A teenage Labour candidate took the council seat of a Liberal Democrat stalwart in Liverpool as the party suffered a devastating defeat.
The party lost 11 of the 13 seats it was defending in the city, with former council leader Lord Mike Storey toppled by 18-year-old Jake Morrison.
Local Lib Dem leader Flo Clucas said the party had suffered at the hands of a national "hate campaign" against Nick Clegg.
"We had an extremely good reception on the doorstep," said Mrs Clucas.
"There was no animosity against those candidates who were standing.
"But as soon as you mentioned the words Lib Dem the words that came back were, 'we all know what Nick Clegg has done. He has jumped into bed with the Tories."'
Mrs Clucas said the national Labour Party "had a lot to answer for" in running such a negative campaign.
"I think it's very bad for politics indeed," she said.
Lib Dem councillor Richard Kemp, who represents the city's Church ward, backed his party to come back from the brink.
He said: "I thought we would have done badly, but not this badly. We have lost some really good people but it's by no means the end of the Lib Dems in Liverpool."
Mrs Clucas took over as leader of the local party just last month after former leader Warren Bradley stood down as the party's leader on Liverpool City council.
He is facing an internal inquiry over how his son came to be nominated as a candidate in the local elections.
Mr Bradley is alleged to have witnessed his son Daniel's nomination to stand in the May 5 contest.
But the 18-year-old told the Liverpool Echo that his signature was a "fake" and that he did not want to be a candidate.
In a leaked message to Nick Clegg earlier in April, Mr Bradley urged his party leader to act before "we disappear into the annals of history".
He said Lib Dem councillors were set to lose seats in local elections and the coalition was to blame.
Mr Bradley went on to write: "We have to sever ties from the coalition; if we fail to do this, we have only our parliamentarians to blame."
But in response to the comments, Mr Clegg said: "I think Warren Bradley is one voice, but I think he is wrong."
The result in Liverpool leaves the Labour group with 62 seats, the Lib Dems with just 23 (including the suspended Warren Bradley), the Liberals three and the Greens two.