Page last updated at 04:59 GMT, Friday, 2 May 2008 05:59 UK
Live: Prime minister's questions



By David Thompson
Political correspondent, BBC News

The last time Labour did this badly in a local election, the Beatles were in the charts and Flower Power was all the rage.

Sarah and Gordon Brown
Mr Brown will be pinning his hopes on a Labour victory in London

Right now, love is not all Gordon Brown needs.

Clocking up Labour's lowest share of the vote since the late 1960s has turned what were always going to be a difficult set of mid-term elections into a serious problem for the prime minister, and set the tone for the politics of the coming months.

In 2004, the last time this set of council seats were up for grabs, the party could attribute its paltry 26% of the vote on Iraq and the unpopularity of then prime minister Tony Blair.

This time, things are 2% worse and the blame cannot be pinned on either the war or Mr Blair.

Local elections are always tricky for governments, especially ones which have been around for more than a decade, but this was bad.

Tory joy

Treat this statistic with a slight pinch of salt - general elections are very different from council elections - but if this result were to be repeated next time the country goes to the polls, Labour would be left with 169 MPs and the Tories would have a majority of 138.

Taking London may ultimately turn out to be a bit like your football team winning the local derby - makes you feel brilliant for a week or two but does not necessarily mean you're going to win the league

For the Tories, there was much to savour in this set of results.

Taking control of a council like Bury means they can claim a revival of their fortunes in northern England.

Seizing Southampton was a bonus - but one which will make John Denham, the Innovation and Skills Secretary and MP for Southampton Itchen, a worried man.

They increased their share of the vote and with it, David Cameron's claim to be a prime minister-in-waiting.

For the LibDems, a curate's egg of an evening.

London result

On the one hand they gained councils like Hull and St Albans, but on the other, their projected share of the national vote was 25% - one per cent less than former leader Sir Menzies Campbell.

Not a statistic likely to be enjoyed by successor, Nick Clegg, in his first election outing as party leader.

Then there's London.

By the time you read this, the capital may have a new Mayor - the city has already voted and made its decision.

Thing is, we won't know what that decision is until this evening, as the votes aren't being counted until later on Friday.

Local derby

Seizing London would be the icing on the cake for the Tories.

The Beatles
The Fab Four were in the charts last time Labour did this badly

They could justifiably claim that victory in such a diverse and multicultural city shows that people are ready to vote Conservative again.

For Labour, holding it would be a crumb of comfort from a pretty unpalatable evening.

But in a way, important as it is, taking London may ultimately turn out to be a bit like your football team winning the local derby - makes you feel brilliant for a week or two but does not necessarily mean you're going to win the league.

Whatever happens between Ken, Boris and Brian, a general election could be as much as two years away and if a week is a long time in politics, that is an eternity.

Plenty of time for things to turn round - or get worse.

Thursday's results do not necessarily mean the knives are out for Gordon Brown but unless he does something that shows he is a man with a plan - that he is a winner - that whirring noise you can hear in the background may well be the sound of blades being sharpened by his worried MPs.





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HAVE YOUR SAY

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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