The New Labour era of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown is coming to an end, Tory leader David Cameron has claimed.
Mr Cameron says the Tories have 'broken through' in the north
Mr Cameron said his party's gains in Thursday's local elections showed it could win the next general election.
The Tories won more than 800 council seats - giving the party its highest number of councillors since 1978 - and took control of 38 town halls.
The BBC's projections suggest the Conservatives are 13 points ahead of Labour, which has a share of 27%.
The Tories say this puts them just one point short of the support enjoyed by Tony Blair ahead of Labour's landslide victory in the 1997 general election.
But Labour said the Tories needed to do better to win the next election - and insisted its own losses were not as bad as it had feared.
Many of the Conservative's gains came at the expense of the Liberal Democrats in the South of England, where they took control of Bournemouth, South Norfolk, Torbay, Uttlesford and Windsor & Maidenhead.
But they also made significant inroads in the North and Midlands, gaining control of Chester, East Riding in Yorkshire and Lincoln.
They also made gains in Trafford, Preston and Sunderland and gained control from Labour in Blackpool, although they failed to make progress in major cities such as Newcastle and Manchester, where they still have no councillors.
"This is a very, very good set of results for the Conservatives. We have really broken through in the North," said Mr Cameron, who was spending the day with his family.
"We have many more councillors now than people expected."
He said voters had been influenced by "a mixture of local and national issues".
But he added: "This was not a protest vote because if it was we would have seen the Lib Dems doing better and they didn't. This is a move towards the Conservatives.
"The New Labour era of Brown and Blair is drawing to a close.
"I want to make sure that we are the ones who are ready with a new approach to politics when that happens." He said he believed people were "fed up with top-down state control" and said the Conservatives were the party to offer them an alternative to that.
Speaking about the coalition negotiations now going on in Scotland and Wales, Mr Cameron said that any decision to work with other parties would be a matter for the Scottish and Welsh Conservative groups.
"In both Scotland and Wales the party will want to maximise their influence. How they do that will be a matter for them," he said.
In other results, the Conservatives became the largest party on England's biggest council, Birmingham, for the first time in a quarter of a century.
And they took control of Oswestry Borough Council for the first time in the council's history.
In Wales, the Tories have 12 seats in the 60-seat assembly, taking key constituencies such as Clwyd West and Cardiff North from Labour.
In Scotland with all 129 seats declared, the Conservatives have 17 MSPs - a net loss of one seat.