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Bruised by Tory gains, Corbyn concedes huge challenge lies ahead

By Press Association Reporters

Jeremy Corbyn has said Labour faces a challenge on a "historic scale" if it is to regain power in the general election on June 8, after the party suffered heavy losses in local council polls.

The Conservatives made sweeping advances across the UK, gaining more than 500 councillors, winning tightly-fought battles for elected mayors in the West Midlands and Tees Valley, and forcing Labour into third place in its former stronghold of Scotland.

The emphatic victories, fuelled by a collapse in the Ukip vote as anti-EU supporters flocked back to the Tories, set the scene for a substantial increase in Theresa May's House of Commons majority if repeated in June.

The Prime Minister sought to fight any complacency in Tory ranks, insisting she was "taking nothing for granted".

Labour tried to play down the significance of a bruising set of results which saw it forfeit more than 300 council seats, lose control of Glasgow for the first time in around 40 years and suffer reverses in Welsh strongholds. Mr Corbyn described the results as "mixed" and insisted they were "closing the gap" on the Conservatives, but acknowledged they faced a huge challenge.

Liberal Democrats had a mixed election, failing to break through against the Tories in the south-west England battleground but making advances in some general election target seats like Eastleigh and Wells.

As Ukip shed 109 councillors while holding a solitary seat in Lancashire, leader Paul Nuttall said the party was "a victim of its own success" over Brexit.

But the results sparked a furious reaction from the party's former donor Arron Banks, who said Ukip was "finished as an electoral force" under its current leadership and needed "a strategic bullet to the back of the head".

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