English/Nat

The chairman of Britain’s ruling Conservative Party has said the party can still win a fifth term in government – despite suffering heavy losses in the local elections.

The Tories lost more than half the one thousand seats they were defending – it was the party’s second worst performance in local election history.

Putting on a brave face Friday morning, the chairman of the Conservative Party was defiant.

With all but one result declared, Brian Mawhinney’s party was left with control of just three of the 150 municipalities contested, while Labour had more than 80.

But in a series of breakfast interviews at Westminster, Mawhinney insisted the opposition Labour Party had peaked.

And he stressed that with only one-in-six electors turning out to vote, the polls did not offer any sort of reliable guide to the result of the next general election.

SOUNDBITE:
The evidence of yesterday is that we are on our way back. John Major has proved himself to be an excellent leader. He has proved himself to be a winner. We are going to move forward behind his leadership through to the general election, win the general election and he will be back in Downing Street.
SUPER CAPTION: Brian Mawhinney, Conservative Party chairman

Paddy Ashdown is the leader of the third force in British politics, the Liberal Democrat Party.

With results declared from 149 of the 150 municipal districts, his party had control of 23 districts, up five.

Ashdown declared the result was an excellent springboard for the next general election.

SOUNDBITE:
Labour a bit off the boil, Tories a marginal recovery and the Liberal Democrats the sixth straight year of significant success. And what we did last night was win where we have to win to beat the Conservatives at the next general election and improve our strength where Labour governs so badly in the northern cities.
SUPER CAPTION: Paddy Ashdown, Leader of Liberal Democrat Party

The deputy leader of the Labour Party, John Prescott, was also fielding journalists’ questions the morning after the polls.

Labour took control of 85 districts, a gain of 10 but Prescott stressed his party could not rest on its laurels.

SOUNDBITE:
Excellent results. The second worst results for the Tories in the history of the Tory party. We have done very well 45 percent of the poll which shows we are on target to earn the trust of the people to win a general election but we are certainly not complacent about it.
SUPER CAPTION: John Prescott MP, Deputy Leader Labour Party

Some of the newspaper headlines Friday morning were blunt in the extreme.

And even though the election results were as bad as the Tories feared, John Major still faces an uphill struggle to turn the party’s fortunes around before a national election.

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