Local elections: Tories and Labour hit by Brexit backlash in polls

Election results: Lib Dems are "success story of the night"
Election results: Lib Dems are “success story of the night”

The Conservatives and Labour have faced a backlash at the ballot box over the Brexit deadlock, with smaller parties and independents winning seats.

In England so far, the Tories have lost more than 530 seats and 22 English councils, while the Liberal Democrats have gained more than 340 seats.

National politics seems to have been a deciding factor for voters, with Labour also losing almost 80 seats to date.

Council results continue to come in for England and Northern Ireland.

Almost 130 English councils had declared by 12:50 BST, with counting under way in many other local authorities.

The first Northern Irish results are also starting to be announced No local elections are taking place in Scotland and Wales.

MPs have yet to agree on a deal for leaving the European Union, and as a result, the deadline of Brexit has been pushed back from 29 March to 31 October.

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While local elections give voters the chance to choose the decision-makers who affect their communities, the national issue loomed large on the doorstep.

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Key developments so far:

  • The Conservatives have lost control of councils including Peterborough, Basildon and St Albans. Labour has lost control of Hartlepool, Bolsover and Wirral
  • Labour has also lost its mayoral post in Middlesbrough to an independent
  • The Conservatives have won Walsall and North East Lincolnshire – both of which had no party with overall control before
  • The Liberal Democrats have gained councils including Winchester, North Norfolk, Cotswold, Bath and North East Somerset and Vale of White Horse
  • Labour has won Trafford – a former Conservative stronghold
  • Where independent candidates have been standing, they have won on average 25% of the vote – and independents have taken control of two councils – Ashfield and North Kesteven
  • The Green Party has gained 68 councillors so far, while UKIP has lost 62
  • Turnout is averaging just one or two points below the last two local elections, reversing predictions of a major drop-off in voters
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Theresa May, appearing at the Welsh Conservative conference, said voters had sent the “simple message” that her party and Labour had to “get on” with delivering Brexit.

“These were always going to be difficult elections for us,” she added, “and there were some challenging results for us last night, but it was a bad night for Labour too.”

A heckler shouted at the prime minister: “Why don’t you resign?” He was then ushered out of the conference hall in Llangollen, North Wales.

Speaking in Greater Manchester, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said he “wanted to do better” and conceded voters who disagreed with its backing for Brexit had deserted the party.

But Lib Dem leader Sir Vince Cable, in Chelmsford Essex, where his party took control of the council, said it had been a “brilliant” result and that “every vote for the Liberal Democrats is a vote for stopping Brexit”.

Conservative Party Chairman Brandon Lewis says he accepts there is frustration over Brexit

Polling expert Prof Sir John Curtice said the days of the Conservatives and Labour dominating the electoral landscape, as happened in the 2017 election, when they won 80% of the vote between them, “may be over”.

“It looks as though the key message from the voters to the Conservatives and Labour is ‘a plague on both of your houses’, as they find themselves losing both votes and seats on an extensive basis,” he said.

Corbyn reacts to local election results after Labour suffers losses

But he warned it could be even worse for the two main parties at the European elections on the 23 May, when “new kids on the block”, the Brexit Party and Change UK, also compete for votes alongside the Greens and Lib Dems.

Prof Curtice said there was a North/South divide emerging in the losses too, with the Conservatives shedding more seats in the South – especially in areas that voted Remain – and Labour losing more in the North.

COUNCILRESULT
Bath and North East SomersetLD GAIN FROM CON
ChelmsfordLD GAIN FROM CON
CotswoldLD GAIN FROM CON
Hinckley and BosworthLD GAIN FROM CON
Vale of White HorseLD GAIN FROM CON
WinchesterLD GAIN FROM CON
North DevonLD GAIN FROM NOC
North NorfolkLD GAIN FROM NOC
North East LincolnshireCON GAIN FROM NOC
WalsallCON GAIN FROM NOC
Amber ValleyLAB GAIN FROM CON
TraffordLAB GAIN FROM NOC
AshfieldIND GAIN FROM NOC
BasildonCON LOSE TO NOC
BroxtoweCON LOSE TO NOC
City of PeterboroughCON LOSE TO NOC
County of HerefordshireCON LOSE TO NOC
CravenCON LOSE TO NOC
North HertfordshireCON LOSE TO NOC
North KestevenCON LOSE TO NOC
ShepwayCON LOSE TO NOC
South OxfordshireCON LOSE TO NOC
Southend-on-SeaCON LOSE TO NOC
St. AlbansCON LOSE TO NOC
TandridgeCON LOSE TO NOC
TendringCON LOSE TO NOC
Welwyn HatfieldCON LOSE TO NOC
WorcesterCON LOSE TO NOC
BolsoverLAB LOSE TO NOC
BurnleyLAB LOSE TO NOC
Cannock ChaseLAB LOSE TO NOC
HartlepoolLAB LOSE TO NOC
WirralLAB LOSE TO NOC

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Green Party co-leader Sian Berry said she was confident her party would end the day with a “record number of councillors on a record number of councils”.

She told BBC Breakfast the Greens were not simply benefiting from a protest vote over Brexit and their gains reflected “huge new concerns” about climate change as well as the strength of their local campaigning on a range of issues.

Polls took place for 248 English councils, six mayors and all 11 councils in Northern Ireland.

This is the biggest set of local elections in England’s four-year electoral cycle, with more than 8,400 seats being contested.

A further 462 seats are up for grabs in Northern Ireland.

It’s not over – it’s far, far from over.

Many hundreds of seats are yet to declare. Many individual political stories yet to be told. So be very aware – the final shape of wins and losses for the government and the main opposition is unclear.

But at this stage of the morning, there is one message to both of the main parties at Westminster from this enormous set of elections – it’s not us, it’s both of you.

Council leaders from both parties are saying openly that voters can’t trust them any more because of how they have dealt with Brexit. This is a verdict on the competence of Westminster’s biggest parties – on the mess of handling Brexit.

Of the 248 elections in England, 168 have been district councils which are in charge of setting and collecting council tax, bin collections, local planning and council housing.

There were also elections taking place for 47 unitary authorities and 33 metropolitan boroughs which look after education, public transport, policing and fire services, as well as all the services of district councils.

In Northern Ireland, councils are responsible for services including local planning and licensing, waste collection and enforcing safety regulations to do with food, workplaces and the environment.

England scoreboard

PARTYCOUNCILLORS+/-
Conservative1545-565
Labour1099-77
Liberal Democrat704+366
Green84+69
UKIP18-62
Others459+269