What were people voting for?

Britons voted on Thursday to select thousands of representatives in scores of local municipalities, mostly council members who oversee functions like filling potholes, collecting trash and issuing construction permits.

Still, the vote was a test of strength for Prime Minister Boris Johnson, whose authority over the governing Conservative Party has been in question over recent months. Disaster could encourage a move to depose him, while a good showing would shore up his position.

Every local council in Scotland and Wales faced the voters. But in England, which accounts for the bulk of Britain’s population and has a patchwork of sometimes overlapping local governments, the picture was less complete. There were elections in all 32 boroughs of London, in much of urban northern England, and in a swathe of other largely urban and suburban areas.

In Northern Ireland, which has separate political parties, voters selected representatives not for local councils but for their legislature — a contest with a different set of rules and stakes.

The major British parties run candidates in most races across the rest of the United Kingdom, and politicians often look to the results as a test of the public mood. But some voters think more about their patch than about the big political picture. And because votes are cast only in some locations, these elections will give at best a fragmented sense of what the electorate is thinking.


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