London — Prime Minister Tony Blair's Labour Party trailed in early returns today from local elections widely seen as a referendum on his troubled government.
Labour took 563 seats in early counting, a net loss of 121, while the Conservatives won 787 seats, a gain of 123. Labour lost control of nine local councils and the Tories gained three.
The far-right British National Party won 11 seats.
Voters were choosing representatives to fill 4,360 seats in 176 local authorities across England, a little less than half of all English councils. London is the biggest battleground, with elections in all 32 boroughs.
Labour's apparent poor showing is likely to create more problems for the beleaguered Blair and could embolden those calling for him to step down soon or at least offer a timeline as to when he may leave office. His government has been battered by a slew of scandals in recent months.