Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Defeated Brown Makes a Pledge to 'Listen and Lead' Labour's Worst Defeat in 40 Years

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Defeated Brown Makes a Pledge to 'Listen and Lead' Labour's Worst Defeat in 40 Years

Article excerpt

Byline: Gavin Cordon and James Tapsfield

A CHASTENED Gordon Brown yesterday promised to "learn the lessons" after seeing Labour crash to a disastrous defeat in his first electoral test as Prime Minister.

As the party sustained its worst set of council election results in four decades, Mr Brown admitted that it had been a "bad night" for the party.

Projections of its share of the national vote slumped to 24%, trailing behind the Liberal Democrats in third place, as scores of Labour councillors across England and Wales lost their seats.

Meanwhile, a jubilant David Cameron celebrated a night of sweeping gains with a whirlwind helicopter tour of some of the Tories' most significant town hall triumphs.

The Conservative leader - who saw his party's projected share of the national vote rise to 44% - said it had been a "vote of positive confidence" for his party.

In Downing Street, Mr Brown blamed the "testing" economic conditions for Labour's poor performance which drew comparisons with the drubbing John Major's Tories suffered in 1995, two years before their landslide General Election defeat.

"It's clear to me that this has been a disappointing night, indeed a bad night, for Labour," the Prime Minister said.

"I said I was going to listen and lead. We are in difficult economic circumstances. I think people accept that we're going through some of the most challenging times we've seen in many years. The test of leadership is not what happens in a period of success but what happens in difficult circumstances."

Mr Cameron said it was a "big moment" for his party, which now had the chance to demonstrate that it was ready for government.

"I think these results are not just a vote against Gordon Brown and his Government. I think they are a vote of positive confidence in the Conservative Party," he said.

With almost all the results in, apart from London, Labour had suffered a net loss of 298 councillors and control of eight councils.

It was hit particularly hard in its Welsh heartlands, losing Blaenau Gwent, Merthyr Tydfil, Torfaen, Caerphilly and Flintshire. It also lost Wolverhampton, Hartlepool and Reading. …

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