Local elections 2018: Jeremy Corbyn says Tories 'right to be worried' despite limited Labour gains
Jeremy Corbyn has insisted that the Conservatives are “right to be worried” about Labour despite his party failing to seize a host of key target councils.
The Labour leader hailed “a solid set of results” at the local elections - even though the party failed to seize any of its targets in London.
Theresa May goaded Labour over its "failed" attempts to oust Tory authorities, even though her own party fell back by around 30 seats.
Labour had hoped to take control of Barnet Council, but the Conservatives won it amid concerns voters were put off by an ongoing anti-Semitism row.
The Tories also saw off the Labour challenge in Wandsworth, Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea, while Labour also suffered surprise losses in Derby and Nuneaton.
However, Labour did manage to win Plymouth from the Conservatives, who also lost control of Trafford.
And despite the party’s disappointments in the capital, it is on course for its best set of London results since 1971.
Overall, the party was set to finish with around 60 more seats than it won when they were last up for grabs four years ago. The Tories meanwhile were down around 30 seats.
Mr Corbyn said: “We have consolidated and built on the advances we made at last year’s general election, when we won the largest increase in Labour’s share of the vote since 1945.
“In these elections we have won seats across England in places we have never held before.
We won Plymouth from the Tories, who lost control of Trafford, their flagship northern council.
And Labour has won even more council seats than at our high watermark of 2014.
"In a sign of how worried they are about Labour’s advance, the Tories talked up our chances to unrealistic levels, especially in London.
"The results show they're right to be worried - we came within a whisker of winning Wandsworth for the first time in over 40 years.”
But one Labour source told PoliticsHome: “This is one of the worst pieces of expectation management I’ve ever seen.
“Jeremy’s outriders have managed to do in their own messiah.”
Another added: “Hundreds of activists were sent to campaign in the wrong places just to feed the outsized egos of a few pied pipers on Twitter. It can’t be allowed to happen again.”
Deputy Labour leader Tom Watson said he was “quietly satisfied” with the results.
But he said the Jewish community had “sent us a message” in Barnet, where Theresa May claimed anti-Semitism had led to a worse-than-expected performance for Labour.
Barnet has the highest proportion of Jewish residents of any borough in Britain, and the Tories took control of the council - previously under no overall control - after gaining five seats from Labour and one from the Liberal Democrats.
Speaking in Barnet, Mrs May said: "People of all faiths have rejected vile anti-Semitism, which has gone unchallenged in the Labour Party for too long.”
'THEY THREW EVERYTHING AT IT'
Earlier, the Prime Minister insisted that the Conservatives would not take "anything for granted" after the party enjoyed a local election night that defied expectations.
In London, the Conservatives also managed to hold on to Wandsworth, a council that has been under Tory control for four decades but which Labour had been hoping to turn red.
Speaking to party activists in the borough, a beaming Prime Minister took a swipe at Labour's "failed" bid to wrest control of Wandsworth after a long spell of Tory rule.
The result was incredibly close, with fewer than 200 votes between the two parties.
"Labour thought they would bring an end to that this week," she said.
"They thought they could take control. This was one of their top targets and they threw everything at it. But they failed, and the people of Wandsworth re-elected a Conservative council."
Despite her upbeat tone, the Prime Minister insisted that the better-than-expected night would not lead to complacency in Tory ranks.
"We won't take anything for granted," she said. "We will continue to work hard for local people and we will build on this success for the future."
Elsewhere, the Lib Dems net-gained more than 70 seats in a big boost for leader Vince Cable.
The party seized a whopping 24 seats in Richmond - a big pro-EU area - to take control of the former Tory council, while the party also took Kingston and South Cambridgeshire from the Conservatives.
Ukip hemorrhaged support, net-losing more than 120 seats across England and leaving them with just three councillors. The party was boosted by its scalp of the Labour boss in Derby.
And the Green party won 39 seats - handing it a net gain of eight seats.