Vote 2011: Nick Clegg quit calls after council losses

Mr Long said Nick Clegg should resign "immediately"

Nick Clegg is facing calls from the party's local government chiefs to step down as leader after heavy losses in the English council elections.

Gary Long, ousted party leader on Nottingham City Council, said he must quit immediately, while Ken Ball, party leader on Chorley council, said he had "let the party down".

But Business Secretary Vince Cable ruled out a leadership contest.

The Lib Dems lost 695 councillors, with Labour gaining 800 and the Tories 81.

More than 9,500 seats in 279 elections were contested.

In Sheffield, the city where Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg is an MP, Labour took control of the council with 49 councillors out of a total of 84, taking nine seats from the Lib Dems who have 32. The party lost overall control last year.

  • In Hull, the Lib Dems lost control to Labour and the council's Lib Dem leader Carl Minns loses his seat
  • In Stockport the party lost power to no overall control, while in Manchester, the Lib Dems lose 10 seats
  • In Liverpool, the party lost 11 seats, with former council leader Lord Mike Storey toppled by teenager Jake Morrison
  • But Lib Dems retained control in Eastleigh, Energy Secretary Chris Huhne's constituency, gaining three seats
  • In the Scottish Parliament elections, the Lib Dems lost 11 MSPs, down to five, with many losing their deposits as the SNP triumphed
  • There was disappointment in the Welsh Assembly elections, with the Lib Dems losing one seat

Mr Long, whose party has lost all its six seats on Nottingham City Council, told BBC Radio 4's Today Programme: "I'm in favour of the coalition but I think he's run it very badly and in my view he should resign immediately."

'Disappointing'

Ken Ball, leader of the Liberal Democrats on Chorley council, accused Mr Clegg of "letting the party down".

As his council went to no overall control from a Conservative majority, Mr Ball said he had become so disillusioned he might quit the party.

"Nick Clegg has put us back 40 years. After these elections I hope somebody takes his place. He's been a bad PR exercise," he said.

There is no such thing as a "typical" set of local elections.

But two factors may have had a significant one-off impact in England.

Firstly - the AV referendum. It may have boosted Tory turnout significantly.

Conservative supporters in their heartlands felt strongly about the "no" campaign. That may have made them much more likely to come out and vote their councillors back in.

Secondly - the cuts. Don't forget these elections took place during a period of very sharp adjustments to council budgets.

Labour seems to have been pretty successful in persuading voters in the North to blame central government (and the Lib Dems).

The Tories, on the other hand, seem to have had some traction with their argument that Conservative councils have (by cutting waste and sharing resources) protected services better.

Irene Davidson, of Rochdale council, said he should "think about his position".

But Mr Cable insisted: "We are not looking at a party (leadership) election. Nick has put up with an enormous amount of personalised abuse and actually I think it will increase support for him within the party."

Mr Clegg said his party just needed "to get up, dust ourselves down and move on".

Stockport Lib Dem council leader Dave Goddard said it was "disappointing" to lose control of the council, claiming his party had "paid the price of being in government".

"We are still, by a long way, the largest party in this town and we will be talking to any of the parties who want to discuss with us," he said.

However, asked whether he would consider a Lib Dem-Conservative coalition, Mr Goddard replied: "Not while I draw breath."

Others echoed the view that Liberal Democrats were being punished at local level for their party's role in the coalition.

Bristol City Council leader Barbara Janke said: "Obviously there is a huge national factor, it's been a very bad night for the Liberal Democrats and there's no escaping that.

"We really feel that Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats have been rather unfairly blamed for anything that's wrong with the coalition, but then there is a challenge for us to explain the policies, communicate them and make sure people understand the very positive things that we are doing."

'Real kicking'

Simon Ashley, defeated Lib Dem leader in Manchester, said "Many good Lib Dem councillors have lost their seats because we have been punished for being in national government."

But Sheffield party leader Paul Scriven, a close ally of Mr Clegg, said both coalition parties had to "take some of the pain" because they were having to make "really difficult decisions" to clear up the "toxic debt" left by Labour. He told Today: "What we need at the moment is a leader who's not going to do a Blair or a Brown, ie, flip flop every time a result comes in or there is an opinion poll.

Earlier Lib Dem president Tim Farron said the party was "finding out for the first time what it is to be a Liberal Democrat in mid-term" - in the first major elections since it entered into coalition with the Conservatives. "It's going to be difficult - this will be a very unpleasant night for many Liberal Democrats up and down the country."

John Leech, Lib Dem MP for Manchester Withington, wrote on Twitter: "We've taken a real kicking in the ballot box tonight."

Labour has gained control of several councils including Hyndburn, Lincoln and Leeds from no overall control and North Warwickshire from the Conservatives.

The Conservatives gained Gloucester from no overall control and have held a series of other councils.

Professor John Curtice, professor of politics at the University of Strathclyde, said, compared with the 2010 local elections, the Conservative vote was unchanged, Labour's share was up by 10 points and the Lib Dems were down by 11.

He said it was probably the Lib Dems' worst performance in local elections since the merger of the Liberals and the SDP in 1988.

The council seats up for grabs were last contested in 2007, when Labour lost 642 councillors in one of the party's worst ever performances. The Lib Dems also had a bad time in 2007, with a net loss of 257 councillors.

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