Labour is licking its wounds after being stripped of more than 300 seats in local elections and losing control of Glasgow for the first time in 40 years.
Jeremy Corbyn’s allies admitted it had been a “tough” night, but despite the rout still pointed to results in Wales and elsewhere which they said showed there had been some positives.
The Conservatives made major gains mostly at the cost of Ukip, whose vote collapsed as the party almost failed to win a single seat.
The Liberal Democrats also failed to make the kind of breakthrough they wanted, in order to show their staunch opposition to Brexit would gain them support in areas that voted Remain in the referendum.
At lunch time with many results still to come in, the Conservatives had won 11 more councils and picked up 515 new seats. Labour had lost control of seven councils and 341 seats.
Labour’s defeat in Glasgow follows the party losing all its MPs in the city at the 2015 general election, with the SNP sweeping the board. The last time it did not control the council was in 1980.
John McDonnell said the results were “tough” and apologised to his party’s councillors who had lost their seats, but he then went on to blame unbalanced media coverage for Labour’s plight.
He said: “My message to the party is I’m sorry for those Labour councillors who have lost their seats because they’ve worked so hard.
Mr McDonnell said Mr Corbyn had been an asset in some areas such as Cardiff, where he had campaigned and seen Labour hold onto control of the city council which was said to be under threat.
But he appeared to accept that in some cases “the image that people have of Jeremy Corbyn at the moment” was making it difficult for the party to win.
He added: “What’s interesting is this is when we have a general election we have balance airtime in the broadcast media.
“As a result of that people can hear more about our policies, more about our candidate and more about our leader.”
Both Labour and the Tories shied away from claiming that the results pointed to a decisive result for Theresa May at June 8’s general election.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon acknowledged that the Tories had made “encouraging process” but repeatedly refused to accept that the party had done well in the election.
The Conservatives won the West of England’s mayoral contest, but faced a close contest with Labour to win in the West Midlands.
Tory minister Brandon Lewis said Ms May would "take the view that the results thus far are encouraging but there are still a lot of councils to declare".
"We can't assume that what happens in local elections will automatically be replicated in general elections,” he said.
While the Lib Dems managed to increase their vote share they lost 34 council seats – Lib Dem former business secretary Sir Vince Cable called the night “neutral” for his party.
Shortly after 5pm UKIP has lost 135 councillors and made just a single gain. It was wiped out in Lincolnshire, losing 13 seats, while all its nine representatives in Essex were defeated.
Former MEP and leadership contender Steven Woolfe said Ukip's influence was now “at an end”, while the party’s erstwhile only MP Douglas Carswell said it was “done”.
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