1. ITV Report

Election 2012: Winners and losers in the East

These local elections were billed as a big test of public opinion, 2 years into the Coalition Government.

Across our region 368 council seats were up for grabs. 22 councils held elections yesterday, electing a third of their councillors.

Now the votes are counted its clear Labour have done well in the East of England. They gained 58 councillors mostly at the expense of the Conservatives who lost 38 and the Liberal Democrats who lost 17.

High drama at the election count Credit: ITV Anglia

Labour say the results are beyond their expectations, taking control of Harlow, Thurrock, Norwich and Great Yarmouth.

Though it was clear that following a disastrous General Election result in 2010 for Labour, taking control of places like Harlow, where there was a slender Conservative majority, was a must to show they were making progess.

Luton South MP Gavin Shuker says these results give Labour space to get their policies across and are a good stepping stone for Labour to try and win back parliamentary seats in 2015 .

And its interesting that for all the political parties these council results are ultimately about the signal this gives to how the next General Election might pan out.

If you look at the councils Labour gained control of in the East - Harlow, Thurrock, Great Yarmouth , Norwich , they all correspond to Parliamentary seats Labour would have to win if they were to get back into Government. And even in Conservative held councils like Basildon and Peterborough Labour gained some seats.

For the Conservatives a disappointing night in our region, though Conservative MPs are quick to point out last time these seats were contested in 2008 was a high point for the party and they expected losses.

Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis says its always tricky for a party in government facing midterm local elections. Many Conservative councillors say they believe it was the national government that cost them so many seats.

Former Harlow Council leader Andrew Johnson said the message on the doorstep in the Essex town was disillusionment with the coalition.

The problem for David Cameron is not just the loss of tens of councillors in the East, but the calls he is now facing from Tory backbenchers to change tack with the direction of the Government.

Peterborough MP Stewart Jackson said the Prime Minister is now "on notice he needs to raise his game" and said the Government must now concentrate on bread and butter issues. Wellingborough MP Peter Bone agreed and said it was time for the Prime MInister to stop listening to the Liberal Democrats.

The electoral losses for the Conservatives in these elections will fuel the calls from many Tory backbenchers for less emphasis on issues like Lords reform and gay marriage.

As for the Liberal Democrats, this was another disappointing night in our region, though without the significant losses they faced in last years local elections.

There was some good news in Colchester, where the Lib Dems held onto all their councillors and also made a gain. Sir Bob Russell, the towns MP described the results as a "golden oasis in a sea of Essex Tory blue".

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  • Election 2012: Colchester

    Colchester Borough Council remain hung with the Liberal Democrats as the largest party following the local elections.