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UK Conservatives' power base bolstered in local elections

Experts: Those already sick still face coverage problems

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Professor Michael Thrasher, an analyst for Sky News, said: "This does put them below what the national opinion polls are now saying".

Ukip is "finished as an electoral force" under its current leadership after a wipe-out in council elections overnight, millionaire former backer Arron Banks has said.

The Liberal Democrats suffered a major blow when their local leader, Brendan Glynane, lost his Delapre and Rushmere seat to Labour.

"But in this particular case people are not voting Tory vs Labour, it is more reflective of Labour weaknesses than of Tory strength".

There, the Conservatives' Andy Street, formerly the director of upmarket department store chain John Lewis, claimed a narrow win.

But First Minister Nicola Sturgeon's father missed out on a seat in North Ayrshire Council.

The Tories also performed well in the mayoral elections, winning tightly-fought battles for elected mayors in the West Midlands and significantly Tees Valley, where Conservative Ben Houchen became the first elected mayor in Labour's north-eastern heartland, beating Labour's Sue Jeffrey by more than 2,000 votes in the second round of counting.

The figures appeared to confirm a mountain of anecdotal evidence that suggested Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour would be mauled in the upcoming ballot. "We've gained seats in some places, we've held councils that many people predicted we wouldn't".

Conservatives also took control of Cambridgeshire, East Sussex, Norfolk, Monmouthshire, Isle of Wight, Derbyshire, Gloucestershire and Warwickshire. Ukip won only one seat.

He pointed out that the Conservatives held a much smaller share of the vote at local elections in the 1980s but still managed landslide victories at general elections under Margaret Thatcher.

The Scottish National Party, which is seeking another referendum on seceding from the United Kingdom on the back of Brexit, won 31 seats to end up with 431.

Nearly as jaw-dropping was Andy Street's victory for the Tories in the West Midlands, where Labour have 21 out of 28 parliamentary seats.

Ballots were counted Friday from contests for local councils in Scotland, Wales and many parts of England, as well as from mayoral competitions in several cities.

That seems implausible - especially since what most Labour MPs want to talk with me about is what may happen after the party loses (their assumption, not mine), and whether Corbyn would immediately resign.

And in Scotland the Rubbish Party - focused on anti-littering - won a seat.

But instead of taking a lap of honour, he played down the party's success, warning that there was no guarantee that the local election results would translate into Westminster seats next month. Currently, she enjoys a working majority of just 17.

Ms Sturgeon said: "What we've seen across Scotland today of course is the SNP vote holding firm". We've exceeded our number from four years ago and our target of 40 seats.

The Conservatives, at the time of the Star going to print, had picked up 11 new councils and 520 councillors fuelled by the mass exodus of voters from Ukip to the Tories.