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PM faces unrest after poll drubbing

David Cameron is facing unrest within the coalition after Conservatives and Liberal Democrats lost swathes of councillors to a resurgent Labour in elections across England, Scotland and Wales.

Disgruntled MPs - including one minister - issued open calls for the Prime Minister to assert Tory pre-eminence over Lib Dem coalition partners and ditch "barmy" policies on gay marriage and reform of the House of Lords.

Meanwhile, Ed Miliband said Labour was "winning back people's trust", after outperforming expectations by scooping more than 700 new councillors, gaining control over 29 councils and seeing off a Scottish National Party challenge in Glasgow.

In Labour's best night at the polls since Tony Blair's leadership, Mr Miliband saw his party make inroads into the south of England, seizing key councils such as Southampton, Exeter, Plymouth, Reading and Harlow - and even snatching seats in Mr Cameron's own Witney constituency in Oxfordshire.

Speaking to cheering activists in Birmingham, where Labour won back control after eight years of opposition, Mr Miliband said his party had won by showing it was "in touch with people's concerns".

"This Government promised change and they have made things worse, not better," said Mr Miliband. "They are standing up for the rich and powerful, not standing up for the millions of ordinary families who need help. The message of these results is that when you have a Government piling unfairness on top of economic failure, people are not going to support them."

Mr Cameron was hopeful of a silver lining in the shape of victory for Boris Johnson in the London mayoral election, where the Tory incumbent was leading his Labour rival Ken Livingstone in early counting, but the PM's enthusiastic call for "a Boris in every city" was dealt a firm rebuff by voters, who rejected the introduction of elected mayors in eight cities.

Mr Cameron apologised to Conservative councillors for the loss of their seats, which he blamed on the tough economic backdrop against which the elections were held, but insisted: "What we have to do is take the difficult decisions to deal with the debt, deficit and broken economy that we've inherited and we will go on making those decisions and we've got to do the right thing for our country."

But he came under pressure to change course from MPs on the right of his party, who fear a haemorrhage of traditional Tory voters to the UK Independence Party unless he refocuses the Government's agenda on mainstream priorities. "David Cameron, I think, is on notice that he does need to raise his game," former ministerial aide Stewart Jackson, told BBC Radio 4's The World at One.

Meanwhile, Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg said he was "really sad" at his party's results, but added: "I am determined that we will continue to play our role in rescuing, repairing and reforming the British economy. It's not an easy job and it can't be done overnight but our duty is to boost jobs and investment and to restore a sense of hope and optimism to our country."

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