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Last Updated: Saturday, 5 May 2007, 13:02 GMT 14:02 UK
Labour told to unite behind Brown
Gordon Brown
Gordon Brown is expected to take over as PM within weeks
Labour has been urged to unite behind Gordon Brown after the party lost its grip on power in Scotland and suffered heavy losses in Wales and England.

Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt insisted the party could "build on" Thursday's election results under a new leader - expected to be Mr Brown.

But Tory leader David Cameron said the results showed the New Labour era of Blair and Brown was coming to an end.

Tory local election gains proved they could win a general election, he added.

Thursday's results dramatically reshaped Britain's political landscape with the SNP ending Labour's historic dominance of Scottish politics.

Discussions are under way in Holyrood as the SNP, Greens and Lib Dems decide whether - and how - to form a ruling coalition.

'Broken through'

But the SNP's advance overshadowed significant gains by the Conservatives in local elections.

The party gained more than 870 seats, took control of 38 councils and claimed to be on course to win the next general election after securing a 40% share of the vote.

LOCAL COUNCIL RESULTS

  Councillors Councils
Party +/- Total +/- Total
After 312 of 312 councils.
CON 911 5315 39 165
LAB -505 1877 -8 34
LD -246 2171 -4 23
OTH -162 1112 0 5
NOC - - -27 85

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SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT RESULTS

Party Const Regn +/- Tot
After 129 of 129 seats declared
SNP 21 26 +20 47
LAB 37 9 -4 46
CON 4 13 -1 17
LD 11 5 -1 16
Others 0 3 -14 3

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ASSEMBLY RESULTS

Party Const Regn +/- Tot
After 60 of 60 seats declared
LAB 24 2 -4 26
PC 7 8 +3 15
CON 5 7 +1 12
LD 3 3 0 6
Others 1 0 0 1

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"This is a very, very good set of results for the Conservatives," said Mr Cameron, who is visiting a wildlife park with his family near his Oxfordshire constituency.

"We have really broken through in the North. We have many more councillors now than people expected."

Labour ministers were, meanwhile, trying to put a brave face on the results, with Ms Hewitt insisting it was not the "complete meltdown" predicted by some.

But she acknowledged that losing so many councillors was a "huge disappointment".

She dismissed Mr Cameron's claim that the Tories were now "the party of the whole country" as "complete rubbish", and urged Labour to unite around Mr Brown.

Ms Hewitt told Sky News: "They weren't as bad as we feared, but they weren't as good as we would like.

"I think there's a real chance now from this mid-term result to build out - with a new leader of course - build on the achievements of the last 10 years, renew ourselves in government, but do so by listening very carefully to what people have told us in different parts of the UK in these results."

Leadership

Sir Menzies Campbell's leadership of the Liberal Democrat party has, meanwhile, come under fresh scrutiny after his party lost 246 council seats and relinquished control of four town halls to the Conservatives.

Lib Dem chief of staff Ed Davey denied questions were being asked within the party about Sir Menzies' position, claiming it had performed as well as expected.

"I think if you look at our vote share this time which looks like it's more or less neck-and-neck with Labour - 26%.

"It is one of the better results that we've actually had over the last 15 years in local government elections and yes, we've suffered some losses in England but if you look at the seats that we need to gain at the general election we've actually made progress even against the Conservatives in places like Eastbourne."

Coalition 'possibility'

In Scotland, the SNP took 47 seats, against Labour's 46, and claimed Labour had lost the "moral authority to govern".

The SNP is thought likely to seek a coalition with the Liberal Democrats and Greens - although its pledge for a referendum on independence could prove a sticking point.

We are now the party of the whole country
David Cameron
Conservative leader

Ed Davey told the BBC a Lib Dem deal with the SNP was a "possibility".

"It depends on the SNP. There will be tough negotiations as other people said but we should be open minded and listen to what they've got to say.

"But we should be very clear at the election about our opposition to a referendum on independence - I don't think that's going to change."

In Wales, Labour leader Rhodri Morgan accepted the party needed to find a coalition after losing three seats, despite remaining the biggest party in Cardiff Bay.

Mr Morgan is meeting members of the Welsh Labour hierarchy today to discuss the way forward. But he said Labour assembly members would have the final say about who to co-operate with.


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
SNP members celebrate the party 's success




KEY STORIES

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


ENGLISH LOCAL ELECTIONS

AUDIO VIDEO

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