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Tories on track for best local election showing in DECADES

  • More than 3,000 local council seats and six new regional mayor positions went up for grabs in local elections  
  • The results from the polls give an early indication of how the crucial General Election will play out on June 8
  • First waves of declarations have been disastrous for veteran left-winger Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party
  • The latest results in Scotland showed sensational gains for the Conservatives from the SNP and Labour  
  • Ukip is facing catastrophic collapse across UK with warnings that the party is now 'over' and should disband
  • Liberal Democrats failed to make significant advances in West Country where they need to win next month

By James Tapsfield, Political Editor For Mailonline and Tim Sculthorpe, Deputy Political Editor For Mailonline and Kate Ferguson, Political Correspondent For Mailonline

Published: 20:10 EDT, 4 May 2017 | Updated: 11:57 EDT, 5 May 2017

The Conservatives have surged to historic gains in Scotland as Nicola Sturgeon's gamble on a second independence referendum backfired.

Theresa May saw her candidates pick up more than 130 seats north of the border - including areas such as Glasgow and North Lanarkshire where the Tories have not been competitive for decades.

But despite inflicting devastating damage on Ukip and Labour across the country, the Prime Minister delivered a stern warning to her troops against complacency tonight, saying they should not take victory on June 8 'for granted'.

The first wave of results from Scotland added to a dismal night for Jeremy Corbyn's party just a month before the general election. Labour lost control of a slew of councils - including its Glasgow stronghold for the first time since 1980 - and more than 330 seats across the UK.

Ukip has been obliterated, losing all but one of the scores of seats it was defending. Former MP Douglas Carswell declared the party 'over' today. 

The Conservatives' haul of 514 gains so far leaves them on track to record the best performance for a governing party since 1974. They also pulled off huge shocks by emerging triumphant over Labour in the West Midlands and Tees Valley mayoral contests.

Senior Labour figures have squarely blamed Mr Corbyn for their 'disastrous' showing, with complaints that he is 'radioactive' on the doorstep.

But shadow chancellor John McDonnell risked ridicule by blaming the media, saying voters were only just 'getting to know' Mr Corbyn two years after he took the job. He claimed Labour's solid defeat in the West of England was a 'good' outcome. 

The electoral fortunes of Nicola Sturgeon (pictured with SNP Councillor Susan Aitken in Glasgow today) appear to be on a downward trajectory after her demand for a fresh independence referendum
The electoral fortunes of Nicola Sturgeon (pictured with SNP Councillor Susan Aitken in Glasgow today) appear to be on a downward trajectory after her demand for a fresh independence referendum

The electoral fortunes of Nicola Sturgeon (pictured with SNP Councillor Susan Aitken in Glasgow today) appear to be on a downward trajectory after her demand for a fresh independence referendum

Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson, pictured celebrating in Edinburgh today, taunted the SNP that if they wanted her to stop talking about independence they should drop demands for a referendum
Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson, pictured celebrating in Edinburgh today, taunted the SNP that if they wanted her to stop talking about independence they should drop demands for a referendum
Mrs Sturgeon said only the Tories were able to take on the SNP north of the border
Mrs Sturgeon said only the Tories were able to take on the SNP north of the border

Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson, pictured celebrating in Edinburgh today, taunted the SNP that if they wanted her to stop talking about independence they should drop demands for a referendum

Theresa May warned against taking the general election result 'for granted' today despite the strong poll results
Theresa May warned against taking the general election result 'for granted' today despite the strong poll results

Theresa May warned against taking the general election result 'for granted' today despite the strong poll results

In a night that underlined the potential for the Conservatives to put Labour to the sword in just over a month's time: 

  • The Ukip vote appears to have swung fully behind Mrs May after she appealed for a strong mandate to push through Brexit. The shift could be catastrophic for Labour MPs who have relied on the parties dividing the vote on the political right. 
  • Experts said the Ukip vote share had plummeted to 5 per cent nationally in these contests, down from 22 per cent four years ago. They were even destroyed in Lincolnshire - known as the most Eurosceptic part of the country.
  • The Conservatives raided Derbyshire council from Labour, and seized control of Norfolk among 10 gains of authorities.
  • The Tories rocked Mr Corbyn by winning the West Midlands and Tees Valley mayoral races. One-time John Lewis chief Andy Street upset the odds to defeat MEP Sion Simon in the former race. The Conservatives also took the job in the West of England. 
  • Labour shipped support in Wales, losing control of key councils including Blaenau Gwent, Bridgend and Merthyr Tydfil. But the damage was somewhat limited as the beneficiaries of the slump were generally independents rather than the Tories. Labour moderates fear it could be worse on June 8 when voters are presented with a more 'binary' choice.
  • The situation deteriorated further as Scotland began to count ballots, with Labour losing control of its last remaining citadel in Glasgow for the first time since 1980. Initial results from Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh showed Tory gains from both the SNP and Labour in Scotland. 
  • In a stark sign of just how bad Labour's woes are, it will become the first Opposition party to record a net loss of council seats for three years in a row. 
  • The BBC projected Labour's national vote share will be 27 per cent - the lowest for any Opposition at an election.

Mrs May sought to cool expectations of an overwhelming Tory general election victory during a visit to a factory in Brentford, west London this evening.

She said the vote on June 8 would be about 'real people' going out to cast their ballots rather than remote figures. 

'I will not take anything for granted and neither will the team I lead, because there is too much at stake,' Mrs May said.

'This is not about who wins and who loses in the local elections, it is about continuing to fight for the best Brexit deal for families and businesses across the United Kingdom to lock in the progress we've made and get on with the job of making a success of the years ahead.

'The reality is that today, despite the evident will of the British people, we have bureaucrats in Europe who are questioning our resolve to get the right deal.

'And the reality is that only a General Election vote for the Conservatives in 34 days' time will strengthen my hand to get the best deal for Britain from Brexit.' 

How the results stand after declarations from 23 councils, based on change in seats since 2012-13

Ms Sturgeon dismissed the Tory gains north of the border, and denied the SNP was on a downward trajectory.

She pointed to her party's achievement in robbing Labour of control of Glasgow - although it failed to secure overall control of the council.

'What we've seen across Scotland today of course is the SNP vote holding firm. The SNP hasn't lost ground across Scotland today, what we've seen is the collapse of Labour and that's the reason for the increase in the Conservative vote,' Miss Sturgeon said.

'I think Labour really have a lot of soul searching to do, not just because of the result in Glasgow but because of their results across the country.'

Former SNP leader Alex Salmond accused Mrs May of 'eliminating Ukip by becoming Ukip'.

'Scotland will be the only place where the Conservatives have been beaten. That is to say the objective in an election campaign is to win more votes and more seats than any other party,' he said.

'We are confident the SNP will do exactly that in Scotland. So when it comes to the general election we want to reinforce this trend.'

But Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson said: 'Wherever you are, from the border to the highlands, the only party strong enough to lead the fightback against the SNP is the Scottish Conservatives.

'There is a simple way for (the SNP) to stop us talking about independence, and that is for Nicola Sturgeon to respect the result of the 2014 referendum.'

Asked what the result meant for June 8, Ms Davidson told the BBC: 'I think we have got to continue to work hard and take nothing for granted.'  

As the first results emerged this morning, Labour was dealt a severe blow in the south Wales valleys, with independents taking control of Blaenau Gwent and the result on a knife edge in Merthyr Tydfil - where the final three seats will be declared on June 8. The party needs to win them all to stay in charge.

Bridgend, which was toured by the PM at the end of last month, went from Labour to no overall control. 

However, the party has managed to cling on in Cardiff, Newport and Swansea - avoiding some of its worst fears - and most of the pain was inflicted by independent candidates.

Things could get worse for Labour when declarations begin in Scotland around lunchtime, with experts forecasting heavy losses.

LABOUR OUSTED FROM KEIR HARDIE'S WELSH MINING TOWN 

Labour has suffered a humiliating defeat by losing control of a Welsh mining town once home to the party's founder Keir Hardie.

In a major blow to the party, it was ousted from Merthyr Tydfil in the Valleys – once considered rock solid Labour territory.

It was from this town that Mr Hardie, Labour's legendary founding father and first leader, helped to launch the party.

He was elected as the town's MP in 1900 and represented the constituency until his death in 1915.

But Labour today lost control of the local authority, clinging on to just 14 seats while the independents have 16 councillors. Polls in three wards have been delayed - but they will need to win all three to stay in charge. 

Mr McDonnell admitted that his party had a 'tough night'. 

'There have been some disappointments, but there have not been the wipeouts in some areas that people had been predicting,' he said.

Bizarrely, the close Corbyn ally insisted that defeat in the South West mayoral election had been a 'good result' as the party did not get thrashed by more.

Despite Mr Corbyn having been leader for nearly two years, Mr McDonnell said people were only just starting to 'see his real character'. 

'Now we are in the general election campaign, and the media are forced to give some balance, the televised broadcast media, I think what you are seeing is that we are picking up support, and as Jeremy gets more media time, people are seeing the real character of the man, this decent, honest, strong leader, in terms of principles and how to go forward,' he said.  

The ousted chairman of Warwickshire County Council's Labour group, Philip Johnson, told BBC Radio 4: 'People have been saying to us that Jeremy Corbyn's style has been putting them off voting Labour.

'It's not the policies. When the policies are explained they do receive a degree of support.

'But Jeremy Corbyn isn't coming across well with the public. I think that's fairly well known.'

One Labour candidate told The Times: 'He is radioactive on the doorstep,' they said.

'Local campaigns have been desperate for him not to come and campaign for them.' 

In Harlow, which Jeremy Corbyn visited last week, the Tories took all four seats - three from Labour and one from Ukip. 

Cumbria remains under no overall control, but the Conservatives overtook Labour as the largest party. 

The Conservatives comfortably fended off a Lib Dem challenge in Somerset, which will be a key battleground in the election next month. 

Tim Farron's party has taken a hard line against Brexit, and the area voted heavily for Leave in the EU referendum.

The Lib Dems have lost around 30 seats in England and Wales to this point.  

Jeremy Corbyn (pictured leaving home today) is facing claims his leadership is 'putting people off voting Labour' according to Warwickshire County Council's defeated head of the party

Meanwhile, Theresa May (pictured canvassing in Eastbourne) will be hugely encouraged by the results
Meanwhile, Theresa May (pictured canvassing in Eastbourne) will be hugely encouraged by the results

Meanwhile, Theresa May (pictured canvassing in Eastbourne) will be hugely encouraged by the results

The Conservatives have surged in councils across the country at the expense of Ukip, Labour, and the SNP
The Conservatives have surged in councils across the country at the expense of Ukip, Labour, and the SNP

The Conservatives have surged in councils across the country at the expense of Ukip, Labour, and the SNP

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell insisted today that voters were only just 'getting to know' Mr Corbyn two years after he took the job, and claiming Labour losing in the West of England was a 'good' showing
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell insisted today that voters were only just 'getting to know' Mr Corbyn two years after he took the job, and claiming Labour losing in the West of England was a 'good' showing

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell insisted today that voters were only just 'getting to know' Mr Corbyn two years after he took the job, and claiming Labour losing in the West of England was a 'good' showing

Jeremy Corbyn congratulated Labour activists in Wales for holding on to what would previously have been regarded as rock-solid seats for the party
Jeremy Corbyn congratulated Labour activists in Wales for holding on to what would previously have been regarded as rock-solid seats for the party

Jeremy Corbyn congratulated Labour activists in Wales for holding on to what would previously have been regarded as rock-solid seats for the party

Brendan Toomey, who was Labour leader of council Merthyr Tydfil but lost his seat, told Raid 4: 'It's the birthplace of Labour, we are having a very disappointing evening to say the least.

'It is quite clear that huge numbers of the public aren't entirely happy, to say the least, with the way the Labour Party is going at the moment. There's no doubt about that.

'NO POINT' IN UKIP AFTER LOCAL ELECTIONS CRASH  

Ukip leader Paul Nuttall
Ukip leader Paul Nuttall

Ukip leader Paul Nuttall

Ukip has been branded 'pointless' after failing to hold onto a single council seat.

Paul Nuttall's party lost all its seats in Lincolnshire, Hampshire and Essex - key battlegrounds for Ukip at next month's General Election. 

The results augur badly for Mr Nuttall's prospects in Boston & Skegness, where he is standing for parliament. 

Experts predicted Ukip's share of the national vote could fall as low as 5 per cent, down from 22 per cent in the same contests in 2013.

Tory big beast Mr Duncan Smith said he believed Ukip had now run its course. 'The thing that Ukip were set up for was to get the referendum and let the British people decide,' he told Sky News.  

Ukip's leader in Wales, Neil Hamilton admitted his party's vote had 'collapsed'.

But he urged supporters to 'keep calm and carry on'. 

'But I would say it goes a lot deeper than that.'

But he claimed local MP Gerald Jones would be re-elected on June 8 'without any shadow of a doubt'.

Wrexham and Flintshire have also stayed as no overall control, but Labour lost seats in both, although they managed to keep control of Newport. 

Labour's campaign chief, Andrew Gwynne, admitted the picture looks grim and is already turning his focus to improving results at next month's General Election.

'There are challenges for the Labour Party round the country. I'm not going to hide from that,' he told Sky News.

'The one thing we really need to look at here is how we take forward the Labour campaign going into the general election.'

He added: 'This is a unique situation. We have never in my lifetime had a set of local elections in the middle of a general election campaign.

'I'm conviced the Labour campaign going forward will learn from those areas where clearly we have got challenges.'

Predictions from Ukip's former leader Nigel Farage that his party would endure a torrid night are coming to pass.

Speaking on his LBC radio show, the MEP said: 'It's not just Labour that's going to lose seats tonight – and I'm very glad I'm coming off air in a moment.' 

Ukip has so far only managed to secure a single seat, having lost 108.

The wipeout in Lincolnshire augurs badly for leader Paul Nuttall - who is standing for parliament in Boston and Skegness, reputed to be the most Eurosceptic seat in the country. 

The BBC projected Ukip's share of national vote could fall as low as 3 per cent, down from 22 per cent in the equivalent contests in 2013.

The Conservatives were on 38 per cent, while Labour languished on 27 per cent - the lowest for any Opposition party since the corporation started producing the estimates in 1982. 

Tory big beast Mr Duncan Smith said he believed Ukip had now run its course. 'The thing that Ukip were set up for was to get the referendum and let the British people decide,' he told Sky News. 

'And the irony is that a year ago the British people did make that decision, they decided they wanted to leave, and the Conservative government under the brilliant leadership of Theresa May has actually now said we are going to leave ... 

'The choices that are coming forward are about strong, stable leadership delivering a Brexit which is a good deal for the UK. 

This graph of the change in the vote share in England lays bare the scale of the Tory surge, with Ukip votes seemingly transferring directly to Theresa May's party
This graph of the change in the vote share in England lays bare the scale of the Tory surge, with Ukip votes seemingly transferring directly to Theresa May's party

This graph of the change in the vote share in England lays bare the scale of the Tory surge, with Ukip votes seemingly transferring directly to Theresa May's party

Conservative candidate for Chelmsford Central, Dick Madden, celebrates with colleagues after retaining his seat
Conservative candidate for Chelmsford Central, Dick Madden, celebrates with colleagues after retaining his seat

Conservative candidate for Chelmsford Central, Dick Madden, celebrates with colleagues after retaining his seat

The Conservatives won the first new mayoral contest, with Tim Bowles (pictured in Bristol today) triumphant in the West of England 
The Conservatives won the first new mayoral contest, with Tim Bowles (pictured in Bristol today) triumphant in the West of England 

The Conservatives won the first new mayoral contest, with Tim Bowles (pictured in Bristol today) triumphant in the West of England 

Former Cabinet minister Iain Duncan Smith said he believed there was 'no point' in Ukip today after its dramatic collapse in the local elections
Former Cabinet minister Iain Duncan Smith said he believed there was 'no point' in Ukip today after its dramatic collapse in the local elections

Former Cabinet minister Iain Duncan Smith said he believed there was 'no point' in Ukip today after its dramatic collapse in the local elections

Nigel Farage had warned that Ukip was set to endure a torrid night in local elections - and early results proved him right
Nigel Farage had warned that Ukip was set to endure a torrid night in local elections - and early results proved him right

Nigel Farage had warned that Ukip was set to endure a torrid night in local elections - and early results proved him right

'And of course that means Ukip have really no skin in this game anymore. Because what's the point? 

'The real point is that you have a government going to deliver on what the British people want.' 

Leader Paul Nuttall tried to put a brave faced on the dismal results and claimed Ukip was a 'victim of our own success'.   

'In the local elections yesterday many excellent UKIP representatives lost their seats on county councils despite campaigning hard for re-election,' he said.

'Frankly, there is nothing they could have done in the face of a big national swing to the Tories.'

The embattled leader added: 'If the price of Britain leaving the EU is a Tory advance after taking up this patriotic cause then it is a price UKIP is prepared to pay.

'We are the victims of our own success and now we pick ourselves up and go on to further success in the future.' 

But former Ukip MP Douglas Carswell declared simply: 'It's over.' 

In the first mayoral vote of the night, Mr Bowles emerged the victor in the West of England. 

After second preference votes were counted he defeated Labour's Lesley Mansell by 51.6 per cent to 48.4 per cent. 

Former SNP leader Alex Salmond (pictured at the count in Aberdeen today) said the SNP would beat the Tories across Scotland and claim victory in the local elections 
Former SNP leader Alex Salmond (pictured at the count in Aberdeen today) said the SNP would beat the Tories across Scotland and claim victory in the local elections 

Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson (pictured at her polling station in Edinburgh) is looking to make gains from Labour and the SNP at today's council elections 

Nicola Sturgeon turned out to vote at Broomhouse Community Hall polling station in Glasgow with her husband Peter Murrell today (pictured) 

In recent weeks, senior Labour figures have played up the importance of the local elections , and challenged Labour’s poll ratings
In recent weeks, senior Labour figures have played up the importance of the local elections , and challenged Labour’s poll ratings

In recent weeks, senior Labour figures have played up the importance of the local elections , and challenged Labour's poll ratings

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon was pictured voting in Glasgow yesterday and her party is expected to top the poll in Scotland. But opponents said they were on a 'downward trajectory'. 

SUCCESS FOR THE RUBBISH PARTY 

A candidate for the Rubbish Party has been elected to East Ayrshire Council.

Sally Cogley has taken the seat in Irvine Valley along with Labour's George Mair and the SNP's Elena Whitham. 

The Rubbish Party was set up on a platform to tidy up the local area, clamping down on litter, dog fouling, fly tipping and pollution.

Ms Cogley has been organising clean-up events in the local area. 

A candidate for the Rubbish Party has been elected to East Ayrshire Council.

Sally Cogley has taken the seat in Irvine Valley along with Labour's George Mair and the SNP's Elena Whitham.

The Rubbish Party was set up on a platform to tidy up the local area, clamping down on litter, dog fouling, fly tipping and pollution.

Ms Cogley has been organising clean-up events in the local area. 

One bright spot for Labour is expected in Manchester where Andy Burnham should complete a straightforward victory in the race to be mayor.

But there is a too-close-to-call race in the West Midlands, where Tory Andy Street could pull off a surprise victory in Labour-dominated territory. 

The patchwork of results will not directly reflect voters intentions on June 8 but will be pored over for evidence of what might happen. 

A recent poll by Rob Hayward, a Conservative peer and pollster, suggested Labour is likely to lose control of Glasgow council – which it has held for 30 years - in its former heartland.

Elections expert Professor John Curtice, of Strathclyde University, said it would be 'very very surprising if Labour retains control of any council in Scotland'.

Tory Tim Bowles emerged triumphant in the West of England mayoral contest on a good night for the party
Tory Tim Bowles emerged triumphant in the West of England mayoral contest on a good night for the party

Tory Tim Bowles emerged triumphant in the West of England mayoral contest on a good night for the party

Labour pain in Wales as they face losing control of Keir Hardie's Merthyr Tydfil stronghold 

Labour suffered bruising losses in Wales as voters deserted the party for nationalist, independents and Tory candidates. 

A severe blow fell in the south Wales valleys, with independents taking control of Blaenau Gwent and the result on a knife edge in Merthyr Tydfil - where the final three seats will be declared on June 8. The party needs to win them all to stay in charge.

The outcome in Merthyr Tydfil was particularly embarrassing as it was the stronghold of Labour Party founder Keir Hardie.

Bridgend, which was toured by the PM at the end of last month, went from Labour to no overall control. 

The outcome in Merthyr Tydfil was particularly embarrassing as it was the stronghold of Labour Party founder Keir Hardie
The outcome in Merthyr Tydfil was particularly embarrassing as it was the stronghold of Labour Party founder Keir Hardie

The outcome in Merthyr Tydfil was particularly embarrassing as it was the stronghold of Labour Party founder Keir Hardie

However, the party did manage to cling on in Cardiff, Newport and Swansea - avoiding some of its worst fears - and most of the pain was inflicted by independent candidates.

Brendan Toomey, who was Labour leader of council Merthyr Tydfil but lost his seat, told Raid 4: 'It's the birthplace of Labour, we are having a very disappointing evening to say the least.

'It is quite clear that huge numbers of the public aren't entirely happy, to say the least, with the way the Labour Party is going at the moment. There's no doubt about that.

'But I would say it goes a lot deeper than that.' 

Stephen Kinnock, MP for Aberavon before Parliament was dissolved, admitted it was a pretty 'disastrous picture' 

'The fact of the matter is that Jeremy's leadership does come up on the doorstep,' he said.

'We have to make this general election about more than leadership — about the future of our country.'

A spokeswoman for Plaid Cymru said the loss of Bridgend, where the nationalist party gained two seats, increasing its total there to three, was 'quite embarrassing' for Welsh Labour and undermined the status of Mr Jones.

She said: 'The concept of Labour safe seats in Wales is rapidly becoming a thing of the past.

'Plaid Cymru is encouraged by the progress we are making in all parts of Wales.'

Elsewhere, the Conservatives gained control of Monmouthshire from no overall control and Ceredigion remains under no overall control, with Plaid Cymru retaining its position as the largest party.

Ahead of the election, Labour held 536 seats and had outright control of 10 of the local authorities, but was facing challenges from Plaid Cymru, Tories, Lib Dems and Ukip.

Plaid Cymru had 177 councillors and was fielding 549 candidates, while the Tories held 103 seats and put 621 names on ballots across the country.

 

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