UK & World News
Labour Celebrates As Tories Suffer At Polls
Ed Miliband has said Labour is "winning back trust" after the party's big gains in the local elections, as David Cameron blamed the Conservative losses on "difficult" economic times.
After a bruising night for the Tories and Liberal Democrats, Labour claimed it was "exceeding expectations" by seizing control of key councils such as Thurrock, Harlow, Southampton and Birmingham.
The Opposition also took Great Yarmouth, Chorley and Plymouth and a number of councils in Wales.
The Prime Minister suffered the added embarrassment of losing in the backyard of his Commons constituency - with Labour taking Witney Central, Witney East and Chipping Norton.
With more than half of votes counted, Labour have gained 31 councils, with more than 800 new seats.
The Tories have lost more than 400 seats and the Lib Dems more than 300, leaving Nick Clegg's party with its lowest number of seats ever.
Mr Miliband said the message from the results was that Labour was "getting back in touch with people's concerns".
"We are a party winning back people's trust, regaining ground, but there is more work to do," he said.
"I know that David Cameron promised change and has disappointed people. I am determined that we can deliver Britain the change it needs.
"People are hurting. People are suffering from this recession, people are suffering from a Government that raises taxes for them and cuts taxes for millionaires. I think that's what we saw last night."
But not everyone was happy for Mr Miliband - the Labour leader was hit with an egg during a walkabout in Southampton.
He later made light of it, tweeting: "For those wondering about egg's origins, fairly sure it wasn't free range but nothing can take away from cracking result in Southampton."
Earlier, Mr Cameron said he was "sorry" for all the "hard-working Conservatives" who had lost their seats against a "difficult national backdrop".
"These are difficult times and there aren't easy answers," he said.
"What we have to do is take the difficult decisions to deal with the debt, deficit and broken economy that we've inherited and we will go on making those decisions and we've got to do the right thing for our country."
In a further blow to the Tories, many cities ignored pleas from the Prime Minister and used a series of referendums to reject proposals to opt for elected mayors.
Manchester, Nottingham, Sheffield and Coventry voted No, and there are signs that others have also dismissed the plan.
Meanwhile, Labour's Joe Anderson has become Liverpool's first elected mayor.
The councillor, who has until now been leader of Liverpool City Council, won the city's first mayoral elections at the first count with 58,448 votes.
Boris Johnson will hope to restore some Tory pride when the results of the London mayoral contest are announced tonight.
The Liberal Democrats were not spared pain overnight, suffering a further cull of their councillors as voters seemingly punished the Government for austerity measures.
One of the party's highest-profile casualties was the former leader of Edinburgh Council, Jenny Dawe, who lost to new SNP councillor Sandy Howat.
The Lib Dems were handed another blow in Cardiff when former council leader Rodney Berman lost his seat in the Plasnewydd ward.
Mr Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, said he was "really sad that so many" of his Liberal Democrat councillors have lost their seats.
But he insisted his party would "continue to play our role" in the coalition government in "rescuing, repairing and reforming the British economy".
"It's not an easy job and it can't be done overnight but our duty is to boost jobs and investment and to restore a sense of hope and optimism to our country," he added.
Despite the large Labour gains, there was a setback in Bradford, with the party's council leader, Ian Greenwood, defeated by a Respect candidate.
The result emulated George Galloway's shock success in last month's parliamentary by-election.
Deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman said Labour's wins were "very encouraging".
She told Sky News: "Conservatives are out of touch, and what people are saying on their doorsteps and with their votes is that they're worried about jobs and living standards.
"It's a message to the Government to change course on the economy."
But Local Government Secretary and former Tory chairman Eric Pickles told Sky News Labour's gains were to be expected.
He said: "When a party is rock bottom there's only one way to go. But I'm not seeking to rain on Labour's parade."
Polls closed at 10pm on Thursday with the political parties facing their biggest test of public opinion since the 2010 general election.
Voters across England, Scotland and Wales cast their ballots for about 5,000 seats across 181 local councils.
Results in many areas up and down the UK were marked by a low turnout, estimated at little over 30% nationwide.
It prompted the Tories to suggest that "apathy" had played a significant part in the results.