LONDON (AP) — Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative Party took an electoral bruising Friday, suffering widespread losses in local elections as voters punished the ruling party for biting austerity measures and a stalled economy.
By mid-afternoon, with almost all votes declared in the 180 local authorities in England, Wales and Scotland that held votes, the Conservatives had lost about 375 local seats — including some in Cameron's own district.
While the results won't put Cameron's leadership in jeopardy, they are prompting grass roots Conservatives to urged him to ditch some of his more liberal policies, including the planned introduction of same-sex marriage.
In the country's most keenly watched contest, Cameron's Conservative colleague Boris Johnson appeared likely to clinch to a second four-year term as London's mayor and lead the British capital through the looming Summer Olympics.
That victory could be bittersweet for Cameron — offering relief from his party's national woes but cementing the outspoken city chief as a likely future leadership rival.
Cameron also suffered a blow to his legislative hopes, as six major cities — including Manchester, Nottingham and Sheffield — voted down plans to have their own directly elected city mayors.
The leader had hoped that new city chiefs, and U.S.-style elected police commissioners, would help deliver power away from Westminster and into the hands of local communities.
Bristol, in southwestern England, was the only city to vote in favor of direct elections, with three contests still to be declared.
Like Cameron, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg's Liberal Democrats — the junior partner in Britain's coalition government — suffered woes, losing about 240 councilors, which pushed them toward their lowest total since the party formed in 1988.