[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Sunday, 13 June, 2004, 18:39 GMT 19:39 UK
Pressure on Blair after elections
Tony Blair with his wife Cherie
Tony Blair returned from Reagan's funeral to poor election results
Tony Blair is facing further questions about his leadership after the worst performance by a governing party in the local elections.

With most results in, Labour has lost 464 seats and eight councils, including Newcastle and Leeds. The Tories gained 263 seats, including Trafford.

The PM, who has been at Ronald Reagan's funeral, urged Labour MPs to hold their nerve amid the anti-war "protest" vote.

It was a difficult time and "lessons had to be learned", he said.

Speaking in Washington after the state funeral of the former US president, he said: "Of course it's a difficult time, and these things happen to governments, but the basic commitments we have made we are delivering.

"The fact that the government loses council election results doesn't really augur much for the General Election."

  Councillors Councils  
PARTY +/- TOT +/- TOT  
CON
283
1714
13
51
LAB
-479
2250
-8
39
LD
137
1283
-2
9
PC
-28
172
-2
1
OTH
13
625
-1
66

According to BBC analysis of 500 key wards, the results mean that Labour has slipped to third place in terms of share of the vote - 12% behind the Conservatives and 3% behind the Liberal Democrats.

If correct, it would be the first time a party in government has finished third in terms of national share of the vote in local elections.

All results are now in except for Birmingham City Council, which will not be known until Sunday.

'Tragedy'

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today Programme, former Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said Mr Blair needed to reassure the public he had heard the anti-war message from the voters.

"Out there are a lot of people who withheld their Labour vote because they disagreed with what we did in Iraq.

"The tragedy is that hundreds of very good Labour councillors have lost their seats as a result of something which many of them themselves would have opposed.

KEY TORY WINS:
Brentwood
Dudley
Eastbourne
Monmouthshire
Peterborough
Rossendale
Swindon
Tamworth
Thurrock
Trafford
West Lindsey
Worthing

"If we are to win these people back, it's not enough to simply say we are holding our nerve, we are seeing it though," Mr Cook said.

"We also have to say we have heard what you said, we understand your feelings and yes you have a point and if you vote Labour again it's not going to happen again," he added.

BBC political editor Andrew Marr said Mr Blair knew he could not undertake anything like the Iraq war ever again.

He said the poor results would reopen the leadership debate, but that it was not the summer of crisis that many had predicted.

Asset or liability

Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett said on the Today Programme that there was a "great deal of dissatisfaction about the issue of Iraq".

She also insisted Mr Blair had done a "tremendous job" as leader and would retain the support of his party to lead Labour at the General Election.

But former defence minister Peter Kilfoyle said it was for Mr Blair to decide whether he was an asset or a liability to the party.

"Only time will tell what decision Tony Blair will make," he added.

Meanwhile the Tories hailed the results as "excellent" and "spectacular".

KEY LABOUR GAINS AND LOSSES:
Lost - Newcastle
Lost - Leeds
Lost - Bassetlaw
Lost - Burnley
Lost - Cardiff
Lost - St Helens
Lost - Oxford
Lost - Ipswich
Lost - Swansea
Lost - Hastings
Lost - Doncaster
Lost - Bridgend
Lost - Slough
Lost - Tamworth
Lost - Thurrock

Won - Stoke
Won - Hartlepool
Won - Rhondda Cynon Taf
Won - Caerphilly
Won - Redditch
Won - Newcastle-under-Lyme
Won - Merthyr

But party co-chairman Liam Fox conceded the local results did not mean the Conservatives were "guaranteed" a general election win.

Liberal Democrat Leader Charles Kennedy also had cause to celebrate with a net gain of 132 councillors and key victories in Manchester and Newcastle.

"We're continuing to not just hold, but to substantially advance our position. This is really three-party politics in Britain," he said.

But they dropped control of Eastbourne to the Tories, as well as losing Norwich and Cheltenham.

Turnout across England and Wales was about 40%, up an average of 9% on last year - an increase not confined to the four regions piloting all-postal ballots.

In London Ken Livingstone provided a rare bright spot for Labour by being re-elected mayor - albeit with a far smaller majority.

European results

KEY LIB DEM GAINS AND LOSSES:
Gained - Newcastle
Gained - Pendle
Lost - Cheltenham
Lost - Eastbourne
Lost - Norwich
Lost - Winchester

The Green Party was buoyed by retaining its Manchester seat, as well as picking up four seats in Oxford, two in Norwich, a further seat in Bradford, making four, one in Watford and its first seat in Sheffield.

The UK Independence Party won a council seat in Hull and another in Derby.

The British National Party took three seats from Labour at Epping Forest, gained a foothold in Bradford with four seats, but failed to gain ground on Burnley Council.

MINOR PARTY GAINS AND LOSSES:
Greens win seats in Norwich, Oxford, Sheffield, Bradford and Watford and hold councillor in Manchester
BNP take three seats from Labour in Epping Forest, gain four seats in Bradford, but fail to gain ground in Burnley
UKIP win seat in Hull
The elections are the biggest test of voter opinion before the next general election but the final picture will not be clear until the European results appear on Sunday night.

Andrew Marr suggested that Labour should regain the initiative when the European election results are announced, with the UK Independence Party expected to steal many votes from the Conservatives.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Jonathon Beale
"Tony Blair will be bracing himself for more attacks on his leadership"


Robin Cook MP
"Nobody denies Iraq was an issue"



VOTE 2004 IN-DEPTH

LATEST NEWS

ANALYSIS AND FEATURES
Blair's big task
Labour leader needs to reassure his MPs after European election disappointment

VOTERS GUIDE

FORUM

VOTE 2004 RESULT SEARCH

To find out who's won in your area enter your full postcode:

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
 
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

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