The New Statesman 2019 local elections liveblog

All the results across England and Northern Ireland.


Sign Up

Get the New Statesman\'s Morning Call email.

Welcome to the New Statesman's 2019 local elections liveblog. Press refresh for updates.

19:03: With most of England declared, Patrick is signing off. Counting in Northern Ireland will continue tonight and tomorrow, so it's too early to draw any sweeping conclusions there. Your-as-good-as final scores on the doors as far as councillors are concerned.

Conservatives -1272 
Labour -87 
Liberal Democrats +670 
Green +186 
Ukip -144 
Independent +601 
Residents' Associations +186

We'll be here over the weekend with analysis of the fallout - and the results in Northern Ireland when we have them. Have a great Bank Holiday weekend, and thanks for joining the NS team.

18:55: Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole has refused to leave the warm embrace of NOC, while Spelthorne stays blue.

18:50: Another significant result from Belfast, where Sinn Fein have lost a seat to the anti-austerity People Before Profit in Collin, one of their strongholds in the nationalist west of the city. PBP are an interesting case: they topped the poll in West Belfast in the 2016 assembly election but subsequently backed Brexit, which lost them a considerable amount of goodwill among their predominantly nationalist base. That they are muscling out their republican rivals again implies the taint is fading. 

18:37: MPs from both main parties are making angry noises about their respective leaders. Labour's Wes Streeting writes: "It’s no use members of the Shadow Cabinet saying they’ve got the message, without acknowledging that our leader is a serious part of Labour’s problems." A string of Tory MPs, including putative leadership candidate Priti Patel, have also called for Theresa May to go. But what isn't clear from these results is what either successor could do - particularly on Brexit - that did not nuke at least part of their electoral coalitions.

18:31: I'm not quite sure what NOC's Brexit policy is but boy are they cleaning up. Guildford, South Ribble and Rother are the latest Conservative councils to go hung. Labour, meanwhile, have lost Cheshire West and Chester.

18:23: The Greens didn't quite pull it off in Brighton and Hove, which stays under no overall control. 

18:02: Your scores on the doors as we pull into the home straight. 

The Conservatives have 88 councils, down from 39 in 2015, and 3356 councillors, down a staggering 1199. The numbers speak for themselves. Good luck for anyone standing for them in the European elections. 

Labour have 60 councils, down five on 2015, and 1928 councillors, down 81. They've chalked up some notable victories and won the councils they wanted, but the headline figures will haunt them - especially given that John McDonnell predicted a net gain of 400 - and ensure the internal recriminations run on and on. Opponents of a second referendum feel vindicated by losses in the north and midlands - especially in those seats that the leadership believes Labour needs to hold and win to command a majority at the next election (a lot of time, money, and energy has been devoted to making inroads in precisely the places the party is losing).

Those in cities and university towns - and, indeed, in Leave constituencies where the Lib Dems and Green have made inroads - feel the same sense of satisfaction. They have long feared that the Remainers who flocked to Labour in 2017 lack the fidelity of the party's traditional core vote and the march of the Greens and Lib Dems will convince them they are right.

The problem for anyone who wants a one-size-fits-all answer to these electoral questions is essentially that both camps are right at the same time.

The Liberal Democrats - the persons of the hour - have 18 councils, up 10, and 1253 councillors, up 634. 

The Greens don't have a council to their name - though they could yet win Brighton - but their haul of 233 councillors is up 174 on 2015. 

Ukip have 30 councillors, down 135. 

Independents have won one council - Ashfield - and 947 councillors, up 559. Local residents associations have won two councils - Uttlesford and Epsom and Ewell - and 103 councillors, up 35. 

17:57: The Conservatives held Theresa May's home council of Windsor and Maidenhead but the underlying numbers, like those in many of their Lib Dem-facing seats where voters backed Remain in 2016, are not at all good. 

17:42: More reaction from Conservative Brexiteers. Steve Baker, the European Research Group's deputy chairman, tells your blogger: “It turns out politicians can’t play games with the foundations of democracy. Who knew? And no one should think this is a protest in favour of the proposed deal. Look at what the Brexit Party are saying: they won’t stand against those of us opposed to the deal.”

17:33: Even Brexiteers - who believe they have been vindicated by the scale of their party's losses - are taken aback by the 1134-strong and rising tally of Conservative losses. "I thought we'd be at 800-ish," confesses one unrepentant troublemaker. With 22 councils left to declare, there's plenty more to come.

17:27: Labour have held Chesterfield - another of its East Midlands redoubts - pretty comfortably, albeit with a lot of churn under the bonnet: they have ten fewer councillors than they started with. No prizes for guessing that the Lib Dems and local independents cleaned up.

17:21: My crestfallen Kent Tory has been in touch again. Boy is his crest positively subterranean right now. "Gravesham. FFS." It's fair to say that nobody expected things to be quite this bad for the Conservatives in the southeast.

17:14: History has been made in Northern Ireland: the DUP's first openly gay candidate, Alison Bennington, has been elected in Antrim and Newtownabbey.

Elsewhere, the big story is of gains for the Alliance and Greens, consolidation for Sinn Fein, the DUP and SDLP, and precipitous losses for the UUP. 

These stats from Belfast, courtesy of Ireland Thinks pollster Kevin Cunningham, tell quite the story. 

17:10: More grim tidings for the Conservatives in the Home Counties. They have lost 14 councillors in Surrey Heath, Michael Gove's backyard, and are down to a majority of one. Lib Dems and local independents inflicted most of the damage.

17:08: The BBC have released a Commons seat projection based on the results thus far. The obvious caveat is that the percentages the projections are based on are England alone and thus don't include Wales, Scotland, or, crucially, the make-up of Northern Ireland's 18 MPs, so it's of limited use. But here it is anyway. 

Conservatives 269 (-49)
Labour 280 (+18)
Liberal Democrats 29 (+17)
Others 72 (+14)

I for one welcome our new Others kingmakers.

16:59: Elsewhere in the Garden of England, Labour have won Gravesham from NOC. Interestingly, their pre-election briefings stressed that this neck of the woods would only turn red on a really good day - which, given their vote is being pulled in so many different directions, can't be said to be uniformly true. 

16:54: A crestfallen Kent Tory gets in touch with a sobering stat: the leaders of Conservative councils in Canterbury, Tunbridge Wells, Swale and Tandridge have all lost their seats today.

16:49: THAT'S NUMBERWANG! The Conservatives have lost over 1000 councillors. Just about everyone in the party is blaming Theresa May's failure to deliver Brexit. It will go higher. And the recriminations will get louder.

16:44: A crumb of comfort for Labour in the East Midlands, where they've won the Mansfield mayoralty. Don't read too much into it as far as their chances of winning back the parliamentary seat go, however. I accompanied Mansfield's Tories on the doorstep a couple of weeks ago and the one thing more or less everyone could agree on was that they did not think much of the incumbent mayor, Kate Alsopp. The defeat of independents here might preclude the Ashfield-style result that Labour and the Tories fear. Notably, this is about the only place where local independents - who have held the mayoralty since its inaugural election in 2002 - have lost today.

16:41: Can anything halt the forward march of local independents? Uttlesford's residents association has won control of the council. It's worth noting that Independents and other small parties are the second biggest winners today, with 472 new councillors. The Liberal Democrats have won 537, while the Greens are on 138.

16:23: Big news from Belfast: the DUP's council group leader and director of policy, Lee Reynolds, has failed to win a seat in the Titanic district electoral area. Reynolds previously represented the Balmoral district but switched ahead of yesterday's poll. The gamble has backfired and leaves the party without its leading strategic brain.

16:15: Another Labour loss in the East Midlands coalfields: North East Derbyshire has gone the same way as Ashfield and Bolsover, which were lost to independents and NOC respectively, and fallen to the Conservatives. Mansfield, currently run by a coalition of Labour and local independents, is still to come: there local Tories fear a similar result to Ashfield's. These are exactly the leave-voting marginals that Labour needs to hold (in the case of Ashfield and Bolsover) and regain (in the case of Mansfield and North East Derbyshire) if it is to win the next general election. 

16:05: Labour has won another of its prime Tory targets: High Peak. Also leaving blue hands - to no overall control, in many ways the day's big winner - are Richmondshire and North Somerset. Liam Fox will sleep a little less easy tonight. 

The Conservatives are now down 34 councils and 943 councillors. It's by no means been the sort of day an opposition would expect to be having either, but this is cataclysmic stuff. Their vote is proving especially flaky in Lib Dem-facing marginals. 

16:01: Labour have held Copeland, in Cumbria, comfortably - winning a councillor from the Tories in the process. Mike Starkie, an independent, won the borough's mayoral election at a canter last night. That's a disappointing result for the Conservatives, who hold the coterminous parliamentary seat.

Labour also held Preston at jogging pace, while the Tories hang on to Ribble Valley, Broadland and Tewkesbury.

15:49: That said, the fact that the Greens are very optimistic about regaining control of Brighton and Hove will give Labour cause to worry about its performance in Remain constituencies.

15:46: It's that man Jeremy Corbyn, this time that with a statement that'll send the blood pressure of Labour Remainers higher than the Tories' net losses*.

“There’s a huge impetus on every MP – and they’ve all got that message, whether they themselves are leave or remain, or the people across the country – that an arrangement has to be made, a deal has to be done, parliament has to resolve this."

That will inevitably be interpreted as a sign that the Labour leadership is ready to sign up to a compromise short of another referendum. There's already much consternation among Remainier members of the PLP, who believe that the party's losses to the Lib Dems and Greens are a much graver problem than its woes in Brexitland. Somebody call Mandy Rice-Davies.

*Now running at 864. Not long until they hit the 1,000 that party bigwigs briefed to last week's Sunday Express in what then looked like shrewd exercise in expectation management rather than, erm, an actual prediction.

15:35: Highs and lows for Labour in the northeast: Conservative predictions that the North of Tyne mayoral race might end up a close run thing were, it turns out, very wide of the mark indeed. Jamie Driscoll, who ran from the left with Momentum’s backing to beat Newcastle council leader Nick Forbes for the selection, has won by 16,000 votes on the second round. 

On Teesside, however, the party woes continue: Middlesbrough, whose directly-elected Labour mayor was defeated by an independent yesterday, has followed neighbouring Stockton in falling to no overall control. In both cases it was Labour losses to independents - who now hold 25 seats in Middlesbrough - wot lost it.

15:24: No Tory councillor is safe: not even the one in Northern Ireland. David Harding, their sole representative at any level of elected government in Northern Ireland, has lost his seat in Causeway Coast and Glens. Maybe it's karma for forcing David Trimble to choose between canvassing for his son and keeping his Tory membership (see 11:59).

15:14: Get ready for a truly awful tweet from the guy who pretends to be Ken Clarke on Twitter: the Conservatives have held Rushcliffe

15:08: Labour have held Leicester, with the city's only Conservative councillor losing his seat.

15:03: The Conservatives are taking an absolute walloping across Surrey, where opposition to local development plans is running high. In Surrey Heath - Michael Gove's patch - they've lost 13 out 18 councillors.

14:55: It's a draw as far as projected vote share is concerned. This from the Beeb: the Conservatives and Labour are both on 28 per cent, the Lib Dems are on 19 per cent, with an annoyingly broad cohort of 'others' on 25 per cent.

14:53: Karen Bradley will have the consequences of Northern Ireland's local elections to deal with when Stormont talks resume after the Bank Holiday weekend, but the results in her own constituency are a headache enough: Staffordshire Moorlands falls from Tory hands to no overall control. They've kept hold of neighbouring South Staffordshire though.

14:46: Another Conservative hold! This time in Stafford. Labour's woes in the northeast have deepened, on the other hand: Stockon-on-Tees falls to no overall control.

14:44: The Tories have lost Malvern Hills and Mendip to no overall control. East Staffordshire, Great Yarmouth, Wychavon, and South Norfolk all stay blue. Meanwhile Labour have held Blackpool on a reduced number of seats: it's home to two marginal Westminster constituencies. Woking stays no overall control.

14:33: Your scores on the doors, with more than 2,000 seats left to declare.

The Conservatives are down 719.

Labour are down 77. 

The Liberal Democrats are up 437. 

Ukip are down 76. 

The Greens are up 99. 

There's still plenty of time for significant movement.

14:27You wait sixteen hours for a bunch of Tory councils to declare and five come along at once! Bromsgrove, Lichfield, Hambleton and Erewash - the only seat Robert Kilroy Silk's Veritas retained their deposit in at the 2005 general election - all stay blue. But Surrey's Mole Valley has fallen to the Lib Dems. 

The Conservatives are now more than 700 councillors down - a number that's creeping closer to some of the gloomier predictions spun by CCHQ in recent weeks. Labour are currently down 78. They're going to need an Istanbul-style turnaround and then some if they're to meet Kopite John McDonnell's prediction of 400 gains.

14:20: As Eleni predicted, Labour have held Bradford. Meanwhile the Lib Dems have held Three Rivers, while the Tories have lost Babergh to no overall control - the 26th council they've lost this time round.

14:14: Jeremy Hunt had his say this morning (see 7:50), and now his leadership rival Sajid Javid has broken cover to criticise the lacklustre Tory performance today. 

Expect to hear much more of this one. 

14:10: In the Oldpark electoral area of north Belfast, meanwhile, the SDLP candidate, homelessness campaigner Paul McCusker, has topped the poll with a remarkable 2,856 votes. For context, that's almost 1,000 votes more than what the SDLP polled in North Belfast at the 2017 general election.

14:04: The elections to Northern Ireland's councils are unfolding in a way nobody quite foresaw. While the DUP and Sinn Fein vote is holding up, the standout results are those being posted by two parties from outside the sectarian divide: Alliance and the Greens. The Alliance vote is up just about everywhere, while the Greens are competitive in areas they have never won before. In the Bangor Central electoral district of Ards and North Down for instance, both have doubled their number of first preference votes to come first and second respectively.

Columnist Newton Emerson jokingly refers to it as a "revolt in the garden centre" - 'garden centre prods' being the historian Paul Bew's coinage for middle-ground, liberal unionists. The results bode well for Alliance leader Naomi Long's European parliament run.

13:52: Hi everybody. Patrick here. I'll be seeing us through to the end of the day. Let's see if we can stick it out til Cheshire East declares at nine. In the meantime, some news from Sheffield, where Labour have lost seven seats to the Greens and Lib Dems in a result one source blames squarely on the party's perceived prevarication on a second referendum. One MP tells me it was a prominent theme on the doorstep. 

13:48: I'm off to work on a different story now, but do continue following our coverage - I'll be handing over to Patrick. Thanks for sticking with us, Anoosh.

13:46: Those good souls at the Local Government Information Unit have been trying to clear up what we know about turnout - they calculate that it has remained around average levels, despite predictions that it would slump.

13:43: Other results include the Conservatives losing Pendle and Mid Suffolk to no overall control, and Labour losing Darlington to no overall control.

13:42: As Patrick reported, the Tories have lost Warwick:

Confirmed: the Tories have lost Warwick council to no overall control, with half of the 31 councillors they won in 2015 gone. The Lib Dems and Greens are the big winners.​

13:41: Patrick has the Tory reaction to their candidate reaching the North of Tyne mayoral election's second round, where an upset is possible yet bizarre:

Tories at the North of Tyne mayoral count admit they are shocked to see their candidate, Charlie Hoult, reach the second round. They had envisaged two scenarios: Labour's Jamie Driscoll winning on the first, or reaching the second with John McCabe, a local businessman and independent. The gap in first preferences is over 16,000 but with 75,000 second choices to reallocate, sources at the count say it's "well open". Could we be in for the sort of shock we saw in the Tees Valley in 2017? "Totally bizarre if so," says one local Tory. "We've offered nothing by way of a campaign."

13:33: Lib Dems hold one of their few majority councils, South Somerset.

13:32: More from Warwick by Patrick:

The Lib Dems are also on the march into Tory territory in Warwick, where those at the count are now more or less certain of a previously true blue council falling into NOC.

13:20: Labour gains a target, Calderdale in west Yorkshire - overall control for the first time in 20 years.

13:12: Keep an eye on the North of Tyne mayoral election results, where Labour's Jamie Driscoll and the Tories' Charlie Hoult have just through to the second round.

13:10: Patrick hears some more good news for the Greens:

Sources at the count in Warwick tell me the ruling Conservative group is likely to lose control of the council thanks to a surge from - you guessed it - the Greens. There is opposition to the district’s local plan, and controversial proposals to move their headquarters at a cost of £50m and 85 trees, and close a swimming pool in Kenilworth.

13:08: The Conservatives lose both Craven and North Herts to NOC, while neither they nor the Lib Dems gain control of their target of Maidstone, which remains in no overall control.

13:02: Some bad news for the DUP from Patrick:

The DUP's director of policy, Lee Reynolds, is at risk of losing his seat in the Titanic electoral area of east Belfast.

12:59: Jeremy Corbyn's verdict is in, and it's very much the continuity comment, none of the "message received", "sort Brexit" stuff we've heard from other top Labour bods, like John McDonnell, earlier today.

Here it is:

“Even at this stage of the results, we have won Trafford council and are making gains across the country, including Tory heartlands. Throughout the campaign, we have been putting forward our vision of a better society, and the need to end the austerity imposed on our communities by the Conservatives, along with the Liberal Democrats when they were in the coalition government.

“As well as local issues, voters have been talking to us about how the Tories’ shambolic handling of Brexit is overshadowing everything else. We will continue putting our case for an alternative deal to Parliament, and we will put that case to the European Union, because Labour does not want to divide people on how they voted in 2016, we want to bring people together.

“I congratulate all the Labour councillors who have been elected, and I am sorry for those who were not successful. We will fight and win those seats back and, whenever a general election comes, we are absolutely ready for it.”

12:57: Patrick points out an opportunity for Labour:

Labour now has ten councillors in Worthing - which, considering they had none in 2015, is good going. It also bodes well for their bid to overturn former Tory minister Tim Loughton's slim majority of 5,106 at the next election.

12:45: Conservatives win new council West Suffolk, while Labour loses Cannock Chase to NOC.

12:42: Eleni, who is somehow awake, hears news from the Bradford count:

There's no danger of Labour losing its majority in Bradford, where a third of the council is up for election, but the feeling from the count there is that we'll see a similar pattern as we have other parts of of England: a surprisingly good showing for the Greens in what should be Labour wards and a swing to Ukip in wards where it's standing. Both Labour and the Tories look set for disappointing results.

12:34: More from Patrick on the UUP's woes:

The UUP's vote has also nearly halved in the Titanic electoral area of Belfast - from 1600 first preferences in 2014 to 852 today. If results like this are replicated across Northern Ireland, expect existential questions. Some fear their collapse could produce a symbolic majority for nationalism on Belfast City Council.

12:30: Labour loses Burnley to no overall control, while the Tories lose Herefordshire to no overall control. NOC is all-powerful, in NOC we trust, etc.

12:20: News of a Green win in Belfast (11:36) is confirmed, says Patrick:

The Greens have indeed topped the poll in the Botanic area of South Belfast. The DUP, SDLP, Sinn Fein and Alliance are on track to win the other seats. That's terrible news for the UUP, whose first preferences have more than halved from 766 to 333 in the intervening five years (which also saw a defection from their councillor, Graham Craig, to the DUP). Things are looking bleak.

12:15: Another point about Liverpool, from Patrick - remember the Liberals?

Nerds will enjoy the fact that one of Liverpool Labour's three losses was to the Liberals. Not the Liberal Democrats: the Liberals, the hardy bunch who rejected the 1988 merger with the SDP (a new, confusingly Eurosceptic iteration of which ran candidates yesterday too). They've had a mixed night. What Liverpool giveth, Peterborough, where Labour nabbed one of their two seats, taketh away.

12:12: The coup against mayor Joe Anderson is hotting up in Liverpool, Patrick reports:

News from Liverpool, where Labour lost three councillors on a night which began with a coup against the city's directly elected mayor, the pugnacious and divisive Joe Anderson (profiled in the NS here). His former deputy, Anne O'Byrne, has launched a bid to replace the mayoralty with a leader and cabinet system and now has the support of 40 councillors. Sources tell me the desire is for "anyone but Joe" - expect this one to get messy.

11:59: A strange tale of paternal angst and remarkable coincidence in Northern Ireland, from Patrick:

As we wait for more results from Northern Ireland: a curious tale from Lisburn and Castlereagh, where Nicholas Trimble - son of David, the former Ulster Unionist leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate - is running as a UUP candidate in the Downshire West district electoral area. 

Now a working Tory peer, Trimble Senior cannot endorse candidates running against his own party. No matter! The NI Conservatives are a small - some would say eccentric - outfit. They have neither the cash nor activist base required to contest these elections properly and are running just eight candidates this time. 

Of the no-hopers, two are running in Lisburn and Castlereagh - with one, as luck would have it, in Trimble Junior’s patch, leaving unionism’s elder statesman facing the unenviable choice of not endorsing his son or being expelled from the Conservatives. Some suspect it’s a deliberate provocation.

11:41: The success of independents – whose number on councils has trebled so far, with 25 per cent of the vote in the 69 wards where they were standing – is a big feature of these local elections. While protest voting is part of it, this represents an active, positive vote for local representatives too, as Stephanie Boland over at Prospect has written.

Local concerns are high in voters’ priorities, as well as the message they’re sending about national politics.

This could also make independence more appealing and less like electoral self-implosion for defectors from the main parties. Lots of independent candidates and groups on councils are splitters from established parties. For example, The Borough First group in Windsor & Maidenhead, which has three councillors, was founded by Conservative councillors who left the party over various gripes (including the council leader’s instructions to move rough sleepers on during the royal wedding last year).

11:36: Patrick on what the Northern Ireland results signal so far:

Could there be hope for the SDLP after all? The party has its first councillor: Kerri Hughes, who has won on the first count in the Cookstown district electoral area of Mid-Ulster. They've also increased its number of first preferences in nearby Magherafelt. But here comes the inevitable caveat: Mid-Ulster is a nationalist stronghold and, fun though it is, there isn't much we can learn from two seats. 

A much bigger challenge is in store in the capital, where the BBC is reporting that the Greens - who, like the SDLP, pitch for the Remain vote - have topped the poll in the leafy Botanic district electoral area of south Belfast. 

The SDLP held the corresponding Westminster constituency, South Belfast, until 2017, when a pro-EU vote split four ways - between the SDLP, Sinn Fein, Alliance and the Greens - helped hand the seat to the DUP’s Emma Little-Pengelly, despite the area’s reputation for pluralist cosmopolitanism and its 69.5 per cent Remain vote. 

That result speaks to electoral currents that might yet ruin the SDLP’s day: not only are they vulnerable to the bigger party of nationalism, Sinn Fein, but to cross-community parties on their socially liberal flank too.

11:15: Labour gains Amber Valley from the Conservatives! Big win for the party in Derbyshire, having lost six seats in Derby. More east Midlands comfort for them!

11:11: There is some comfort for Labour in the east Midlands, Patrick notes:

Labour has had a tough night in the East Midlands coalfields, losing control of both Bolsover (to No Overall Control) and Ashfield (to local independents). But slightly better news comes from Bassetlaw, backyard of maverick MP John Mann, where the party commands a clear majority and has just won three seats from the Conservatives, who have also lost one to an independent.

11:00: News from Northern Ireland! Patrick reports:

We have our first result from Northern Ireland! It's the first of what's likely to be many for Sinn Féin, who have coasted home in the Magherafelt district electoral area of Mid-Ulster Council - one of their strongholds - on the first count. Remember that at the last set of Northern Irish locals in 2014, both Sinn Féin and the DUP lost seats, and their rivals within the nationalist and unionist electorates - the SDLP and Ulster Unionists - performed well, but have slumped in subsequent elections.

10:28: Labour MP for Wigan Lisa Nandy makes a good point about the poor results for Labour in Bolsover, Bolton, Ashfield, Walsall and Derby, tweeting that it's not as simple as "leave vs remain". "We’ve had a problem in these towns for decades and we still don’t get it," she warns, pointing out the trend of Labour towards city-dwelling graduates and a decline in its core vote elsewhere. It's true - enthusiasts of former elections will remember Ed Miliband's "beer drinkers versus wine drinkers" problem, for example.

10:23: Patrick on the mood among top Labour politicians this morning:

Labour frontbenchers of both Brexit persuasions are gloomy this morning. One warns that both sides of the divide will take succour from last night’s results. Add to that Theresa May’s resistance to a second referendum - the bare minimum a sizeable chunk of Labour MPs will accept of a compromise with the government - and they believe a summer of paralysis is inevitable. 

Then, they warn, the leadership could have its hand forced in dramatic fashion. “Resolutions will pour in for conference that go way beyond a confirmatory vote towards revoking Article 50, and they won’t be able to resist.” Don’t forget that it was grassroots clamour for a second referendum at last year’s conference that forced Labour to concoct its current fudge.

10:08: The ballot-spoilers are ringing up Radio 5 Live. A Remainer in Leicester who describes himself as a “traditionally Conservative voter” says he spoilt his ballot paper by covering it with “Bollocks to Brexit” stickers and says he’ll never vote in this country again if Brexit is delivered. Voters have been sharing pictures of their spoilt ballot papers, and sources at vote counts have told the Sun they noticed a “huge spike” in spoilt ballots.

09:49: I’m feeling all nostalgic for 2014 because that Green surge that never quite materialised come election time has finally arrived! Well, the Green Party’s press release has, anyway. Apparently they are already celebrating their “biggest election night in our history”. They’ve had 42 new councillors elected, and extended their representation to 16 new councils (mainly Toryish areas but there’s a mix). That’s a big increase on 2015, when they gained 10 seats.

09:36: That problem with Brexit voters not turning out is reflected in Essex, where the Tory MP Vicky Ford wept during an interview, after the Tories lost Chelmsford to the Lib Dems. They also lost control of Basildon and Southend-on-Sea, as well as Folkestone & Hythe in Kent. Tory voters were "staying at home frustrated at the uncertainty over Brexit", she admitted after composing herself.

So both Labour and the Tories have suffered from their pro-Brexit voters not turning out for them. How will this play out in the European elections, when the Brexit Party will be added to the ballot paper?

09:28: Patrick tests Labour's message on the results so far:

The Labour line to take this morning - trotted out on the airwaves by both John McDonnell and Ian Lavery - is that the unspectacular showing for both main parties is a mandate to get Brexit "sorted". It feels almost superfluous to note that, as far as the two camps in the PLP are concerned, these results - showing as they do a surge for the Lib Dems and a slump for Labour in Brexitland - allow them to keep insisting that only their preferred solution can truly sort it. Sorted.

09:21: Some thoughts on this Labour Brexit problem from Hartlepool, one of those northern councils in a Leave-voting area that they lost to no overall control overnight. Brexit was “100 per cent” the reason for this result, and it’s not just a lazy Westminster analysis, says a source from the local party. It’s “definitely because we haven’t brexited”.  The problem for Labour’s local party there is that its 2017 general election voters (who did, despite central party fears at the time, back Labour) weren’t turning out, despite overall turnout going up.

09:03: Lots of talk about Brexit's part in Labour's poor performance this morning, with the Tories and commentators pointing out its loss of overall control in Hartlepool and Bolsover and losses in Barnsley (and Sunderland, but this was because of a dark duo of inadequate child services and a Labour councillor standing down late last year with child sexual offence charges). Labour is going "backwards" in the north, according to political scientist Sir John Curtice's analysis of results so far.

A little bit of Twitter confusion sums up just how stuck the party is in its strategic ambiguity, with a tweet by the shadow chancellor John McDonnell stating "“Brexit - sort it.” Message received" leading ITV's Robert Peston to conclude the leadership are "now keen to agree a Brexit compromise". "Don’t misinterpret my last tweet," McDonnell responded. "I was simply making the point we need to get on with sorting this out whichever way." That "whichever way" is telling, because there is no "way" while Labour can neither block nor facilitate Brexit. As council leaders blame the national party's Brexit position, MPs are exasperated. "I don't have two heads," says one in a Leave-voting seat.

08:57: So what could the Lib Dem gains mean nationally? Patrick hears from a senior source:

How might the Liberal Democrats' bumper haul of councillors translate into parliamentary representation? One veteran of the Ashdown and Kennedy years tells me that, if a general election were held tomorrow, the party could expect to win more than 30 seats - enough, they add (not a little hopefully), to engineer a Commons majority for a second referendum. We'll see.

08:47: Just in case you're wondering, we've had 111 of 259 councils declare so far in England, and all 462 council seats in Northern Ireland are still to come. The English councils counting today to declare later are mainly Tory-led (65 per cent, according to the Local Government Information Unit).

08:42: Conservatives lose South Oxfordshire to no overall control, as they lost 23 seats and the Lib Dems gained 11 and Greens 5.

08:37: Everyone's favourite psephologist Sir John Curtice has told the BBC's Today programme that the Lib Dems' success is more a sign of the party recovering from the damage coalition did to its reputation, and resuming its place as the "party of protest" - rather than a sign of enthusiasm for a second referendum. He seems pretty surprised by the Greens' gains, which he calls one of their "best appearances in local elections yet", but says they may have been helped by the recent climate change protests by Extinction Rebellion. The number of independents on councils have trebled so far, he says, which he sees as a sign of an "anti-politics mood".

In turn, the Labour left are disconcerted by the party's inability to cement itself as an anti-establishment choice. "As long as Brexit dominates, Labour’s anti-establishment message is drowned out," tweeted king of the outriders Owen Jones this morning.

08:30: Patrick is the man to follow on the local election results in Northern Ireland; here's his preview as all council seats are up for election:

Counting is underway in Northern Ireland, where all 462 council seats are up for election. Here’s my guide to what to look out for. With a new round of power-sharing talks due to start on Tuesday, all eyes will be on Sinn Fein and the DUP, who both lost seats the last time these 11 local authorities were contested, in 2014. The former won the most votes last time, the latter the most councillors.

Turnout is expected to be low. Look out for whether voters from other unionist parties heed Arlene Foster’s call to swing behind the DUP and weaken the case for a border poll, and whether the moderate nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party pays the price for its not-quite-merger with the Republic’s Fianna Fáil - and just who benefits at their expense where.

The early consensus on the ground? A good day for the big two and the cross-community Alliance, and a potentially grim one for the SDLP and Ulster Unionists. But we won’t know for a while: any Lib Dems reading will be envious to hear that Northern Ireland uses the single transferable vote system to elect its councillors, so the count will take that little while longer.

Should Sinn Fein and the DUP both do well, they will enter next week’s talks in a position of strength - making the political pain of the compromise that re-establishing a Stormont executive will require much easier to withstand. But if the Republicans win more seats than Foster’s party - unlikely, but not impossible - then expect things to get fraught very quickly.

08:13: Lots of talk about the "small parties", but it's worth pointing out - in this gap before the next results come in - that the small parties gaining are the Lib Dems (302 seats gained so far), Greens (40 seats) and local independents. Not Ukip (which has lost 54 seats). A grim detail from Hartlepool, however, is the first seat for ex-Ukipper Anne Marie Waters' far-right party, the For Britain Movement. Marie Waters, if you need reminding, was too right-wing for Ukip and left to form her own party in 2017.

08:06: Patrick has some intel on Peterborough, which the Tories lost and where Eleni has been reporting on the party's trouble:

A countervailing view from Peterborough, the bellwether which slipped from Tory hands into the indifferent embrace of no overall control last night. Those making the case for Labour on the airwaves this morning cite their three gains and three Conservative losses as evidence that things aren't so bad after all - and, crucially, that they are in with a shout of retaining the seat in next month's by-election despite the inauspicious exit of their former MP Fiona Onasanya.

One senior Tory, however, points out that Peterborough council isn't coterminous with the parliamentary constituency, where Labour gained one councillor and lost another. "Our big losses actually fall in the North West Cambridgeshire constituency, where we lost those three councillors" the self-confessed pedant says. "Central Peterborough is heavily Labour, the suburbs are Tory. In short, the seat is still very competitive. But the Brexit Party will poll well."

07:58: Conservative gains in Stoke-on-Trent, which stays in no overall control. They've gained eight seats in the Labour target (this is where it launched its campaign for the local elections).

07:54: Andrew Gwynne, shadow local government secretary, is on the Today programme sticking to the line that the action last night was in the Shires, so not a true reflection of Labour's fortunes. But the political scientist Sir John Curtice (he of the Shakespearean reading earlier, see below) has calculated that Labour has "gone backwards in the North".

07:50: This in from Patrick, following the blue blues:

Jeremy Hunt isn't sugaring the pill this morning. Tweeting from Nairobi - dedication even by the high standards of this liveblog - the Foreign Secretary suggests both the Conservatives and Labour have had "a slap in the face". With dozens of Tory councils yet to start counting, there's plenty more to come... 

07:40: The Lib Dems are riding high in Somerset, which on a parliamentary level is all Conservative apart from Bath. They gained Bath & and North East Somerset and have just won the new Somerset West & Taunton council with a majority of one. The county is pretty split Brexit-wise, so let's look at what's going on locally: as I reported a while back, many public services have been shrinking in Somerset and ordinary Tory voters have been feeling increasingly frustrated. Could this be a southwest revolt against austerity? I'll head back there soon to look into this more, but don't discount the fact that places like this and councils in the Tory shires have really struggled with cuts. Potholes, for example, are at their worst in Tory-held areas. This more local picture might be why the Lib Dems have also gained places like the Cotswolds.

07:35: "A plague on both your houses" is the phrase of the morning, which I think originated with the UK's esteemed election wizard Sir John Curtice a few hours ago (ok, it originated with Shakespeare, but you know what I mean). Neither of the major parties appear to be countering this narrative particularly heartily.

07:27: Liberal Democrats gain Vale of White Horse from the Conservatives. This is a big win of a very Tory Oxfordshire district council.

07:15: Hassled politicians are now hitting the media rounds, with Labour's shadow communities secretary Andrew Gwynne admitting on the BBC that "there have been some disappointing results", but insisting it's not all "doom and gloom", citing gains in Southend, Stevenage, Basildon, Medway, Plymouth and Peterborough. He has no answer, however, for why Labour hasn't done better out of dissatisfaction in the governing party. That will be a question a lot of local Labour activists will be asking themselves this morning.

06:51: Morning! It's Anoosh here - a very tired but local democracy-enthused-looking Eleni and Stephen have just left the office to get some sleep after their fantastic effort last night. Scroll below for all their analysis overnight and click refresh to update this liveblog, and sign up to Stephen's Morning Call email here if you're not already a subscriber - his snap analysis from what's happened overnight is well worth a read.

So what's happened? The two main parties are performing badly: the Tories have lost 15 councils so far, and Labour two. The Lib Dems have gained seven, including in surprise places like Winchester, Chelmsford and Somerset, which should worry the Conservatives more than Labour. There are still plenty more results to come in, but this looks like the renaissance of the smaller parties and punishment of the big two - but not in the "Brexit betrayal" way some commentators had been anticipating.

05:50: Here's where we are. Both major parties have suffered losses in the local elections. The minor parties have all benefited, but it is the Greens, who have made gains all around the country, and the Liberal Democrats most of all, who have been the biggest beneficiaries.  We'll be back from around seven, when more results will come in, and crucially Eleni and I will regenerate into Patrick and Anoosh. 

05:41: The Liberal Democrats have gained control of Hinckley and Bosworth, another local authority that is Conservative at the parliamentary level but where the Liberal Democrats nurse realistic hopes of winning the seat. 

05:32: Labour have lost control of Bolsover

05:31: Liberal Democrats gain Chelmsford! Labour lose their majority in Hartlepool!  

05:30: Scores on the door.

The Conservatives have lost 306 councillors.

Labour have lost 83 councillors. 

The Liberal Democrats have gained 210 councillors.

The Green Party have gained 33.

Ukip have lost 34.

05:24: The Liberal Democrats think they may take overall control in the Vale of White Horse.

05:19: Another Green councillor in North Devon! Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats are inching closer to 200 gains - they are at 194, while the Conservatives are nearing 300 losses. 

05:15: Vale of White Horse turns Green: well, one ward does at any rate. Keep an eye on Brighton and Hove later today, which at the start of this campaign was meant to see a Labour rout of the Greens. I wouldn't bet anything on that panning out now. 

05:14: Labour have lost Ashfield to the Ashfield Independents. 

05:10: If we aggregate the results across constituencies we get some statistically noisy data that doesn't tell us very much BUT it's fun so let's do it anyway.

If this were an election, then Bolton North East, Burth North, Wirral West and Derby North would go from Labour to Conservative, but Cheadle, Hazel Grove, Portsmouth South, and Southport would all go from Conservative to Liberal Democrat.

05:03: Correction - the Greens did not make three gains in Folkestone & Hythe, they made six. Apologies. 

04:56: Here's where we are:

The Conservatives have 794 seats, down 252 seats.

Labour have 760, down 56.

The Liberal Democrats have 329, up 168.

The Greens have 30, up 25.

Ukip have 10, down 28.

It is by any standard an awful performance by the big two parties, a fantastic night for the Liberal Democrats and a peerless one for the Greens, who have taken a huge leap forward. For Ukip, it is the best (or rather, least-worst) performance since the referendum vote. 

04:54: Awoou! Wolf howl! The Liberal Democrat's are back baby! They're good again. The Liberal Democrats have won control in the Cotswolds and are picking up some more councillors in North Devon as well. 

04:51: Three more Green gains, this time in Folkestone & Hythe

04:44: Correction to 04:24: as it stands, Layla Moran doesn't have a majority in her own seat, though her county councils have yet to declare and so she may well by the end of the night. 

04:34: There is some chatter on the BBC about how the Conservatives will be relieved as they haven't done too badly. Well-played to CCHQ for some outlandish claims in the run-up but that isn't actually true. As it stands they have lost 225 seats and they have many more defences to come. Given the astonishing forward strides of the Liberal Democrats and the pattern of Green gains, which it seems safe to assume will continue to dot the landscape, they are definitely on course for a very bad result. They have already exceeded Gordon Brown's 2009 performance (291 losses) may well equal or exceed his 2008 ones. 

What is a separate issue is that Labour have also done poorly. 

04:30: The Liberal Democrats believe they have won a majority in Chelmsford. 

04:24: The Liberal Democrats have taken control of North Norfolk. I think that means that every Liberal Democrat in England has a local authority majority in their own seat. 

04:21: It's over 200! 

04:17: The Conservatives are now on 198 council losses, which means they are going to fall short of my "good night" test as they have a lot more to come and given what has already unfolded you would expect that things will only get worse from here.

04:12: Sarcastic cheers in the NS offices (it's that time of the evening) when Winchester's former council leader (the Conservatives have been defeated by the Liberal Democrats) declared that they had given them "recycling of glass". What next? Colour television? 

04:05: Scores on the door.

Labour have 689 councillors, down 57.

The Conservatives have 627 councillors, down 185.

The Liberal Democrats have 258 councillors, up 127.

The Greens have 22 councillors, up 18.

Ukip have ten councillors, down 25. 

04:01: Oh, and we've got another Green gain, also in the Cotswolds

04:00: The Conservatives are now mathematically incapable of keeping their majority in the Cotswolds, but the Liberal Democrats could yet take full control. 

03:56: Labour gain Trafford. Meanwhile, something very odd is happening in Ashfield, where independents are gaining seats at a clip. 

03:53: Labour having a bit of a mare in Derby, losing seats to the Liberal Democrats, Ukip and the Conservatives. 

03:51: The Liberal Democrats having recorded 115 gains means they are very close indeed to 150 gains - the minimum figure I picked for a good night for the party in my lookahead. The Conservatives look likely to fail my "don't get battered" test but they will draw comfort from the fact that it looks unlikely that Labour will crack triple digits - my lower bound of what they ought to hope for. 

03:47: Another Green gain, this time in South Lakeland. The Liberal Democrat overall gains are now at 115. 

03:35: Another point - yes, it is the point in the night where I wait for results/battle fatigue by making general comments on the night - that has not been made.

It's fairly clear so far that the big two parties are being punished by parties on both sides of the Brexit polarity. But the thing is, it is one thing to punish the Conservatives by voting for a Liberal Democrat councillor in St Albans, or to punish Labour by voting for a Green candidate in Swindon. It is quite another to do so when the cost of punishing one of the big two is to end up with Jeremy Corbyn or Boris Johnson in Downing Street. Where I in the shoes of either of the major parties I would look at these results and have a not unreasonable hope that I could squeeze the parties taking votes from me in a general election. 

03:31: Something I think is not sufficiently understood: a lot of the seats declaring tonight are in places where Labour might hope to win and where just a third of seats are up for grabs. A lot of the Liberal Democrat gains tonight are the ones that we'd have put at the upper limit of their ambition. Now, of course, it could all equal out and the Conservatives don't do as badly as we'd expect tomorrow. But as it stands there are likely many more Liberal Democrat gains to come and a fairly comfortable Labour lead in the projected national vote as well. 

03:28: Scores on the door.

Labour are on 622 seats, down 56.

The Conservatives are on 542 seats, down 130.

The Liberal Democrats are on 214, up 95.

The Greens are on 20, up 16.

Ukip are on 10 seats, down 24. 

03:23: Conservatives lose Ilfracombe West  in North Devon to Green.  

03:19: Knock me down with a feather - the Liberal Democrats are up to 22 councillors in Chelmsford - they held five at the start of the night. They may well be about to take control from the Conservatives. 

03:17: Green hattrick! They complete the set in Trafford's Altrincham wards.

03:15:  Liberal Democrats gain in Taunton Deane - it really does look like we are going to see a lot more yellow gains than expected tomorrow. 

03:01: Eleni has news from Cambridge.

"The Liberal Democrats’ good showing tonight extends to Cambridge - a classic Lab-Lib battleground which is typically marginal in general elections but delivered a sizeable majority for Labour’s Daniel Zeichner in 2017. A flurry of results show the Lib Dems making some gains, and they’ve enjoyed considerable swings from Labour in key wards, including Castle where they defied expectations by winning comfortably. Labour are still in control, though."

02:54: The big impact of these local elections is that they are going to make it much harder for this parliament to ratify a Brexit deal. The Conservatives have just won control of North East Lincolnshire, taking the wards of Melanie Onn's Grimsby seat along the way, which will harden the opposition of Onn and MPs like her to a second referendum.

But equally that in most of the country it is the Liberal Democrats and Greens who Labour are losing to is going to mean that Labour MPs who are nervous about a Remain backlash have good reason to remain that way. We know that there are at least 20 Conservative MPs who will not vote for the withdrawal agreement and there is no way to secure the DUP's support for any negotiated exit. 

02:49: Speaking of rural seats...I am hearing grim things about the Conservative prospects across Devon, which is due to declare tomorrow. Mid Devon, North Devon, West Devon, East Devon and Torridge could all go to no overall control. East Devon, where an independent, Claire Wright, could well take the seat from Hugo Swire at the next general election, is particularly noteworthy. 

02:43: Conservatives lose control of Worcester Council - last year holding it was part of what fuelled that idea that the Conservatives have an insurance policy called "Jeremy Corbyn can't win in small towns". So that should and will worry them.

Liberal Democrats hopeful of taking control of Cotswolds, and are optimistic about Bath and North East Somerset

02:40: Eleni has more from Trafford:

"Mini update from Trafford: the Tories are expecting to lose a total of nine seats, bringing them down to just 20 out of the 60 councillors, which is a pretty bruising result for in flagship council in the North West."

02:35: Here's where we are.

Labour have 498 seats, down 49. 

The Conservatives have 394 seats, down 84.

The Liberal Democrats have 156, up 66.

The Greens have 17, up 13. 

Ukip have eight seats, down 17.

What is happening thus far: the two main parties are trading blows but not making inroads against one another. The Conservatives are holding on fairly well in the small towns that kept them in office in 2017. 

Both are doing pretty badly against the minor parties. The Greens are making good gains over the map in various places.

The Liberal Democrats are having a very good night, and the important thing to note is that a lot of the Lib-Con battleground isn't due in until tomorrow. 

The interesting thing about Ukip's performance is although they are losing seats, given that they have been unable to contest many of the seats they won last time their pattern of losses is a lot better than we might expect.

All in all, so far it is bad for both major parties and it is tricky to see what Brexit approach, if any, would be the best way through. 

02:28: Eleni hears news from Trafford:

"Counting is well underway in Trafford although none of the results are out yet. It’s looking like the Greens have definitely won their third seat in Trafford after all, and Labour is still quietly confident of making five gains, possibly six. The Liberal Democrats are expecting to make around two gains. There seems to be no doubt that after tonight Trafford will be fully under Labour control. Overall turnout was 39.5%, markedly higher than in many other parts of the country."

02:20: Another Green win! This time in North West Leicestershire

02:16: Conservatives lose control in Southend on Sea, with Labour gaining two seats. 

02:08: Chelmsford, somehow, looks like it could be play (the Liberal Democrats hold just five seats and need to gain 29 from the Conservatives to win it). 

02:01: The latest from our Peterborough correspondent Eleni:

"All the results are out in Peterborough: the Tories lost three councillors, Labour gained three and the Liberal Democrats gained two. UKIP lost its only seat and the Greens gained one. It doesn't quite get the opposition parties over the line, as the likeliest scenario now is a Conservative administration with the cooperation of local group Werrington First, which holds three seats. That is, unless one of the Tory councillors agrees to "cross the floor" and quit their party. Some Labour councillors may put feelers out, but they are by no means guaranteed to succeed."

01:56: In Barnsley, the Labour party has lost to Democrats and Veterans (another Ukip splinter group whose leader proposed a policy that was essentially repatriation with a pro-business streak of paint) and to the Liberal Democrats. It may well possibly be that the local council has issues or it may simply illustrate that it is very hard to work out an electorally viable Brexit strategy for either party from these results. 

01:52: St Albans slips from Conservative to No Overall Control, with the Liberal Democrats the main beneficiaries. 

01:44: Here's where we are. 

Labour have 350 councillors, down 44.

The Conservatives have 260 councillors, down 55.

The Liberal Democrats have 104 councillors, up 49.

The Greens have 13, up ten.

Ukip have eight councillors, down ten, an impressive feat of resilience given their weakened state and the number of seats they were unable to stand in.

The overall pattern so far is of electoral pain for the big two, of Labour failing to make headway into the towns that kept the Tories in office, of big strides forwards for the Liberal Democrats and Greens.  But I would strongly emphasise that we are at the point of the night in which Hillary Clinton looked to be winning Florida and therefore the election so let's not make too many sweeping statements just yet. 

01:41: Liberal Democrats gain St Mary's ward in Bury off Labour. 

01:38: Another Green gain, another set of Liberal Democrat gains, the Conservatives move Walsall from No Overall Control to Conservative majority

01:33: Crossover! The Conservatives have now lost more council seats (-47) than Labour (-34) as well as having lost control in Peterborough. You may now adjust your narratives. 

01:28: Greens unseat the Conservative leader of Colchester CouncilLiberal Democrats are largest party in Portsmouth

01:21: Labour losses in Stockport, while I am hearing bad things for Labour from Bury.  With the disclosure that it is very early and we don't have as many result as I would like what looks to be happening is this:

Both major parties are losing to everyone except one another, where they are basically doing equal amounts of damage if you ignore Sunderland, which, to reiterate, you definitely should unless your analysis of politics is "child abuse is not a vote-moving issue". Which is certainly a take. 

The various Remain parties are making gains, the Greens largely at Labour's expense, the Liberal Democrats against both parties. 

The cause for Tory comfort will be that just as in the 2017 general election and the 2018 local election Labour is struggling to make a breakthrough in small towns. The nature of firewalls is that they are eventually breached but the Conservatives will take solace in the idea that, however bad it looks, it doesn't yet (with the important caveat that it is really early in the night) look as if Labour can make the decisive foray into the smaller towns and suburbs that kept them out of office last time. 

01:16: For Britain, the party for people who find Gerard Batten's rebrand of Ukip as too politically correct, has won a seat from Labour in Hartlepool

01:11: News from Eleni on the Peterborough count:

"In Peterborough, which voted to recall its MP Fiona Onasanya yesterday, the chatter all night has been of Tory losses. The picture now emerging is that the Conservatives have lost around three seats, fewer than opposition parties were hoping, and that Labour has gained one or perhaps two. Rumour has it the Liberal Democrats will also be making a few gains. At present the Tories have a majority of one on the council but if they lose fewer than four seats, they could govern with the help of three sympathetic councillors from Werrington First. It's a sign that the two main parties could be neck-and-neck in the by-election set for 6 June, just like they were in 2017 when Onasanya took the seat with just 600 votes."

01:07: Here's where we are. 

Labour have lost 30 councillors on their 2015 showing, while the Conservatives are down 27.

The Liberal Democrats are up 23, Greens up six, Ukip down four. That last one is worth looking at in more detail: it looks bad but given how many the party is going to lose by default because they are fielding far fewer candidates, it attests to the better performances of the smaller parties that they aren't being utterly wiped out. 

01:03: Conservatives lose control of Tandridge in Surrey, with anti-development independents striking the decisive blow. Labour lose control of Wirral, with the Greens the biggest beneficiaries as far as votes go. The Liberal Democrats have won the council seat in Bath and North East Somerset in which Jacob Rees-Mogg lives. 

01:01: News from Bolton via Eleni:

"Labour has so far lost two seats to the Conservatives in Bolton, and one to "hyper-local" party Farnworth and Kearsley First. I'm told Farnworth and Kearsley First are on track to win a second seat from Labour (but not the third they were aiming for). That would mean that Labour has lost overall control of the council, confirming the swirling rumours that this would happen over the past couple of weeks. The second biggest party, the Tories, are going to need a lot of gains to catch up - they started with 19 seats to Labour's 31. They could form a minority administration however, which would have them running the council for the first time since 1980."

00:58: Declaration! Conservatives lose Basildon. It's now no overall control, with no party able to form a majority, with Labour and independent (no relation to Change UK I believe) councillors the beneficiary. 

00:51: Declaration: Swindon stays Conservative. I said in my look-ahead that this is the kind of area where the Conservatives took a lot of comfort from Labour's failure to breakthrough last year, and they will again be comforted that they have held off Labour here, though their vote ins down on 2015. 

00:47: News from Eleni: 

"A Labour activist in Wirral says things are looking "awful" for the party there and that the loss of Pensby and Thingwall ward, which fell to the Conservatives by almost 500 votes, has been "devastating". There is a lot of concern about the fact that the Greens are winning seats in some of the area's most deprived areas by thousands of votes."

00:41: Scores on the door.

Labour have 135 councillors, down 21.

The Conservatives have 101, down three.

The Liberal Democrats have 15, up five.

The Greens have six, up six.

Ukip have two,down four.

00:33: So. Where are we? The answer is "very early in the night when not enough has happened to be clear" but some observations: Labour are doing really badly in Sunderland which we would expect for Sunderland-specific reasons (see 23:20 and 23:58), the Greens are making gains here and there across the country, largely at Labour's expense. The Liberal Democrats have been doing well against both major parties. 

The only non-noisy result - that is somewhere with a full slate of candidates, without a local authority in some difficulty, etc. etc. - is in Swindon and it doesn't look great for Labour there so far.

But I would caution on drawing any real conclusions so early in the night. It's anyone's guess at this point. 

00:30: Greens gain another seat on the Wirral and one in St Helens: a good night for the Greens on Merseyside. 

00:24: Patrick hears that some Surrey Conservatives are worried that local anti-development independents could unseat some local Tory bigwigs. The leader in Sam Gyimah's patch is one of those believed to be at risk. 

00:20: Turnout update. With the huge, huge, HUGE caveat that we have very few results it looks that turnout is doing about as well as we'd expect for a local election - mid-30s or so. 

00:18: Another very good gain for the Liberal Democrats in Sunderland, while the Conservatives have also made a gain there but on a much smaller swing than the one the Liberal Democrats got. To reiterate what I said back at 23:58: for a variety of reasons Sunderland isn't going to tell us much about Labour. But it does tell us something about the health and viability of the Liberal Democrats. 

00:14: The Wirral result is great news for the Greens but it is, frustratingly, another place where we don't have a full set of results. One place that does is Swindon, where the Conservatives have made a gain at Labour's expense. 

00:11: Green gain from Labour in the Wirral on a very big swing. 

00:08: Boom! A result that isn't from Sunderland and has four different parties in it! We have a result in Walker Ward in Newcastle, Labour hold, both big parties down, to the benefit of Ukip (quite a lot) and the Liberal Democrats (by a little bit). Eleni hears that the Liberal Democrats also think they will make gains in Trafford

00:03: Eleni has news from Trafford:

"In Trafford, which went into no overall control last year, Labour is said to be expecting to make at least five gains. That would give it a pretty solid majority in the borough for the first time since 2003. Meanwhile the Greens are looking less optimistic. The result in Altrincham, their target ward in Trafford as well one of their biggest targets in this election nationally, is looking quite tight."

23:58: What I will say is that Sunderland does provide one very useful bit of information about the national picture. Yes, in many ways, "If one of your councillors is convicted of child sexual abuse, and you run local services badly, you will do badly" is not exactly the kind of political analysis you'd need to hire Philip Gould to tell you, but it does tell us something about the Liberal Democrats I think. This is a party which owed its success to being able to harvest local discontent at bad councils and individual dodgy councillors. And lots of people - myself included - thought that the damage that coalition had done to their brand meant they couldn't really do that anymore. And the significant thing that Sunderland Labour's particular woes tell us is that the Liberal Democrats can still do that. 

23:45: We still have a dearth of results from places other than Sunderland, but I can tell you that the Liberal Democrats, Conservatives and Ukip have all made gains at Labour's expense. Will give you all the analysis as soon as we have a body of results from somewhere with no recent history of child sexual abuse among their councillors. 

23:41: Correction! The Conservatives in Sunderland have not pledged to make all councillors undergo an enhanced CRB check but an enhanced DBS check. Anyway, my point is that essentially, I would strongly urge anyone to avoid drawing any conclusions from the results in a local authority in which a sitting councillor stood down following being convicted on a child abuse charge, and where the local authority has been declared inadequate by Ofsted on...child services. I mean, you couldn't make it up. 

23:37: Ukip gain from Labour in Sunderland. 

23:34: We have some more results that aren't from a place where the local authority is mired in scandal and failure! WOOOP! It's a routine Labour hold from a safe ward in Swindon where only the Conservatives and Ukip stood, and a safe Conservative ward in South Holland where only the Greens and independent stood, though the Conservative vote is way down on 2011 (again, the last meaningful comparator as the 2015 results were on the same day as an election). But again, we really are at the "there's very little these results can tell us at this stage". 

23:32: The Conservatives have gained a seat in Sunderland. Their pledge - I swear I am not making this up - to make all councillors undergo an enhanced CRB check is bearing electoral fruit. 

23:30: I meant 2018 in that last update, sorry! 

23:23: If anything the interesting straw in the wind is that one of the many good news stories from the 2018 local elections for the Liberal Democrats was not just that they recovered in places where they had lost seats during the coalition, but that they were back to being able to harvest local discontent with sub-par Labour and Conservative local authorities. It's only one result and we should be very cautious of drawing any inferences but it's fun but it is noteworthy that, in a seat where Ukip are still standing they seem to have benefitted more from that than the Liberal Democrats. 

23:20: We've got a detailed result from Sunderland:

Labour: 42.7% (-17.5)

Ukip: 29.8% (+8.7)

Conservative: 12.2% (+0.9)

Green: 11.7% (+7.5)

Liberal Democrat: 3.6% (+0.3)

As many NS readers will remember, Labour is likely to do worse in Sunderland than the country as a whole, because the local authority has a hell of a lot of problems: their child services have been declared inadequate two years out of the last three, and a Labour councillor had to stand down in November having been charged with child sexual offences.

23:19: What do those results mean? I mean, honestly, we aren't going to be able to really say anything worthwhile until early in the morning but we've never let that stop us before though we will get a bit of an idea. Swings will give us an idea under the hood, not least of what turnout might be across the country. Speaking of which, Patrick tells me that turnout is low in Northern Ireland as well, which also has local elections. (None in Wales, Scotland or London this year.) 

23:12: We have three results! Let's construct a narrative! Labour holds in two wards in Sunderland and one in Basildon. More on that as we get actual numebrs. 

23:09: It's that man Patrick again, with some happier sounding Labour people, this time in Sefton:

"Labour — who already command a stonking majority in Sefton — are hopeful of picking up only their third councillor ever in Southport, the leafier end of the borough, tonight. A strong showing would suggest they could be in with a shout of overturning a slim Tory majority in their number 54 target seat at the next genera election."

It's the Southport wards that are the ones to watch as it is a three way marginal at a parliamentary level. 

23:06: Interesting tidbit from the team at BritainElects.

23:03: Patrick is hearing gloomy noises from Sheffield Labour:

"Labour sources in Sheffield tell me they fear they will lose three or four councillors. A cocktail of local woes and Brexit have boosted the Liberal Democrats and Greens."

22:58: The second, and arguably more important question is "why is there no exit poll?"

The short answer is that exit polls are really expensive to do and that the broadcasters don't want to pony up for one. 

22:55: Regular readers are asking the now-perennial question about what we had for dinner. I had this truly delicious aubergine pasta recipe, while our Anthony Howard scholar Eleni Courea had two dinners: pasta, and then she felt hungry again and had fish and vegetables. Wise because we are locked in with no easy way out. 

22:50: More from Patrick - who sensibly is not locked in the NS office as he is doing the Friday liveblog - this time from Sefton:

"Lib Dems walking on sunshine: sources at the count in Southport say former MP John Pugh has retained his council seat by "a mile", with other incumbent councillors also sitting pretty."

22:45: The big known unknown in this contest is that the two options that disgruntled Conservative Leave voters are choosing in the polls - Ukip and Nigel Farage's new Ukip 2.0: We're Keeping It Implicit or the Brexit party as it is formally known - are either not standing at all in the case of the Brexit party or standing only patchily in the case of Ukip. So some people will turn up to the ballot box expecting to vote for a party that's not there. What will they do? Will they reach for the Labour box knowing that's the usual way to beat the Conservatives, spoil their ballots or just return home to the Tories? It could be decisive, though the early indications are that they have just stayed home. 

22:39: Our political correspondent Patrick Maguire has news of a possible change of power in Liverpool:

"The deputy leader of the ruling Labour group on Liverpool City Council has launched a coup against the city's directly-elected mayor, Joe Anderson, as counting gets under way.

Ann O'Byrne, who quit as Anderson's deputy mayor last year, has announced that she is to launch a bid to replace the executive mayoralty with the more commonplace leader and cabinet model, which Liverpool used until 2012. 

Speaking to the Liverpool Echo, O’Byrne accuses Anderson of "adopting a presidential style of decision making" and claimed the devolution agenda had moved on since his election. She will table a motion demanding the change - an effective vote of no confidence in Anderson's leadership - at the Labour group's forthcoming AGM.

Liverpool’s Labour councillors exist in a near-permanent state of internecine rancour and Anderson, it is fair to say, is what you might politely call a divisive figure locally. His critics have also discussing moving to deselect him as a mayoral candidate. 

The two local authorities to have abolished their directly elected mayoralties so far - Stoke-on-Trent and Hartlepool - did so after local referendums. But Liverpool is unique in that it did not hold a referendum to adopt the model in the first place, a precedent that could make Anderson's defenestration easier."

22:37: Hullo and welcome to the earlier than expected NS local elections liveblog. We've been locked in the NS offices where we are hoping not to live out our own live action version of Home Alone, and will be bringing you all the results as they come through.

Turnout is widely reported to be low. The useful baseline for these contests as far as turnout is concerned is not last time - when they were held on the same day as a general election - or indeed 2011 - when the AV referendum dragged turnout up to 41 per cent - but 2007, the last time these seats were fought without a higher profile contest. So anything significantly below 35 per cent turnout would be unusually low, anything around that figure about par. 

But all indications are that it may well be lower - I've heard several reports from around the country that turnout looks to be well down on 2011. More as we get it. 


Stephen Bush is political editor of the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.

Free trial CSS