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Last Updated: Friday, 4 May 2007, 17:17 GMT 18:17 UK
Who are the winners and losers?
The biggest set of elections since the 2005 General Election have provided very clear messages for all the main political parties and their leaders. BBC News website political correspondent Nick Assinder reports:

LABOUR

Some had predicted a meltdown, but that worst-case scenario was averted and Tony Blair even claimed the result was a "good springboard" to win the next general election.

Gordon Brown in Edinburgh
Mr Brown will hope he can turn the Labour party around
That may be seen as optimistic by many, given that the BBC estimates the Labour vote share at 27%. It must also be pointed out that Mr Blair will, in any case, not be leading that general election fight.

Indeed, had he not already announced his pending resignation, this result would certainly have been seen as pressure on him to go now anyway.

It is possible his pre-poll announcement that he will be handing in his notice next week may have taken some of the heat from the anti-Blair vote.

But few doubt that much of the electoral "kicking" Labour was given was aimed directly at him.

In Scotland, in particular, a nose-to-nose battle with the SNP may have seen a one-seat victory for the nationalists, but that does not rule out the possibility of Labour doing another deal with the Liberal Democrats to keep that coalition in power.

That would prove a relief to the Labour government but if the SNP now forms a ruling coalition, also probably with the Lib Dems, it could prove hugely troublesome.

Gordon Brown, the man who is likely to succeed Mr Blair, would find himself having to constantly keep watching his back as the nationalists attempted to take on Labour at every turn north of the border.

Otherwise, Mr Brown will hope the polls have marked the nadir in Labour's fortunes and he will be able to turn things around.

He will take some comfort from the bad-but-not-disastrous results, believing he has the opportunity to take Labour towards general election victory in a couple of years' time, as the prime minister suggested.

It should also be easier to present evidence next year that he is making progress with the party's fortunes.

The question is whether, to ensure that happens, he will see the results as a demand for Labour to change course under his leadership or whether he will simply put them down to the anti-Blair factor.

CONSERVATIVES

The Tories were quick to celebrate their successes in the polls with David Cameron claiming they had made a "real breakthrough" as they took what the BBC estimates to be 40% of the share of the national vote.

David Cameron
Tory leader David Cameron is emerging election winner

They did well in the south and, while they failed to take some northern areas such as Bury, which they had hoped to seize, they did claim to have gained 100 councillors in the north and, equally encouraging for them, more in the Midlands and Wales.

It may not have been the surge many had been hoping for, but Mr Cameron has always stressed the party has an electoral mountain to climb if it is to win the next general election and, with around 800 seats gained, it outstripped its forecasts.

So he can feel satisfied the Conservatives appear to have been the overall winners and will be able to claim to have provided the foundations for a genuine revival.

The results should help see off some - but not all - of the criticism from the Tory right over his leadership, as he demonstrates how focusing on the centre-right ground can lead to electoral gains.

His task now will be to flesh out the party's policies and continue improving its performance, which will become more difficult once he faces a new Labour leader, rather than one heading for the exit.

LIBERAL DEMOCRATS

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell seems to have the least to celebrate, with what he described himself as a "mixed bag" of results - politician speak for disappointing.

Pessimists within his ranks will fear they have fallen to just the sort of squeeze from the Conservatives they had predicted and that Sir Menzies' leadership is not producing the results they desperately need.

Political leaflets delivered to house in central Scotland
Chaos has hit the Scottish elections

That will almost inevitably lead to renewed speculation over his future, although he has insisted he will take the party to and beyond the general election.

Ironically it is still likely the party will find itself in a governing coalition in Scotland and, possibly, Wales thanks to the proportional representation voting system in those elections.

And, if these poll results were repeated at a general election, there might well be a hung parliament - already seen as a distinct possibility by many on all sides - once again giving the Lib Dems the balance of power.

Nonetheless, Sir Menzies' task is now a tough one. He will have to show he is still the man to drive the party forward and seek to avoid a squeeze as Cameron and Brown battle it out for general election success.

SNP AND PLAID

Whatever the final makeup of the Welsh assembly and Scottish Parliament, Plaid Cymru and, in particular, the SNP are still big winners in these polls.

Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond ended up having a closer fight with Labour than had been widely predicted.

But his party emerged the victors, albeit with a single seat, and can claim a significant breakthrough that could change the face of Scottish politics.

He and Labour will now be locked in some detailed and frantic negotiations in an attempt to see which can forge a governing alliance with other parties

That will be no easy task for Mr Salmond, particularly over the SNP's desire to hold a referendum on independence, something the Lib Dems are fundamentally opposed to.

But, whatever the negotiations ahead, Mr Salmond has done enough to support his claim that a wind of change is blowing through Scottish politics.

In Wales, Plaid Cymru's Ieuan Wyn Jones can also be satisfied with his party's gains, which helped ensure Labour failed to get a controlling majority in the assembly.

Negotiations over future alliances will now get under way in Cardiff as well as Edinburgh.





KEY STORIES

ANALYSIS
David Cameron Winners and losers
With the results in, Nick Assinder assesses the election winners and losers


ENGLISH LOCAL ELECTIONS

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