DAVID Cameron and Nick Clegg have been dealt a stinging rebuke by the public as Labour racked up big gains in local elections.
Results across the various local elections taking place around the country mirrored those in Hartlepool in an apparent backlash against the Coalition government.
Key councils such as Thurrock, Harlow, Southampton, Birmingham, Norwich, Great Yarmouth and Chorley fell to Ed Miliband’s party. The Prime Minister was also embarrassed by losses in his Oxfordshire constituency – with Labour taking the seats of Witney Central, Witney East and Chipping Norton.
In Sunderland, Labour strengthened its grip on power in the city as voters gave the Lib Dems and Tories a bloody nose at the ballot box.
Labour won 22 of the 26 seats up for grabs in Sunderland this year, with the Tories winning just two. Sunderland’s only Lib Dem councillor Paul Dixon lost his seat.
In a further blow, Manchester, Nottingham and Coventry ignored Mr Cameron’s pleas and rejected proposals for elected mayors. Birmingham and other cities are expected to follow suit.
The Liberal Democrats were not spared pain, being left without a representative on several powerful councils as voters seemingly punished the Government for austerity measures.
Overall Labour looked on track to exceed the 700 gains experts had set as the threshold for a good performance. A BBC projection of the national vote share gave the party 39 per cent – up three points on a year ago. The Tories were down four on 31 per cent and the Lib Dems trod water on 16 per cent.
However, Mr Miliband did suffer a setback in Bradford, where his party lost seats to Respect. The results followed George Galloway’s shock success in last month’s parliamentary by-election.
Tories pointed to a low turnout, estimated at little over 30 per cent, suggesting that “apathy” had played a significant part in the results.
Local Government Secretary and former Tory chairman Eric Pickles told Sky News the outcome was to be expected. He said: “When a party is rock bottom there’s only one way to go. But I’m not seeking to rain on Labour’s parade.”
Some 5,000 seats were at stake on 181 local councils across England, Scotland and Wales. Most were last up for grabs in 2008, when the Conservatives made significant gains and Labour and the Lib Dems were hit hard.
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