Their canvass returns show that the Tory vote has been reduced to one or two per cent in some Labour seats.
'I wish I had a shilling for every Tory voter who has told me, 'Never again'. I have heard those two words an awful lot,' Charles Kennedy, the president of the Liberal Democrats, told an eve-of- poll press conference.
The Liberal Democrat bandwagon, which proved a mirage at the last election, is expected to be put back on the road today by gains in Labour and Tory areas. But party leaders are still not sure whether it will lead to a breakthrough at the next election.
Sir Norman Fowler, the Conservative party chairman, yesterday sought to minimise the damage to John Major's leadership from Tory defeats by telling journalists: 'The buck stops here.'
After taking responsibility for today's poll results, Sir Norman, who will step down in the summer, will order party workers straight on to the offensive for the European elections on 9 June. The aim is clearly to lift party morale after the expected defeats.
The Liberal Democrats are hoping to build on their successes with their European election campaign. They are targeting supporters of the Green Party, who took 2.2 million votes - 15 per cent - in 1989.
Their campaign evidence for the collapse of the Tory vote in the local elections is borne out by Labour MPs, who report that in north-west England they are finding it difficult to register the Tory support at all and that in staunch Labour areas of the North-east the Liberal Democrats are replacing the Tories as the challenger.
'None of us can claim it is a permanent shift. It is more likely to be permanent for those who were Tory voters and vote for us, than those who stay at home . . . What is clear is that if we can win toe holds in certain areas or move from positions of influence to positions of power, it does wonders for the whole credibility of the party,' Mr Kennedy said.
In London, the Liberal Democrats are targeting the Labour boroughs of Southwark, Lambeth and Waltham Forest, and from the Tories, Kingston and Harrow, and Brent. They said they may take Bromley, if the Tory vote is a disaster.
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