Local elections – Ukip delivers first tremors of political earthquake
Nigel Farage weakens Labour’s grip in north as Tories lose control of flagship councils and Lib Dem vote collapses.
Ukip has delivered the first tremors of the political earthquake promised by Nigel Farage as the party weakened Labour’s grip in its northern heartlands and caused the Conservatives to lose control of at least eight flagship councils.
Labour pulled off coups by winning David Cameron’s favourite London council, Hammersmith and Fulham, as well as Merton and Cambridge. But outside the capital, it struggled to make expected gains in key targets such as Swindon, Walsall, Tamworth and Portsmouth, while losing Thurrock to no overall control because of a surge in Ukip votes.
Farage also ate into Conservative strongholds, causing the party to lose control of eight councils, including Maidstone, Southend-on-Sea, Castle Point, Basildon and Brentwood – the constituency of the local government secretary, Eric Pickles.
By 7am on Friday, with more than 100 of the 172 councils up for election in England and Northern Ireland still to declare, the Tories had lost 102 seats, Labour had gained 94, the Lib Dems had lost 83, Ukip had gained 86, the Greens had gained one and other parties were up seven.
The results of the European parliament elections, which also took place on Thursday, will be announced on Sunday but the swell in votes for Ukip indicated it is likely to be a close-run contest with Labour for first place.
The biggest collapse in the share of the vote for the local elections appeared to be for the Liberal Democrats, who lost Portsmouth council and looked set to lose Kingston to no overall control.