Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday welcomed early election results in Britain's first major vote since Brexit and the pandemic, including a stunning by-election victory for his Conservative party in an opposition Labour stronghold.
The "Super Thursday" local and regional contests could reshape the UK as pro-independence forces in Scotland, where voting for the devolved parliament was also held, bid to break away.
But in the initial returns in England yesterday, the Conservatives were performing strongly in various regions and won by a landslide in the northeast parliamentary seat of Hartlepool, in a bitter blow for Labour and its leader Keir Starmer.
The rust-belt town constituency, which is deep in traditional Labour heartlands and has never voted Conservative since its creation in 1974, saw a 16 percent swing to the Tories.
"It's a very encouraging set of results so far," Johnson told reporters.
"What this election shows is that people want a party and a government that is focused on them, focused on delivering change," he added on a celebratory visit to Hartlepool.
The result will ratchet up the pressure on Starmer, elected leader a year ago promising to rebuild the party and reconnect with traditional voters.