[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Friday, 2 May, 2003, 20:49 GMT 21:49 UK
Tory leader hails poll gains
Duncan Smith said Mr Blunt was "irrelevant"

Iain Duncan Smith has brushed aside the resignation of one of his frontbench team to declare his party's success in the local elections as a "spectacular victory".

Tory trade spokesman Crispin Blunt quit with a scathing attack on his leader shortly before polls closed for elections for councils in England and Scotland, the Welsh assembly and the Scottish Parliament.

The Tories have gained 565 council seats, a better than expected result.

Labour has fallen just one seat short of a working majority in the Welsh assembly, but lost seats in the Scottish Parliament, where another coalition with the Liberal Democrats looks likely.

Labour biggest party, but no overall majority
SNP suffer, but Scottish Socialists are big winners
Shock win for hospital activist beating Labour
Labour one short of working majority
Plaid Cymru suffers
Turnout only 38%
Tories gain 540-plus, Labour losses hit 800
Lib Dems win largest share of vote to date
Far-right BNP become second biggest party in Burnley

But in the local elections for England and Scotland, alongside Conservative gains of 545 seats, Labour lost more than 800 and the Liberal Democrats made more than 190 gains.

Turnout in England was estimated at around 37%, though figures were higher in areas trialling all-postal votes.

On the share of the vote, projected nationally by the BBC from key wards, the Tories have 35%, with Labour on 30% - down two points on last year.

Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith - who said his party's share would be greater than 35% - described the results as "a spectacular victory" for his party.

Amid cheering supporters at Conservative Central Office on Friday, he said: "This shows across the board that the British people are really sending a message to the prime minister and the Labour party that this government is failing them ...

"They are saying 'enough is enough' and this fantastic result therefore gives us the opportunity to take ourselves forward in the next 2-2.5 years to the general election and to show that we can once again, as our councils will show, run this country and deliver them a government."

Later he said the resignation of Mr Blunt, who says he was trying to trigger a leadership race, was "irrelevant".

The Lib Dems are up to 30%, their greatest share of a vote in the biggest test of public opinion before the general election and the first since the Iraq war.

Watch the political picture change

In Wales, Labour won half the seats in the Welsh Assembly, with leader Rhodri Morgan saying he was delighted as his party won the Valleys heartlands of Islwyn and Rhondda from Plaid Cymru.

Those successes were boosted by a shock win over the nationalists in Llanelli, and by a late victory in Conwy.

In Scotland, with a turnout of 48%, Labour held on to coalition power in the Parliament with 50 seats and a much-reduced majority.

In the biggest shock of the night in Scotland Labour lost Strathkelvin and Bearsden to an independent, anti-hospital closure candidate.

But the big winners were Tommy Sheridan's Scottish Socialists, who won five seats - up on one - and the Green Party, which won seven seats, also up on one.

The English local elections saw the far-right British National Party win 11 seats overall - including becoming Burnley's second largest party.

Key election stories

The BNP won a seat in both Broxbourne, Hertfordshire and Stoke-on-Trent - and scored two seats in Sandwell, West Midlands.

But party leader Nick Griffin failed to win the seat he contested in Oldham, and the BNP did not win a seat in Sunderland despite fielding 25 candidates.

There was success for the Green Party, which now has 53 council seats in England, an increase of 16.

With only seven councils left to declare their results, the Tories had gained 39 councils and lost nine, while Labour had lost 36, gaining power in just eight. The Lib Dems had gained 12, but lost seven.

Labour loses control of Birmingham, Bristol and Coventry, but wins Plymouth from Tories
Conservative wins include Worcester, Congleton and Stratford, but they lose Torbay and Carlisle
Lib Dems win Durham and Torbay, but lose ground in Sheffield

The Tory successes will be seen against the background of Mr Blunt's resignation, which came as he branded Mr Duncan Smith a "handicap" to the party's chances of returning to power.

On Friday night, Mr Blunt was re-adopted as his constituency party's candidate for the next general election.

The renegade received the unanimous support of the executive of Reigate's local association, who released a statement backing his belief the Tories could not win the next general election with Mr Duncan Smith as their leader.

Conservative chairman Theresa May said Mr Blunt's resignation came as "no surprise" because he had been at odds with the leadership for some time.

Labour's Commons Leader, John Reid, instead said the Tories had failed to do as well as William Hague managed in 1999.

Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith
"A fantastic result for the Conservative Party"

The BBC's Andrew Marr
"Probably the best day he has had since he became Tory leader"


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific