Local election 2017: The Ukip vote is collapsing - and going to the Tories

In Lincolnshire the party lost all of its seats, handing control of the council to the Conservatives

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Indy Politics

Ukip suffered a string of early losses as counting got underway local elections, with 36 seats falling to other parties.

In Lincolnshire alone, the party lost all of its seats, handing control of the council to the Conservatives. 

Nick Smith, the party's chairman in the county insisted that party was "not going away." 

"This is a temporary glitch for us," he told the BBC's Radio 4, before admitting that people may have been put off from voting for the party after the country voted for Brexit. 

Voters were currently "buying into" the Conservative argument that if they are given "a magic mandate", they will deliver a magic Brexit

Those voters would return to his party when that doesn't happen, he said. 

However, former Ukip leadership candidate Lisa Duffy admitted  that it was "going to be extremely challenging for us as a political party." 

The councillor on Huntingdonshire district council told the BBC: "We got Brexit - or we certainly won the referendum, we're well on our way to Brexit now. With the general election being called so quickly, it's going to be a difficult night but it's one that we will grow from."

Similar collapses for the party were forecast by Labour's election coordinator Andrew Gwynne, who said that the Ukip vote had seemingly transferred to the Tories, where Labour was also being squeezed.

A LIb Dem source echoed his view, saying that Ukip, which had a breakthrough night in England in the equivalent local contests in 2013, was seeing its seats "going heavily to the Tories".

Labour was also braced for heavy losses. As the first results began to trickle in after Thursday's vote, shadow international trade secretary Barry Gardiner said: "It's never good to hear that we are losing seats."

In England, the councils being contested were "historically the Conservatives' strongest areas" and in Wales Labour would struggle to emulate the success it enjoyed in 2012 when the party dominated the results, he said.

Welsh election expert Professor Roger Scully suggested that Merthyr Tydfil, which was solidly Labour, could slip from the party's grasp.

Mr Gardiner said he would be "desperately disappointed" if that happened, telling BBC Radio 4 it would be a "huge loss to us".

In a sign of the problems facing Labour, a campaign visit to Harlow by Mr Corbyn the week before the vote failed to boost support in the Essex town, traditionally viewed as a bellwether seat in general elections.

Labour lost three of the four council seats in the town, giving the Tories a clean sweep.

Government minister Rob Halfon, who is hoping to retain the Harlow seat on 8 June, hailed the "brilliant council result".