The Tories look set to win a landslide in the June 8 general election after clocking up the biggest gains by a governing party in local contests election for more than 40 years.
They snatched 11 extra county councils and gained more than 500 seats, mainly at the expense of Labour and UKIP, which lost all but one of its seats. The Lib Dems failed to bounce back after a series of patchy outcomes.
The Tories’ national vote share was 38%, Labour 27%, Lib Dems 18% and UKIP 5%. That is less of a margin suggested by recent polls putting Theresa May’s party 17 points ahead of Labour, but still pointed to a Commons majority of over 100.
The Tories forced Labour into third place in its former stronghold of Scotland, while their victories in English county council elections, where they gained control of Derbyshire, Monmouthshire, Norfolk, Warwickshire, Lincolnshire, Gloucestershire and the Isle of Wight, were fuelled by a collapse in the UKIP vote, as anti-EU supporters switched back to them.
Labour lost control of seven councils – including Glasgow (though council leader Frank McAveety, pictured, was re-elected) , where it has held power for decades – and saw its number of seats go down by 382.
It also lost the metro mayor contests in the West Midlands and Tees Valley, a traditional Labour heartland, to the Conservatives. However, former cabinet minister Andy Burnham scored a big win in Greater Manchester with 63% of the vote – hailing it is a “new era” in British politics – and Steve Rotherham won for Labour in Liverpool.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said his party had done better than expected in some places, such as Cardiff and Swansea, but results elsewhere had been “very disappointing”. He added: “Of course I’m disappointed, we have to get our supporters out to vote in June, we have to get our message across and I’m utterly determined to do that.”
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell acknowledged that Labour had suffered a “tough” night, but insisted the results were not “the wipe-out that some people expected”. There was still “all to play for” in the general election in just five weeks’ time, he added, insisting “we can close that gap”.
The SNP replaced Labour as the biggest party in Glasgow, but fell short of a majority. And despite also replacing Labour as the largest party in Aberdeen, and finishing as comfortably the biggest party across the country, the SNP lost overall control of Dundee and Angus councils – the only two areas where it had won majorities in 2012.
It was a mixed picture for Labour in Wales, where it has been the dominant force in local government for decades. It lost 13 councillors in Bridgend, losing control of a council where it had three-quarters of councillors just five years ago. And Labour’s losses in Blaenau Gwent and Merthyr Tydfil now mean that independent councillors outnumber all the other parties combined on those two councils.
UKIP’s foothold in local government achieved four years ago was wiped out, as the party lost 136 seats and made just one gain. In Lincolnshire, where UKIP had 16 councillors elected in 2013 and was the official opposition on the council, the party has lost all of its remaining 13 seats. It also lost all its seats in Warwickshire, Hampshire, Essex and the Isle of Wight, which were taken by the Conservatives.
The Conservatives saw off the Lib Dems’ challenge to hold on to Somerset County Council. The Lib Dems lost six seats although former MP Tessa Munt ousted the Conservative leader John Osman. In Cumbria, where party leader Tim Farron is hoping to be re-elected as MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale, the party failed to increase its representation.
The Green Party gained six seats in England while Plaid Cymru added eight in Wales and the total of independent county councillors increased by 103.