Conservatives and Labour suffer local election Brexit backlash as Lib Dems advance
The Conservatives and Labour are on course for a disappointing local election performance as voters deliver a damning verdict on their Brexit performance.
Early results in the local elections showed significant losses for the two main parties.
By contrast, the Lib Dems were on course for a good election, with early results showing the party on course to gain hundreds of seats and take control of several councils.
A total of 8,374 council seats were up for grabs across 248 English councils, with 460 seats across 11 local authority areas in Northern Ireland also in play.
At 6am, the Conservatives had already lost 350 seats and control of 13 councils, while Labour - who had been predicted to make significant gains - had lost 74 councillors and control of Hartlepool and Wirral councils.
The Lib Dems, meanwhile, had already gained 239 seats in what was shaping up to be a strong performance for the party.
In a further boost for the party, they had also gained control of Winchester, Chelmsford and Bath and North East Somerset.
Greens and independents also enjoyed significant gains as the Tory and Labour grip on the UK's political landscape was loosened.
Elections expert Professor John Curtice told the BBC: "If you compare the results this year with the results last year, it looks as though more or less the Labour party has lost just as much ground as the Conservatives.
"This evening, even without the challenge of the Brexit Party or Change UK - the new kids on the block - the electoral hold of the Conservative and Labour parties on the British electorate is looking now as weak as it has done at any point in post-war British politics."
Worryingly for Labour, the party appeared to be performing badly in traditional northern heartlands which voted Leave in the EU referendum.
In Bolsover, where left-wing firebrand Dennis Skinner has been the local MP since 1970, the local council went from Labour to no overall control.
And the local council in Ashfield, where Gloria de Piero is the MP, will now be run by a group of independent councillors heavy Labour losses.
Jonathan Carr-West, chief executive of the Local Government Information Unit, said: "It’s looking like a pretty grim night for the Conservatives and Labour and a very good night for the Lib Dems.
"The Conservatives were expecting to lose hundreds of seats and they have. But they’ve also lost control of 13 councils so far. Councils due to declare on Friday are more solidly Conservative, so they will be hoping that trend doesn’t continue; if it does, things could be even worse than they were expecting.
"Things aren’t as bad for Labour. They have taken control of Trafford but they’re also losing seats and have lost control of Hartlepool and Wirral.
"Big winners are the Liberal Democrats. Does this mean that remain voters are flocking to the Lib Dems while disillusioned Tory and Labour leave voters simply stay home? Perhaps. But we shouldn’t forget the salience of local issues. Campaigners around the country have been desperate to shift the debate on to local issues and have had some success."