Day of triumph for Tories and misery for Labour after local elections
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" in an election she hopes will strengthen her hand in Brexit negotiations with Brussels.
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.
"We have five weeks to win the General Election so we can fundamentally transform Britain for the many not the few," he said in a statement.
"We know this is no small task, it is a challenge on an historic scale.
"But we, the whole Labour movement and the British people, can't afford not to seize our moment.
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.
I will not take anything for granted and neither will the team I lead, because there is too much at stake. Theresa May
Speaking during a visit to a factory in Brentford, west London, Mrs May said:"The reality is that today, despite the evident will of the British people, we have bureaucrats in Europe who are questioning our resolve to get the right deal.
"And the reality is that only a General Election vote for the Conservatives in 34 days' time will strengthen my hand to get the best deal for Britain from Brexit."
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.
Losing seats to Tories was "a price Ukip is prepared to pay" for the prize of leaving the EU, he said.
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".
Conservatives won the West of England metro mayor contest, while Labour claimed the mayoralties in Greater Manchester, won in the first round of voting by former cabinet minister Andy Burnham, Liverpool, Doncaster and North Tyneside.
Belfast Telegraph Digital