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Labour loses ground in local elections

PUBLISHED: 10:26 02 May 2003 | UPDATED: 13:48 03 March 2010

LABOUR activists were licking their wounds today after a bruising election night across Suffolk and the rest of the country.

The party lost more than 750 council seats across the country - and voters in Suffolk followed the national trend.

LABOUR activists were licking their wounds today after a bruising election night across Suffolk and the rest of the country.

The party lost more than 750 council seats across the country – and voters in Suffolk followed the national trend.

In Ipswich the party lost some of its strongest seats including Whitton and Whitehouse.

And a collapse in its vote saw the Tories regain power at Mid Suffolk.

Liberal Democrats performed strongly – and made another breakthrough in Ipswich to give them a group of five councillors.

Nationally all parties were playing the usual game of claiming success in the polls.

Labour lost ground in the vote for the Scottish parliament but took overall control of the Welsh Assembly.

Tony Blair suffered a setback in the polls today with Labour losing control of 29 English councils and suffering a series of high-profile defeats in the Scottish Parliament.

But Tory successes were overshadowed by the resignation of one of Iain Duncan Smith's frontbench spokesmen, who twisted the knife with a stark call for the leader's resignation.

Senior MP Crispin Blunt deserted the front bench last night, saying Mr Duncan Smith must go whatever the local election result and claiming he was a "handicap" who would keep the party out of power.

The his call came just before the party seized control of a swathe of councils after gaining more than 500 seats.

Liberal Democrats were set for an historic strong showing as Tony Blair's "Baghdad bounce'' poll rise in the wake of war with Iraq failed to protect Labour.

The elections for the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and nearly 12,000 seats on 340 councils were also a crucial mid-term test of Mr Blair's popularity.

With millions of Britons taking part, they were the biggest indicator of political opinion since the 2001 General Election.

BBC analysis put the Conservatives on 34%, Labour on 30%, the Liberal Democrats on 30% and others on 5% across the country.

That compared with the 42% Tories need to win a general election and represented the Lib Dem's strongest local election showing yet.

Labour strategists may be relieved their mid-term showing was not even lower but there will be real pain at some of the party's losses.

Birmingham, Britain's second city, headed the casualty list as results left no party with overall control.

There was widespread dismay at the success of the extremist British National Party.

The number of council seats gained by the far-right group ran into double figures and made it the second largest party in Burnley, the scene of race riots two years ago.

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