Local elections 2014: Labour defends performance after Ukip eats into support
Ed Miliband's party made gains in the local council elections but has faced criticism from within its own ranks
Labour has defended its performance at the local council elections after facing a backlash of criticism from members of its own party, despite gaining almost 300 seats and ousting the Conservatives from the Tory stronghold of Hammersmith and Fulham.
Britain’s three main political parties were this morning assessing the damage after they were all hit by the “political earthquake” that Nigel Farage’s Ukip promised and delivered.
With 159 of 161 councils having declared their results, Labour has gained 292 seats, Ukip has gained 155 seats, the Lib Dems have lost 284 and the Conservatives have lost 201.
Labour emerged top of the polls with 31 per cent of the vote, but Ukip made inroads on Labour’s northern heartlands including the stronghold of Rotherham.
Ed Miliband found himself facing the brunt of criticism yesterday as members of his own party lambasted him for an “unforgivably unprofessional” campaign and accused him of lacking immediate appeal to the electorate”.
Senior Labour figures were particularly concerned over his refusal to attack Ukip during the campaign and claimed he was “squeamish” about discussing immigration.
Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls insisted the party needed to talk “more” about immigration, telling BBC Radio 4: "It is not good enough yet for Labour. We have more to do if we are going to really win the argument.”
His call was backed by the shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper and Harriet Harman, who said: "People need more than policies. They need to be able to have confidence in their local and national politicians. We've got more to do."
But shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna defended the party’s performance, telling the BBC: "Importantly we have got the biggest share of the vote in the areas which are the boundaries of some of the key marginal seats."
Meanwhile, the Conservatives lost nearly 200 seats and control of 11 authorities, including Essex where Ukip gained 11 seats to end Tory control. This would have equated to 29 per cent of the votes. After results were confirmed yesterday, David Cameron was forced to reject pressure from some Tory MPs for local pacts with Ukip.
Tory MP Adam Afriyie - a prominent Eurosceptic previously linked to a challenge for the leadership - blamed the "deeply disappointing" election results on the failure of Mr Cameron and the Tory leadership to "connect" better with the party's traditional supporters.
The Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt instead argued Labour should feel concerned about the results, telling Newsnight: "No opposition party has ever won a general election without being the biggest party in local government. We are going to be the biggest party in local government."
The Lib Dems lost two authorities and 284 seats, including all of their remaining nine seats on Manchester Council. The party would have got just 13 per cent of the vote, but Mr Clegg insisted he would not quit as he blamed the party’s losses on a “very strong anti-politics feeling”.
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