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Britons go to polls in local elections seen as verdict on the Blair era

Britons go to polls in local elections seen as verdict on the Blair era

Britons went to the polls Thursday to elect local councils across England and regional legislatures in Scotland and Wales _ elections that will be interpreted as a verdict on Prime Minister Tony Blair's decade in power.
More than 10,000 local council seats are being contested in areas of England outside London. In Scotland, voters are choosing their local representation as well as the Scottish Parliament, which sits in Edinburgh and deals with Scotland-only issues. And in Wales, voters will elect their national assembly, located in Cardiff.
In Scotland, Blair's Labour Party will be fighting off a challenge from the pro-independence Scottish National Party, which has said it will hold an independence referendum in 2010 if it gains power.
The polls also are a test for David Cameron's opposition Conservatives, who hope to unseat Labour at national elections in 2009 or 2010.
Many see the local elections as a final popular verdict on Blair's premiership, which is expected to end in the coming weeks. On Tuesday, the 10th anniversary of the day he was elected, Blair told British television that he would make a "definitive" statement next week on his future.