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Local elections Friday, 5 May, 2000, 14:25 GMT 15:25 UK
Hague savours local victories
William Hague: Celebrating gaining 590 seats
Conservative leader William Hague is celebrating victory in the local elections after Labour suffered its worst losses for years.

With all but one of the 152 councils having declared, Labour has lost 15 councils including Bradford, Oldham, Worcester, Southampton, Portsmouth, Hartlepool, Walsall and Chorley.
Number of councils controlled (gains/losses)
Con: 33 (+16)
Labour: 57 (-15)
Lib Dem: 11 (-1)
Ind: 0
NOC: 50 (0)

This year's local elections have seen the number of Labour councillors fall by almost 560, almost twice as many as senior ministers were predicting earlier in the week.

The elections are expected to be the last before the next general election and all the main parties will have to take heed of their fortunes at the local polls.

The Conservatives have taken control of 16 councils, winning 592 seats.

Mr Hague said the party had exceeded all expectations in taking councils it had not held for years.

He said: "An extremely good night for us because we far exceeded all the forecasts, and all the pundits' predictions, in turning in 600 gains in the local elections that took place together yesterday, the Conservatives came out miles ahead."

The Tory leader said the night's gains were a victory for his common sense revolution.

Long-term changes'

"We have won elections in which five million people have voted and obviously that's a very good night."

Mr Hague visited Torbay, where the Tories gained 19 seats, leaving the party with 32 councillors out of a total of 36.

He told the newly elected councillors: "We have begun the revival of our party, people are coming back to the Conservatives."

Prime Minister Tony Blair acknowledged there had been some bad results for Labour.

Tony Blair: "Bad results"
He said: "Obviously there were some bad results for us in the country, but there were also good results in other parts of the country.

"I'm the very first to admit, although we have achieved a lot there is still a lot to do.

"These are long-term changes that have to be made in our country.

"I think they are the right long-term changes."

The Liberal Democrats lost Stockport to no overall control but the party has done well in the metropolitan and inner city areas, gaining Oldham from Labour.

The party lost 20 seats overall, but Charles Kennedy will be buoyed by victory over the Tories in the parliamentary by-election in Romsey.

Low turnout

The last time these seats were contested was 1996 when John Major's Conservative government was in power. Labour did particularly well as the Tories lost half the seats they were defending.

This year, Mr Hague had been hoping to take advantage of a government mid-way through its Parliament.

The Tories have also hoped to exploit the difficulty Labour is having in motivating its supporters to get out and vote.

The Lib Dems also gained seats in 1996 and in recent years have gained some metropolitan councils at the expense of Labour.

In an effort to boost turnout this year, some authorities have experimented with different styles of voting.

There have been 38 pilot schemes, including early voting, extending the entitlement to a postal vote and taking ballot boxes out to more rural areas.

The average turnout for this year's elections has been about 30%.

The final council to declare will be Watford, which will not announce its results until Sunday.

One local council election result had to be decided by the toss of a coin after the Labour and Conservative candidates both polled 572 votes.

The Labour candidate won the toss in the Worksop North East seat of Bassetlaw District Council in Nottinghamshire after three recounts failed to separate the candidates.

There are two methods to decide the outcome in the event of a draw - either a coin is flipped or the parties draw straws.

But as the Conservative candidate was not present at the count, the toss of a coin decided the outcome.

Prime Minister Tony Blair
"We are proud of what we have done but there is a lot more to do"
William Hague
"The Conservatives came out miles ahead"
The BBC's Richard Bilton
"Last night it returned to their conservative roots"
The BBC's John MacLean
"A turn out of about 30 percent maybe an indicator of a general malaise"

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See also:

05 May 00 | Local elections
04 May 00 | Local elections
05 May 00 | London Mayor
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