London : Theresa May faces her first nationwide electoral test as Britain’s prime minister on Thursday, as she toughens her Brexit position just weeks before a crucial general election. Britain will choose thousands of new local councillors in a vote that will be closely watched for proof of the strength of May’s Conservatives, which opinion polls suggest are on course for a thumping victory in the June 8 parliamentary elections.

Nearly 5,000 local authority seats are being contested across England, Scotland and Wales on Thursday along with eight metropolitan mayoralties. Experts warn against using the results to predict the outcome of next month’s vote, noting that such elections are normally fought on local issues, and are often used to punish the sitting government.

But the proximity of the general election and the political upheaval caused by last year’s shock Brexit referendum has created a unique context. May invoked Britain’s formal notice of its intention to leave the European Union on March 29. Two weeks ago the prime minister called the surprise June general election to strengthen her mandate as she heads into EU negotiations, and she is well aware Brexit will be on many voters’ minds today.   afp

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