UK Markets closed

Conservatives lose only council seat in Northern Ireland

Edmund Heaphy
Finance and news reporter
UK prime minister Theresa May at the Welsh Conservative party conference. Photo: Aaron Chown/PA via AP

David Harding, the Conservative Party’s only elected representative in Northern Ireland, looks set to lose his council seat in this week’s local elections.

Harding, who represented Coleraine on Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, received just 1.6% of first-preference votes in the six-seat constituency.

He was eliminated after the second stage of the count. However, following a discrepancy in one of the later stages, there will now be a full re-count of the votes in the constituency.

Harding’s loss represents a wipe-out in the region for prime minister Theresa May’s party, which lost almost 800 council seats in total across the UK in the elections.

The huge losses — widely seen as a backlash over May’s handling of Brexit — will force the party to cede control of at least 28 councils.

Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party lost more than 80 seats, while the Liberal Democrats gained more than 450.

Harding, a veterinary surgeon by profession, had previously expressed dissatisfaction with May’s decision to strike a deal with the DUP, which props up her government in the House of Commons.

Though he acknowledged she had no alternative, Harding told the Belfast Telegraph last year that it made it “very hard to promote the idea of an independent Conservative Party in Northern Ireland.”

In October, Harding blasted the DUP for its portrayal of the reasons behind an increase in funding from Westminster for Northern Ireland, saying the party presented it as a “victory they have screwed out of the Conservatives.”