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May avoids London wipeout in local polls

Man accused of plotting to kill UK PM pleads not guilty

May 05, 2018 00:00:00

Supporters of the British Conservative Party reacting during the count at Wandsworth Town Hall after local government elections in London on Friday — Reuters

LONDON, May 04 (Reuters): British Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservative Party avoided a wipeout in London local elections and eked out gains in Brexit-supporting regions elsewhere, results on Friday showed, denting the opposition Labour Party's hopes of a big win.

The elections are a gauge of public support for May as she faces a possible revolt in parliament over her strategy for leaving the European Union.

With two-thirds of results declared, May had avoided the widespread losses that would have weakened her authority over Conservative lawmakers ahead of tests of her plans to take Britain out of the EU customs union as it quits the bloc.

"These results are as good as any government party after eight years in power could expect," said Tony Travers, a professor at the London School of Economics Department of Government.

"They'll be a relief for May and the Conservative Party as a whole because they're suggestive that, despite the fact the Conservatives are in an on-and-off civil war over Brexit, the Labour Party's problems are possibly worse."

Against a backdrop of heightened expectations for Labour, Thursday's ballot also hinted at the limitations of its recent resurgence under veteran socialist Jeremy Corbyn. May's party kept control of Wandsworth council - a low-tax Conservative stronghold since the time of late prime minister Margaret Thatcher that had been one of Labour's main targets.

Earlier, a man accused of plotting to kill British Prime Minister Theresa May pleaded not guilty to terrorism charges in a London court on Friday.

Naa'imur Rahman is accused of planning to detonate an explosive device at the gates of Downing Street to gain access to May's office and kill her in the ensuing chaos.

He appeared by video link at London's Old Bailey central criminal court ahead of his trial which is due to start next month.

Rahman has been accused of conducting reconnaissance of Downing Street and planning to use a bag fitted with an explosive device in preparations for "committing attacks against persons in the United Kingdom", according to a charge sheet.

Rahman, who was arrested in November, is also accused of helping another man, Mohammad Imran, to join the Islamic State militant group by recording and sending him a sponsorship video.

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