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2 May 2008

Labour’s worst results in 40 years

Labour is badly hit in local elections in England and Wales pushed into third place by Tories and Li

By Ben Davies

Labour is in “listening and learning” mode after suffering what are widely predicted to be its worst election results in 40 years – beaten by Tories and Lib Dems into third place.

Across England and Wales the Tories made gains hitting hard into areas traditionally seen as Labour’s heartlands.

Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman got the dubious honour of trekking around the studios on Friday morning as the party licked its wounds.

She told the BBC’s Today programme: “It’s very disappointing indeed.” Pointing to the current economic challenges such as high food and fuel prices plus growing concern about the financial and housing sectors, she added: “People feel the situation is affecting them very personally – sometimes at elections there are political overarching things happening in the world.

“We have to listen and learn.”

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David Cameron’s Conservatives meanwhile were celebrating as Labour’s results were being compared to another local election – 1995 – when an unequivocal verdict on John Major’s premiership would translate two years later into wipeout for the Tories.

This time though the Conservatives had something to celebrate. Their gains included taking control of a number of councils induding Southampton, Harlow, Bury and Maidstone.

In Wales, meanwhile, Labour’s Rhodri Morgan acknowledged the tide seemed to have turned strongly against Labour with defeats in Methyr Tydfil, Blaenau Gwent and Torfaen.

In Norwich there was good news for the Greens where they became the second biggest party.

In Liverpool, the Lib Dems defied predictions and seem to have clung on to power after signing up an independent just after the returning officer had announced the council had gone to no overall control. They also took St Albans.

All this and the results for the London mayoral and assembly contest have yet to come in – they are due on Friday evening. The question is will they be the icing on David Cameron’s cake or will Ken Livingstone salvage something from what has been a highly disappointing set of results for Labour?

Whatever happens, Gordon Brown has just two years to neutralise this Tory momentum and turn Labour’s fortunes around.

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