Page last updated at 18:55 GMT, Friday, 2 May 2008 19:55 UK

Brown 'disappointed' by poll loss

Gordon Brown says he will 'listen and lead'

Gordon Brown has admitted a "bad and disappointing" election for Labour, as the party suffered its worst council results in at least 40 years.

BBC research suggests Labour won 24% of votes cast in England and Wales, behind the Tories on 44% and Lib Dems on 25%.

In total Labour lost 331 councillors and key councils like Reading. Tory gains include Bury and North Tyneside.

Mr Brown insists his party will learn lessons. David Cameron called it a "big moment" for the Conservative Party.

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg said his party had "regained momentum" by gaining 30 councillors despite its projected national share of the vote falling on last year.

General secretary 'quits'

He claimed Labour had lost touch with ordinary people and that Mr Brown had lost his ability to lead.

The margin is similar to the drubbing received by Tory Prime Minister John Major in council elections in 1995, two years before he was ejected from Downing Street by Tony Blair.

KEY WINS & LOSSES
Conservative wins - Basingstoke & Deane, Elmbridge, Southampton, Bury, Harlow, Maidstone, North Tyneside, Nuneaton & Bedworth, Redditch, Rossendale, Solihull, Vale of Glamorgan, West Lindsey, Wyre Forest
Conservative losses - Colchester, Coventry
Labour wins - Durham, Slough
Labour losses - Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly, Flintshire, Hartlepool, Merthyr Tydfil, Reading, Torfaen, Wolverhampton
Liberal Democrats win - Burnley, Kingston-Upon-Hull, Sheffield, St Albans
Liberal Democrats lose - West Lindsey, Liverpool, Pendle

Attention is now focused on the race to be London mayor, where Conservative Boris Johnson is seeking to defeat Labour's Ken Livingstone.

Counting of the 2.4m votes began at 0830 BST with a result not now expected before 2400 BST. With about half of the votes counted, Mr Johnson was ahead in nine out of 14 areas on first preference votes. London's Evening Standard newspaper has called it a win for Mr Johnson.

But as election fever gripped Westminster, Labour had further bad news as the party's newly appointed general secretary, David Pitt-Watson - a City fund manager - decided not to take up the position.

Mr Pitt-Watson, believed to have been Mr Brown's choice, was appointed after Peter Watt resigned over the row about donations from businessman David Abrahams.

And senior Labour backbencher Ian Gibson said Mr Brown had six months - up to the party conference - to move the party forward or risk losing the next general election.

In the local elections - where results continue to come in - the Tories have had a 4% higher share of the national vote than in last year's local polls.

Such a share in a general election would have the potential to give the party a Commons majority of 138.

Mr Brown told reporters: "It's clear to me that this has been a disappointing night, indeed a bad night for Labour."

He conceded that the government had "lessons to learn", but insisted: "My job is to listen and to lead."

The test of leadership is not what happens in a period of success but what happens in difficult circumstances
Gordon Brown

He blamed "difficult economic circumstances" for much of the bad performance, and claimed that measures taken by the government to counter problems would become clear "over the next few months".

"I think people want to be assured, and indeed people are questioning and want to be assured, that the government will steer them through these difficult times."

He added: "The test of leadership is not what happens in a period of success but what happens in difficult circumstances."

Mr Cameron said: "This is a very big moment for the Conservative Party - but I don't want anyone to think that we would deserve to win an election on the back of a failing government.

"I want us to really prove to people that we can make the changes that they want to see, in terms of schools and hospitals and crime and the other issues that really matter to all of us.

"That's what I'm going to devote myself and my party to over the next few months."

'No crisis'

The Tories have gained control of several councils including Southampton, Bury, Harlow, Maidstone and North Tyneside.

BBC analysis suggests Labour's vote appears to have fallen most heavily in its traditional heartlands - suggesting MPs were right to fear the 10p tax row had damaged their core support.

RESULTS ROUND-UP
General turnout looks like it will be about 35%, similar to last year
Projected national vote share: Tories 44%, Lib Dems 25%, Labour 24%
Worst share of national vote for Labour in recent history
Surprise Tory win in Southampton and solid progress in north
Greens and BNP make little progress nationally, UKIP up 1

In Wales, Labour lost control of five councils and could also be out of office in another.

Labour was defeated in its south Wales valley heartland areas of Merthyr Tydfil, Blaenau Gwent, Torfaen and Caerphilly. It also lost Flintshire.

Ministers were trying to put a brave face on the results and pledging to listen to voters' concerns.

Deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the results had been "very disappointing indeed", but said the elections had taken place against a background of rising economic concerns.

"We didn't respond early enough to those groups of people who were going to lose out as a result of the change in the 10p rate which overall benefits lower income people but there were some people who lost out and we didn't react early enough," she said.

Labour's chief whip Geoff Hoon said: "There's no crisis. This isn't something that's going to affect the fundamental stability of the government."

Liberal Democrat leader

Mr Clegg told BBC Breakfast: "We were 13% a few months ago, we're now 25%. We've over-taken Labour, we've taken seats off the Conservatives, we've taken seats off Labour.

"If you call that a disappointment then we inhabit different planets. I am actually delighted, we are regaining momentum."

London contest

More than 4,000 seats on 159 councils were up for grabs in Thursday's elections, as well as the London mayoralty and assembly.

All seats are up for election in the 22 Welsh unitary authorities.

HAVE YOUR SAY
I voted for the Conservatives and I'm glad they won my local election
Matt, Bedworth

Meanwhile, a BBC opinion poll suggests Tory leader David Cameron is seen as more effective than Mr Brown or Mr Clegg.

Of 1,005 people who took part in the poll, 68% said Mr Cameron was an asset to his party, compared with 43% for Mr Clegg and 42% for Mr Brown.

Mr Brown's reputation for economic competence has also taken a blow.

At this time last year 48% said that Labour could be trusted to run the country's economy, little different from the 53% who did so in 2002. But this year the figure has fallen to 32%.

However, only 36% said they trust the Conservatives to run the economy - 10 points down on last year, and little better than the figure of 32% recorded for the party in 2002.



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THE ELECTION RESULTS
COUNCIL RESULTS
  Councillors Councils
Party +/- Total +/- Total
CON 257 3155 12 65
LAB -334 2365 -9 18
LD 33 1804 1 12
PC 31 205 -1 0
OTH 10 898 0 0
NOC - - -3 64
159 of 159 councils declared.

Find your results

Results in more detail

London Mayoral results
Overall results
Name Party Votes
Johnson CON 1,168,738
Livingstone LAB 1,028,966
Paddick LD 878,097
Berry GRN 409,101

Find your results

Results in more detail

London Assembly Results
Overall results
Party Constit' Top-up Total seats
CON 8 3 11
LAB 6 2 8
LD 0 3 3
GRN 0 2 2
BNP 0 1 1

Find your results

Results in more detail


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