It's not all good news for Labour

LABOUR'S success in Ipswich was not reflected across the country, where the party lost seats – and lost control of Norwich to the Liberal Democrats.In Waveney, Tory gains left the council with no overall control – there are now an equal number of Labour and Tory councillors with the Liberal Democrats and independents holding the balance of power.

By Paul Geater

LABOUR'S success in Ipswich was not reflected across the country, where the party lost seats – and lost control of Norwich to the Liberal Democrats.

In Waveney, Tory gains left the council with no overall control – there are now an equal number of Labour and Tory councillors with the Liberal Democrats and independents holding the balance of power.

In Burnley in Lancashire, far-right British National Party candidates won three seats on the local council.

The BNP exploited lingering tensions generated by racial violence in the town last year to claim the party's first seats in almost ten years.

There was further bad news for Labour in its stronghold of North Tyneside, where Transport Stephen Byers cut his political teeth in local government, after the Tory romped home in the mayoral contest.

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But Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith was offered little real comfort from the England-wide elections as his party's successes fell well short of the kind of swing which would oust Tony Blair from Downing Street.

In Burnley, mother-of-one Carol Hughes and David Edwards, a civil engineer, both won seats for the BNP on Burnley Borough Council.

Before today the BNP had only ever had one major council seat, the urban seat in Tower Hamlets, east London, which it won in 1993 but held for only a year.

Labour Party chairman Charles Clarke said the BNP's success was "disappointing' and alleged that the party's candidates were interested only in "tearing apart' the communities they targeted.

But on a night when the Tories were hoping to capitalise on disillusionment with the Government in the first big test of opinion since Tony Blair's last general election victory, successes in London were undermined by results elsewhere.

While in London the Conservatives gained control of Enfield and Richmond, they lost one of only two metropolitan councils they held, Calderdale in West Yorkshire, to no overall control. And Labour retained control of Bolton and Wolverhampton, two councils where they were facing a serious threat.

In areas experimenting with all-postal voting the turnout was good, at more than 50% in Gateshead and South Tyneside.

Elsewhere it was less impressive, averaging around 35 per cent, though that was some give per cent up on the 2000 local elections.