election you need to have an argument, you have to put up an argument and I think the Labour Party went into this election campaign almost policy-less.”It was like having an argument without putting an argument or a campaign without putting a campaign based upon what you wanted to do or what sort of society you wanted to build or the policies you want to advocate, and they should never ever do that again.”07:48 AM’Lose, lose, lose, lose’: Lord Mandelson sums up Labour’s dire straitsLord Mendelson has put the situation facing Labour starkly.The former Hartlepool MP and one of the architects of New Labour told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme he was “gutted” by the result today.”I also feel a mild fury that the last 10 years of what we have been doing in the Labour party… because that is above all fundamentally the explanation of what has happened today.””Until.. all of these people who were with Jeremy Corbyn leading the party to the worst possible defeat we could have imagined in 2019 grasp the scale of the challenge and transformation it needs to take, we will be here again and again.”We have not won a general election in 16 years… the last 11 general elections read ‘lose, lose, lose, lose, Blair, Blair, Blair, lose, lose, lose, lose'”.07:36 AMDavid Cameron to get grilling over Greensill next weekJust breaking away from election results briefly as the Treasury select committee has announced that David Cameron and Lex Greensill will be giving evidence next week.”The Committee is determined to answer the key question as to whether HM Treasury responded appropriately to the lobbying on behalf of Greensill Capital, including that carried out by David Cameron,” said chair and former Treasury minister Mel Stride.”We also want to establish what lessons there are from Greensill’s collapse for the operation of the financial system… The Committee will want to carefully examine their actions in relation to Greensill Capital and its interactions with HM Treasury.”07:34 AMLabour’s Hartlepool citadel finally toppled by election ‘aftershock’Going, going, gone. Shortly after 7am today, for the first time since its inception as a constituency in 1974, Labour lost control of Hartlepool, writes Joe Shute.Fittingly, the Monster Raving Loony Party candidate on the ballot paper for the local by-election was named “The Incredible Flying Brick”. Because here at the count in Hartlepool’s Mill House Leisure Centre, lay the rubble of Labour’s Red Wall.If the 2019 general election was a so-called “political earthquake”, then according to Jim McMahon, the Labour shadow cabinet member for transport who has decamped to Hartlepool for the past six weeks to lead the campaign, this morning’s result was the “aftershock”.Read more from Joe here.07:32 AMVoters have ‘moved on from Brexit’ to stick with Tories, claims peerToday’s election results demonstrate that voters have “moved on from Brexit” and are backing the Tories more generally, a Conservative peer has said.Lord Hayward said the Hartlepool by-election was a “staggering result”, adding he had “never expected such a large margin”.But he noted local council results were demonstrating a shift away from Labour as “blue collar England moves significantly towards the Conservatives”.Former Labour voters had “moved in two stages”, he told Sky News, firstly in backing Brexit or Ukip.”They have moved on from Brexit in 2019 or earlier and many of them, a very high proprotion, have voted Conservative in this occasion,” he added.07:21 AMLabour defeats will keep coming if party ignores voters, says shadow ministerLabour’s shadow secretary for communities and local government has said his party needs to listen to voters or the “defeats will keep coming”.Speaking on the BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme, Steve Reed said: “We need to respond to this defeat in Hartlepool with great humility. If we do not listen to voters and hear what they’re telling us and change, we won’t deserve to win.”The party, which is renowned for infighting, spends too much time “having battles about which part of Labour’s history you most prefer”, he added.”We need to address the concerns of the British public today and in the future, not in the past – if we don’t do that, these defeats will keep coming.”07:19 AMDefeated Hartlepool candidate congratulates rivalLabour’s defeated Hartlepool candidate Dr Paul Williams has congratulated his rival as he says he is “off to do the important job” of taking his children to school.07:11 AMWill a Leave-backing MP become next Labour leader?Sir Keir Starmer’s claim that “we are all leavers now” appears to have fallen flat – not least because he and Labour’s candidate in Hartlepool are both associated in people’s minds with Remain.So is it time for the party to consider a Leave-backing alternative for leader?One challenge is that some of the more visible Labour leavers such as Kate Hoey and Frank Field have – ahem – left.But Lisa Nandy, who many Tories feared would become leader last year, was critical of attempts to hold a second referendum and has championed the “towns” agenda. Today’s results must put her back in play as a serious contender to take over.07:00 AMLabour frontbencher insists ‘Keir gets it’, following stunning defeatA Labour frontbencher has insisted that leader Sir Keir Starmer “gets” the scale of work required to win back support, despite the defeat in Hartlepool this morning.”Our leadership has changed for the better, but the voters aren’t convinced that Labour has too,” shadow schools minister Wes Streeting tweeted.”This is a huge and urgent task. Keir gets it. So must we.”06:57 AMTories take control of Northumberland councilThe Conservatives have taken control of Northumberland from no overall control after gaining one seat, with Labour losing one.The new council line-up is Conservatives 34, Labour 21, independents seven, Liberal Democrats three and Greens two.Use our tool below to see what the latest tally for local councils is.06:56 AMVoter alienation from Labour runs deep, claims Tory MPVoter “alienation” from Labour runs deep in places like Hartlepool, the MP for nearby Middlesbrough has said.”The attempt to steamroller their vote to leave the EU – led by the likes of Keir Starmer – will not be forgotten or forgiven, and stripped away all illusion that this was their party anymore,” Simon Clarke tweeted.”That alienation is now being compounded by what they see Labour doing – choosing to focus on woke identity politics vs a Conservative government focused on recovery, jobs and growth, and pride in both nation and in place.”The former minister argues that many Labour MPs ” really don’t much like the country they live in”.06:48 AMVoters don’t understand that Labour has changed, says shadow ministerLabour’s shadow secretary for communities and local government has said the party must do more to communicate its change in approach, following the devastating defeat at the Hartlepool by-election.Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Steve Reed said he expected “patchy” results from Super Thursday over the coming days.But while he stressed the reaction on the doorstep was “a lot warmer than it has been in recent years”, he admitted “that isn’t enough if it’s not translating into votes”.Mr Reed said: “I think people understand the leader has changed, they don’t understand the party has changed, because we haven’t yet done enough to prove that.”So the job in front of us all over the next few weeks, led by Keir, will be to get out there, re-engage with the British public, and reconnect our party so that we can show our party can deliver on the aspirations and ambitions that people have for themselves their families and their communities.”06:39 AM’People felt taken advantage of by Labour’, says Tory co-chairThe people of Hartlepool backed the Conservatives because Jill Mortimer’s campaign message “was one of change”, party co-chairman Amanda Milling has said.She told the BBC that “people have felt taken advantage of by Labour”, which is why they opted for the Tories for the first time since the seat’s inception.Ms Milling noted that the Brexit vote was pivotal, saying: “In 2019, the Prime Minister made a promise to get Brexit done and that is what we did last year”. Labour’s candidate Paul Williams was a staunch Remain supporter.06:33 AMStarmer must ‘think again’ about Labour strategy, says Diane AbbottSir Keir Starmer has been told to “think again about his strategy”, after Labour suffered a historic defeat in Hartlepool this morning.Diane Abbott, who was shadow home secretary during Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and a close ally of the former leader, tweeted: “Crushing defeat for Labour in Hartlepool.”Not possible to blame Jeremy Corbyn for this result. Labour won the seat twice under his leadership. Keir Starmer must think again about his strategy.”06:29 AMLabour candidate Paul Williams makes a quick getaway after stunning defeatAfter Jill Mortimer, the newly-elected Conservative MP for Hartlepool, had given her victory speech, the returning officer asked if anyone else wanted a turn at the microphones.None of the other candidates took up the offer.In fact, as my colleague Tony Diver found, Labour candidate Paul Williams could not get out of there quickly enough.06:24 AMHartlepool win a ‘historic victory’, says Matt HancockMatt Hancock has said the Conservative’s Hartlepool win was a “historic victory”.The Health Secretary said he was looking forward to working with new MP Jill Mortimer.06:19 AM’We are going backwards’, says Corbynite Labour MPAn ally of Jeremy Corbyn and former frontbencher has claimed that Labour is “going backwards” after the huge upset in Hartlepool.”Labour’s leadership needs to urgently change direction,” tweeted Richard Burgon.06:17 AMCorbynite group Momentum blasts ‘disaster’ in HartlepoolThe knives are out for Sir Keir Starmer following the stunning Labour defeat in Hartlepool confirmed just moments ago.Momentum, the left-wing Labour group set up during Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, tweeted after the Hartlepool defeat: “This result is a disaster.”In 2017, we won over 50% of the vote in Hartlepool. Now it looks like we’ve lost it to the Tories.”A transformative socialist message has won in Hartlepool before, and it would have won again.”06:09 AMNew Hartlepool MP Jill Mortimer says it is ‘time for change’Jill Mortimer has thanked the police and the council officers for “ensuring today’s election and count went smoothly” in light of the pandemic.She says it was “a tough contest, but one that has been fought with dignity and respect”.Her campaign was “based on local issues of real concern to the community here,” she adds.”I am immensely proud to be the first Conservative MP in more than 50 years and the first woman MP to be elected for this town,” she adds. “It is a truly historic result and a momentous day.”Labour have taken people for granted too long… people have had enough and now through this result, the people have spoken and made it clear – it is time for change.”05:58 AMWatch: Inflatable Boris Johnson outside Hartlepool by-election countA giant inflatable version of the Prime Minister has popped up outside the count in Hartlepool, where the Conservatives are expected to claim victory shortly.The 30ft balloon has been organised by a local businessman.05:56 AMRedditch MP praises ‘incredible result’ as Tories take council from LabourRedditch Tory MP Rachel Maclean has praised the “incredible result” for the party as it won control of the borough council from Labour.”The town have elected local people with massive vision drive and determination. I’m proud to stand with them,” she tweeted.Nuneaton and Harlow have also turned blue – see below for more.05:53 AMWatch: Labour ‘not close to winning’ by-election, concedes shadow ministerThe official result in Hartlepool is yet to be declared, but shadow minister Jim McMahon has already made it clear that Labour does not expect to win.05:49 AM’This started in 2017,’ says Tory MP as Hartlepool looks set to turn blueThe electoral shift from Labour to Conservative in working class heartlands “started in 2017,” a senior Tory MP has said.Tom Tugendhat, MP for Tonbridge and Malling, says the chipping away of the Red Wall pre-dated the election that saw Boris Johnson first sweep to victory.05:38 AMJill Mortimer arrives ahead of Hartlepool resultConservative candidate Jill Mortimer has arrived at the Hartlepool count – the result will be announced imminently.Even wearing a face mask, there is no hiding her delight at what is expected to be a stunning victory over Labour.Conservative’s Jill Mortimer (third from right) arrives at Mill House Leisure Centre in Hartlepool – PAJill Mortimer is expected to be named the new MP for Hartlepool – Reuters05:22 AM’I was 6ft6 when I started this campaign – now I’m 5ft6,’ says Labour councillorA Labour councillor has joked that he has shrunk by a foot in size in his efforts to win votes this campaign, telling Sky News today’s result is “not for want of trying”.05:16 AMSir Keir Starmer to ‘fix’ problems with Labour, party vowsStarmer: Dogged at polling stations – AFPSir Keir Starmer will “take responsibility for these results” in the Hartlepool by-election, a Labour source has said – which is not the same as saying he will resign.In fact, the source makes clear that the leader will be staying put to “fix” the problems.”The message from voters is clear and we have heard it – Labour has not yet changed nearly enough for voters to place their trust in us,” the source said. “We understand that. We are listening. And we will now redouble our efforts.”Labour must now accelerate the programme of change in our party, to win back the trust and faith of working people across Britain.”People don’t want to hear excuses. Keir has said he will take responsibility for these results – and he will take responsibility for fixing it and changing the Labour Party for the better.”05:12 AMKeir Starmer was wrong to believe the Brexit divisions are overWhile Boris Johnson’s personal pulling power is clearly attracting one-time Labour voters to the Tories, questions are being asked about Sir Keir Starmer’s role in what looks to be a dismal night for the party, writes Catherine Neilan.He cannot be entirely blamed for the mess Labour got into under Jeremy Corbyn – although given he was a frontbencher in charge of the party’s Brexit strategy, neither is he completely absolved.In the here and now, however, his judgement in pushing for a Remain candidate in the Leave-backing seat of Hartlepool was surely lacking.Sir Keir has repeatedly argued that the Brexit wars are over, saying “we are all Leavers now”. But it seems clear that for those still awaiting the benefits of the 2016 referendum, those dividing lines linger on.05:04 AMLabour wins first round of Doncaster voteLabour has won the first round of the vote for the mayoral contest in Doncaster.Incumbent Ros Jones has secured 27,669 votes, while Tory candidate James Hart received 17,980.More to follow…05:02 AMCount table ‘groaning under the weight of Tory votes’There is a count table “groaning under the weight of votes for Conservatives” an MP has said, with the results expected to be announced imminently.Robin Millar, the MP for Aberconwy, added: “This is not going to be pretty for Labour – and it’s already begun.”04:59 AMLabour MP bemoans ‘valueless flag-waving’ as election loss loomsA Labour MP has bemoaned “valueless flag-waving and suit-wearing” as the Tories look set to steal the Red Wall seat of Hartlepool.The use of flags has become a bone of contention among the Labour left, after leaked memo revealed that Sir Keir Starmer was looking to shift the party’s strategy to win back the trust of disillusioned voters.04:53 AM’People just think Boris is great,’ admits Labour councillorFor all the post-election analysis, there is one very simple reason for some of the Tories’ success overnight.A Labour councillor has put it succinctly: “People just think Boris is great.”04:50 AMNuneaton MP praises ‘massive effort’ as Tories take council from LabourNuneaton’s MP Marcus Jones has said he is “delighted” after the Conservatives gained control of his local council from Labour.The Conservatives won 13 of the first 14 seats declared this morning.”I’m delighted that @NuneatonMatters and @BedworthTories gained a massive 11 seats and will now take control of @NBBCouncil,” he posted on Twitter.04:47 AMHarlow MP ‘proud’ as Tories seize control of Essex councilHarlow MP Robert Halfon said he was “proud” after the Tories seized control of the Essex district’s council from Labour.”Won 11 seats, including 7 from Labour as well as defeating the Harlow Labour Council leader,” he tweeted.He also offered his commiserations to the “hard-working” opposition team, saying: “Whatever our significant political differences, all political parties want to build an even better Harlow and help people through Covid.”04:44 AMBoris Johnson has positioned the Tories as the party of changeTypically in local elections, you would expect the opposition party to make gains as voters register their discontent with the government of the day, writes Catherine Neilan.But so far Conservatives have stolen 40 council seats in England, while Labour support ebbs.Throughout the campaign Boris Johnson positioned his party as the vehicle for change – no mean feat given the Tories have been in power now for more than a decade.Despite Sir Keir Starmer’s attempts to paint the party as riddled with sleaze, the electorate appear to be of a different opinion, lapping up the Tories’ promise of levelling up in the post-Covid world.04:26 AMHartlepool by-election: How Covid has muted the countCounting during Covid is dampening the atmosphere – GettyInside the Hartlepool count, the atmosphere is curiously still, writes Tony Diver.It’s an election count, but not as you know it – and has only been allowed to take place under strict coronavirus rules.Counters are painstakingly recording votes, but they sit with perspex screens between them, wearing masks. The urgency is there – but Covid is undeniably muting things.Around the edge of the Mill House Leisure Centre, the masks of Labour supporters cover their grimaces as their party edges closer to defeat.Even in the Tory corner, there is little jubilation yet – and the usual pack of journalists have been relegated to a chilly car park to prevent too many people gathering inside.Local officials are watching to make sure the election rules are followed, but they are enforcing Covid restrictions too – making sure social distancing is followed and doling out hand sanitiser.04:17 AMHartlepool could be just the first painful by-election for LabourIf the Tories do take Hartlepool – which we are expected to be confirmed within the hour – that poses some serious questions for Labour.Most pressing will be what they do in West Yorkshire, where former actress Tracy Brabin is hoping to become mayor.If she succeeds, the Batley and Spen MP, and former shadow culture minister, will have to stand down, triggering another potentially painful by-election in a Red Wall seat.No doubt Labour will push another contest back as long as possible, hoping that things will turn their way when furlough starts to be withdrawn and the anticipated reckoning on jobs begins.But today’s results suggest that 2019 was the start of a paradigm shift, rather than just a Brexit-induced blip.04:08 AMHartlepool voters are ‘swallowing Tory MP and see if money comes’, says LabourLabour’s Jim McMahon has admitted the Tories “played it well” in Hartlepool, and accused them of “political propaganda” by offering voters more government funding if they had a Conservative MP.“I believe that the Tories have played it well,” he told The Telegraph on the floor of the count.“They were very clear with the public of Hartlepool. If you vote for Tory MP, you will get the funding the towns around you have, because they have a Tory MP.“Now, you might say that’s wrong, and the government can’t use taxpayers’ money for essentially political propaganda.“For Hartlepool, you weren’t going to change the Government of the day, you weren’t going to change the Prime Minister. For a few years, swallow a Tory MP and see if the money comes.”03:48 AMIn pictures: Counting in a pandemicPolling station staff count votes for the Hartlepool – GETTY IMAGESPeople observe as the count takes place for the Hartlepool – GETTY IMAGESCount volunteers wait for the next batch of ballots to be verified in Hartlepool – GETTY IMAGES03:21 AMLabour miss out on Nuneaton and BedworthThe Conservatives have taken control of Nuneaton and Bedworth after winning 13 of the first 14 seats declared.The council was previously controlled by Labour.03:19 AMWorld’s biggest Boris JohnsonCould this be the world’s biggest Boris Johnson?The Telegraph’s Tony Diver is out in Hartlepool and came across this giant inflatable version of the Prime Minister.”The man inflating it won’t give his name but describes himself as a ‘local joker’,” Tony tweeted.Asked if he likes Mr Johnson, the man replied: “Not really, no. But Hartlepool needs a change.”Hartlepool woke up to a giant, inflatable Boris Johnson – TONY DIVER02:57 AMHartlepool turn out is down compared to 2019The turn out of the Hartlepool by-election was 42.55 per cent.The Telegraph’s Tony Diver is in Hartlepool and says this is down from 57.9 per cent in 2019.The votes have been verified and counting for the Parliamentary election will now begin.”Result now not expected until 5am at the earliest,” Tony says.02:38 AMTories take all nine Redditch seatsThe Conservatives won all nine of the seats being contested in Redditch, the first council result of the night, gaining seven seats from Labour.There was no change of control, with the Conservatives holding 25 seats on the new council and Labour just four, losing both their leader and deputy leader.02:37 AMMcMahon: ‘We haven’t got over the line, that’s quite clear’Shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon has conceded Labour has not “got over the line” in Hartlepool.Asked whether Labour would be claiming victory in the by-election, Mr McMahon told Sky News: “It would be difficult to do that given how we see the numbers beginning to pan out.”Pressed on whether he was conceding defeat, he added: “It is pretty clear in the way the ballots are landing that we are not close to winning this despite our best endeavours, despite the hard work of many fantastic volunteers and despite a fantastic candidate, who of course is a local GP working at Hartlepool hospital who has been working on the frontline during the pandemic.”And so I think we have given it our all but sometimes you don’t get over the line on the day.”That’s where we are, that’s the reality of where we are.”We haven’t got over the line, that’s quite clear from the ballots.”01:53 AMSuper Thursday votes are being countedvotes are being countedMillions of Britons on Thursday voted in a bumper crop of elections – the UK’s first major democratic exercise since the country was hit by coronavirus last year.So-called Super Thursday saw people cast their ballots in a wide variety of races – some delayed due to the pandemic – that include 143 English councils, the Scottish and Welsh devolved parliaments and the London mayoral contest.The mammoth set of elections are the first major test for Boris Johnson’s government since he achieved a majority for the Conservatives in the 2019 general election and for Labour leader Keir Starmer’s opposition throughout the pandemic.At stake may also be the future of the Union, as Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon waits to hear if she has won enough seats to help her push for a second independence referendum.01:32 AMResults may take longer to come throughThe result in the Hartlepool by-election might not be known until around 7am, a source at the count has told PA news agency.It had been predicted that the declaration could have come as soon as 4am, but that has been revised.Staff in the hall were still verifying votes and have not yet started to count them.01:29 AMStarmer ‘not in the slightest’ to blame for defeatShadow public health minister Alex Norris said Labour did not expect to recover from the 2019 general election loss within 18 months.Asked whether leader Sir Keir Starmer would be to blame for a defeat in the Hartlepool by-election, Mr Norris told Sky News: “No, not in the slightest.”Let’s not prejudge it, for one. But what Keir is going to be very clear about, what we are clear about as a Labour Party is that this is going to be a no-excuses election for us.”Because you could say, ‘Well, on the one hand Covid and on the other hand the vaccination programme’, and then again on ‘Hartlepool has got very different local politics’.”We are going to take our successes as we get them with humility and then we are going to own where we fall short, because we are in a long-term project of re-engaging with people.”Pressed on whether Labour was managing to re-engage with the so-called “Red Wall”, Mr Norris added: “No one thinks this process is over, no-one thought this would be done in 18 months – that would be a very unlikely situation, but we are on that road, we are listening to people and I think we are making progress from tonight and onwards.”
While there are, obviously, big structural forces at play in Labour’s defeat, some of the tactical decisions that Starmer’s team have taken have not helped either. First, they chose an MP defeated at the last election — and one who had tried to stop Brexit — as their candidate. This gave the Tories an opening to talk about that issue. Second, they decided to hold the by-election on the same days as the Tees Valley mayoral contest, allowing the relatively unknown Tory candidate to link herself to Ben Houchen, the hugely popular Tory mayor.
The problem for Starmer is that the building blocks of Labour’s traditional electoral coalition are moving ever further apart from each other. If Starmer moved further to try to win back support in seats such as Hartlepool, he would risk alienating Labour’s metropolitan base in cities such as London and Bristol — in those places, Labour is expected to win the mayoralties at a canter.
Counter-protesters with Union flags face off against pro-independence protesters gathering in George Square, Glasgow on May 1, 2021, ahead of the upcoming Scottish Parliament election which is to be held on May 6, 2021. – away from the UK.ANDY BUCHANAN | AFP | Getty ImagesLONDON — In recent years the United Kingdom has struggled to live up to its name, with tensions and old enmities flaring between the four nations that make up the kingdom — England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — and a resurgent threat that the country could disintegrate.Upcoming regional votes on May 6 could expose those divides further and the parliamentary election taking place in Scotland could even set the stage for a second referendum on independence, although public opinion on the debate is on a knife-edge.How Nicola Sturgeon’s Scottish National Party fares in Thursday’s election could largely determine how easily it can galvanize public opinion and pursue another referendum. The party is predicted to achieve a narrow parliamentary majority in the vote, according to the latest polling for Sky News.The same polling carried out by Opinium also found that support for a second Scottish independence referendum remains divided down the middle at 50-50, once “don’t knows” are excluded, down from 51-49 in the last Opinium poll. The poll sampled 1,015 Scottish voters between April 28 and May 3.Analysts said the outcome to watch for in the election Thursday is whether the SNP, the staunchest advocate of independence, will need the support of the Green Party in its bid for a second independence vote.”They will remain in government with an anticipated 60-70 seats in the 129-seat (Scottish) parliament. The signpost to watch is whether the SNP will get the 65 seats required for an overall majority or whether they will have to rely on the Greens to provide an overall majority in favor of a second independence referendum,” analysts at Teneo Intelligence noted Tuesday.”After the vote, PM Boris Johnson is likely to declare that ‘now is not the time’ for a second referendum, irrespective of the Scottish election result. In this way, Johnson will attempt to kick the can down the road until the end of this UK parliamentary term in late 2024.”Sturgeon has dismissed claims she will hold a “wildcat” independence referendum if her party wins a majority in Thursday’s parliamentary vote. During a Scottish leaders’ debate, Sturgeon said her aim was to make the case for independence through persuasion and not through an unsanctioned plebiscite.Johnson, meanwhile, has called the SNP’s plans to hold a second referendum are “uncalled for and unnecessary.”Discontent elsewhereThere are rumblings of discontent and calls for independence in other parts of the U.K. too.Arguably, the trend toward independence was boosted in the late 1990s when the process of devolution began. This meant that certain powers and responsibilities were devolved from the government in Westminster to Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales (Scotland and Wales have their own Parliaments while Northern Ireland has an Assembly).On a practical level, devolution has meant that much of the decision-making that goes on in different parts of the U.K. is taken at that local level although some policy areas, such as defense, immigration and foreign policy remain in the hands of lawmakers in Westminster.A man holds a sign as thousands take part in the first ever march for Welsh independence from City Hall to the Hayes on May 11, 2019 in Cardiff, Wales.Matthew Horwood | Getty Images News | Getty ImagesThe leader of Plaid Cymru, a Welsh nationalist party, said in April that if the party won a majority in the parliamentary (or Senedd) elections on Thursday, it would commit to holding a referendum on Welsh independence during the next five years.Although it’s expected that Plaid Cymru will land in third place in the elections, Yes Cymru, a group campaigning for independence, tweeted a poll in late April that suggested support for independence was increasing.Northern Ireland also remains a political tinder box for the U.K., with its citizens largely divided down religious and nationalist lines. Protestant voters tend to opt toward staunchly maintaining the union with the U.K., while Catholic voters traditionally support republican parties and reunification with the Republic of Ireland.The Brexit vote in 2016 was a catalyst for further divides in the U.K. Scotland and Northern Ireland voted predominantly to remain in the EU, while a majority in Wales and England voted to leave. Complexities over Northern Ireland’s role in the post-Brexit trade deal, and a perception that it was sacrificed during the negotiating process with the EU, have left some experts questioning whether a push toward reunification with the rest of Ireland could get stronger.Philip Rycroft, former permanent secretary at the Department for Exiting the EU, has noted that a “complacent and un-strategic” approach to devolution has galvanized the push for Scottish independence and left the union once again on the brink.”Westminster, over time, has really not paid sufficient attention to what’s going on in Scotland and you could argue, likewise, in Wales and Northern Ireland,” he told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe” on Wednesday.”The accusation is that Westminster and Whitehall had an approach of ‘devolve and forget’ and the handling of devolution did not get into the bloodstream of the U.K. system despite the huge changes that came with devolution in the nineties. So that has allowed the narrative to grow that the U.K. is not supportive of all its constituent parts.”Impact on sterling?Strategists are looking at the impact the election results, particularly those from Scotland, could have on sterling, which could be closely watched as the election results emerge.Not everyone is convinced there will be sharp moves in the pound, just yet. ING Developed Markets Economist James Smith and Chief EMEA FX and IR Strategist Petr Krpata noted on Tuesday that “although the Scottish election may bring back negative headline news about another Scottish independence referendum, we don’t think this should have an overly negative impact on sterling.””This is because (a) a referendum could be years away rather than months (even if pro-independence parties win a majority); (b) as we observed with the Brexit referendum, the risk premium started to be built into GBP only six months ahead of the event; and (c) the first Scottish referendum in 2014 did not translate into a material build-up of GBP risk premium.”Scottish independence is nowhere near a foregone conclusion. As with the last vote in 2014, which resulted in 44.7% of voters voting in favor of independence and 55.3% voting against the split, question marks over Scotland’s economic viability as an independent nation remain unanswered.Philip Rycroft says those questions are just as salient, and unresolved, in the current debate.”There is no doubt that an independent Scotland would face some huge economic challenges. The big overhang of the deficit, which was running pre-Covid at 8-9%, a lot higher than the U.K. as a whole and Brexit means that there would be a whole bunch of really tough questions over how to handle a potential border with the rest of the U.K., if Scotland sought to rejoin the EU. There’s the big question of the currency — does it use the pound, create its own currency or ultimately go into the euro?,” he noted.”At the end of the day, the debate about independence is about self-government and a sense of identity, and the challenge for the U.K. side of the debate is to persuade sufficient people in Scotland that being British as well as Scottish remains a viable long term option for them.”
Madrid premier Isabel Diaz Ayuso, a fierce critic of Covid-19 lockdowns, secured a major victory in Spain’s regional elections, prompting the head of the left-wing Podemos to end his political career after taking fifth place.
With more than 99% of the ballots counted late on Tuesday night, Ayuso’s People’s Party took 45% of the vote, or 65 seats in the regional legislature, just four shy of an outright majority. Doubling its share of the vote compared to the last race in 2019, the People’s Party is expected to enter into a coalition with the right-wing Vox Party, which itself took fourth place with 9% of the vote.“Freedom has won in Madrid, once again,” Ayuso told supporters after her win, echoing a campaign slogan, while People’s Party leader Pablo Casado said voters “trusted [Ayuso’s] handling of the pandemic.”The premier’s campaign was fueled in no small part by her opposition to lockdowns, appealing to voters weary of draconian restrictions while refusing to shutter bars and restaurants during the health crisis. Tuesday’s race dealt a blow to leftist factions, seeing the Socialist Workers’ Party slip 10 points and 11 seats compared to 2019, tying with the progressive Mas Madrid. In fifth place behind Vox came Podemos, a left-of-center party founded in 2014 in opposition to European austerity policies. Though it gained three additional seats, the relatively poor showing led Podemos founder Pablo Iglesias to declare his exit from politics, saying “We have failed; we were very far from putting together a sufficient majority.”
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“I am not a political figure who can contribute to our political force or help consolidate its institutional strength,” Iglesias added.Spanish PM Pedro Sanchez – a leading member of the Socialist Workers’ Party whose Covid-19 policies were frequently slammed by Ayuso – took to Twitter late on Tuesday night to acknowledge her win. “The polls have given Ayuso a great result and, above all, a great responsibility. Congratulations,” he said. “The [Socialist Workers] will always be ready to work for a better Madrid and turn its votes into a force for the future for the region and its people.”The election campaign in Madrid, Spain’s capital and a city of 7 million, has been fraught with heated rhetoric and at times threats of violence, with several candidates, including Ayuso and Iglesias, receiving death threats from opponents. In early April, a regional office for Podemos was hit with a firebomb, prompting Iglesias to blame the “far right,” calling the attack “street terrorism.” A party spokesman claimed it was the sixth time a Podemos office was targeted by vandals.
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An Indian politician named after Joseph Stalin is set to become chief minister of the southern state of Tamil Nadu – a role he has been groomed for since birth – after his party’s comfortable victory in state assembly elections.
Muthuvel Karunanidhi Stalin, 68, born four days before his namesake’s death in 1953, is the son of the late five-time chief minister M. Karunanidhi, the hugely popular president of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) party.After votes were counted on Sunday, it emerged that the DMK-led Secular Progressive Alliance – a political coalition of left-leaning parties, including India’s two major communist parties – defeated the incumbent ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam party, which is a regional member of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s right-wing National Democratic Alliance.In an emotional victory statement, Stalin said, “It was our aim to get DMK back to power when Kalaignar [his father] was alive. But time got the better of us. To fulfill that dream, all of us worked tirelessly. This victory is recognition for all that hard work.”Stalin, who remained in his father’s shadow until his death aged 94 in 2018, began his political journey as a 13-year-old DMK organizer. He formed the party’s youth wing in 1980 and served as its secretary until 2017. He has also been a former deputy chief minister of the state.The victory, which brings the DMK back to power for the first time in a decade, came on the back of a campaign focused on strengthening the state’s linguistic identity and autonomy, as well as on promising jobs and growth.However, Stalin’s immediate challenge will be to navigate the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, which is likely to have been exacerbated by the election.
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As well as the north-eastern states of West Bengal and Assam, there has been voting in the southern states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, the South Indian union territory of Puducherry, and local council elections in some parts of Uttar Pradesh in the north and Telangana in the south.
Somalia’s President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed announced he will not attempt to extend his term by two years, bowing to domestic and international pressure after clashes in the capital Mogadishu split security forces along clan lines.
Hours earlier, Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble denounced the proposed term extension and called for preparations for a new presidential election.
The president’s term expired in February, but the country failed to hold elections as planned. Earlier this month, the lower house of parliament voted to extend Mohamed’s four-year term by another two years.
The Senate rejected the move, provoking a political crisis.
Somali military personnel supporting opposition leaders rest along a street in Mogadishu, Somalia [AFP]Commanders in the police and the military defected to the opposition, and rival factions of the security forces fortified positions in central Mogadishu, raising fears of heavy fighting in the heart of the capital, and a security vacuum in the surrounding areas that could be exploited by al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab fighters.
In a televised statement early on Wednesday, the president said he commended the efforts of the prime minister and other political leaders and welcomed the statements they issued calling for elections to be held without further delay. He also called for urgent discussions with the signatories to an agreement signed last September on the conduct of the vote.
The opposition, which demanded the president to resign, did not immediately respond. The president did not discuss the opposition in his speech, but denounced unnamed “individuals and foreign entities who have no aim other than to destabilise the country”.
The heads of two regional states who had been staunch allies of the president also rejected on Tuesday the proposed two-year extension of Mohamed’s term. Those leaders said in statements immediately after the president’s speech they welcomed his announcement.
Prime Minister Roble backed that joint statement and called on security forces to return to their barracks. He also urged opposition leaders to stop any actions that could harm Somalia’s stability.
Mohamed’s attempt to extend his term also angered foreign donors who backed his government.
This week, opposition forces abandoned positions in the countryside as they headed for a showdown in the capital, allowing al-Shabab to take over at least one town.
Forces loyal to the opposition hold important parts of Mogadishu and clashed with government forces over the weekend, raising worries the country could return to an all-out war.
Alarmed by the extraordinary developments, the United Nations, African Union, United States, and others on Tuesday warned against the “emerging fragmentation” of the Somali National Army along clan lines.
Some residents fled, worried that Somalia was again collapsing into conflict after years of trying to rebuild from its devastating civil war.
The president said he urged “all security agencies to maintain the stability of the capital and the safety of innocent civilians, avoiding any actions that may lead to insecurity”.
Residents flee from their homes after recent crashes between Somali security forces [AFP]Somalia’s election was delayed amid disputes between the federal government and the states of Puntland and Jubbaland along with the opposition.
The president, a former US citizen who gave up that status while in office, tried to defend his actions on the election standoff in a recent interview with his former local newspaper, The Buffalo News, asserting Somalia “cannot afford a power vacuum”, and the extra time would allow officials to organise the first one-person-one-vote direct election in decades.
He added, “Who can lead if we leave?”
‘Teetering on the brink’
The latest unrest is the second bout of violence in Mogadishu over the proposed extension to Mohamed’s term.
Continued clashes could further splinter Somali security forces along ethnic lines, said the International Crisis Group, a think-tank.
“Somalia is teetering on the brink of a major breakdown once again,” it said in a briefing published on Tuesday.
Somalia’s fledgeling armed forces are drawn from clan militias that have often battled each other for power and resources.
Mohamed is Darod, one of Somalia’s main clans. The majority of the Somali military in the capital are Hawiye, another large clan. Most of the opposition leaders are Hawiye.
When asked if he would peacefully hand over power if someone else is elected, the president in his interview with The Buffalo News replied, “Absolutely, without any hesitation.”