Britons on Friday voted with their feet against the government's economic policies with the Tories and their coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats, suffering humiliating losses in local elections across Britain.
The opposition Labour party notched up a series of victories exceeding its own expectations.
Prime Minister David Cameron apologised for the scale of the Tory humiliation, widely interpreted as a rejection of his government's austerity programme which has led to deep public spending cuts and pushed unemployment to unprecedented levels.
As bad news poured in, the Tories were pinning their hopes on the London mayoral election with their candidate, Boris Johnson, poised to be re-elected for a second term against Labour's Ken Livingstone. Labour leader Ed Miliband, basking in his party's electoral bounce, described the results as a “wake-up call” for the government, claiming that only his party could “deliver Britain the change it needs”.
“We are a party winning back people's trust, regaining ground, but there is more work to do,” he said.
Mr. Cameron said he was sorry that so many of his party councillors had lost their seats, but rejected calls for a change of strategy.
“These are difficult times and there aren't easy answers. What we have to do is take the difficult decisions to deal with the debt, deficit and broken economy that we've inherited and we will go on making those decisions and we've got to do the right thing for our country,” he said.
Deputy Prime Minister and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, whose party's performance was one of the worst since its inception, said he was “really sad” , but was “determined” to “continue to play our role in rescuing, repairing and reforming the British economy”.
Elections to 181 local councils in England, Wales and Scotland involving nearly 5,000 seats were held. With full results yet to be declared, Tories had lost 370 seats and the Lib Dems more than 220 while Labour was up by more than 650 seats.