LONDON — Britain's ruling Conservative Party on Friday celebrated sweeping successes in the nationwide voting for city council officials held the previous day.
The results come a month after the Conservatives fought off a strong challenge from the Labor Party to retain power in the national parliamentary election. Prime Minister John Major, the Conservatives' leader, declared himself "extremely pleased" with the outcome of Thursday's vote, which other Tory officials termed "spectacular."
The Conservatives said their gains this time, mostly at Labor's expense, were the best in more than a dozen years.
Labor Party spokesman Jack Cunningham said the results were "disappointing." Other Labor leaders tried to put the best face on the loss by blaming it on Labor voters who did not bother to vote.
The Tories won 309 extra city council seats nationwide and added five councils to those under their control, for a new total of 26. Labor lost 364 seats and had to relinquish control over 15 city councils, but still controls 87 nationwide.
Although Labor remained the largest party in local government--many cities have narrow Labor majorities--most political observers said the Tory showing was significant.
Even Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown, whose party gained 63 seats, admitted: "Those of us who thought the general election was a flash in the pan have to face up to the fact that it is rather more than that. There is no doubt about it, the Conservatives are on a firm upward trend."