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Disastrous night for Lib Dems in council elections

The Liberal Democrats appear to have slumped to their worst local election performance since their merger in the 1980s, losing a slew of northern English councils and hundreds of councillors to Labour.

They also performed badly in Scotland, where the SNP was the main beneficiary, seeming on course this morning to take majority control at Holyrood for the first time as Labour lost many of its heartland seats.

The Conservatives’ share of the vote held up across the country, although their leader in Wales failed to gain a seat, while Labour made huge gains in English council elections and in the Welsh Assembly.

Nick Clegg is seen as the main loser of the night, especially if, as widely predicted, the AV referendum is also lost when counting begins this afternoon. His party lost control of councils including Sheffield, Hull, Bristol, and Stockport, though saw some better results in the south, even gaining seats in Eastleigh and Bath & North East Somerset, and gaining a single seat in Poole to rob the Conservatives of overall control.

Clegg said today: “Clearly what happened last night – especially in those parts of the country, Scotland, Wales, the great cities of the north, where there are real anxieties about the deficit reduction plans we are having to put in place…we are clearly getting the brunt of the blame.

“To the many families in those parts of the country especially there are some very strong memories of what life was like under Thatcherism of the 1980s and that's what they fear they are returning to. We need to get up, dust ourselves down and move on.”

With just under half of English council seats declared, Labour had gained 12 councils and 339 councillors, the Conservatives were up one council and 37 councillors, while the Lib Dems had lost four councils and 295 councillors.

In the Scottish elections, the SNP had 49 seats to Labour’s 23, the Conservatives’ seven and the Lib Dems’ two, with 12 constituencies and four regions still to declare.

In Wales, Labour had 25 seats, the Conservatives had eight, Plaid Cymru seven, and the Lib Dems three, with nine constituencies and two regions yet to declare.

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