Labour has an 'identity crisis' after 'disastrous' local elections, opponents have claimed.
Chief executive of think-tank Localis, Jonathan Werran, said the results meant continued Conservative control of the Local Government Association (LGA) 'was a given,' with the centre-left vote split amid a 'vaccination bounce' for the Tories.
LGA Conservative group leader, Cllr Izzi Seccombe, who was on her way to her own count on Friday lunchtime, said she expected her party's control of the association would increase.
Cllr Seccombe said her party had been helped by the vaccination rollout and talked up its performance during the COVID crisis.
'We never ran out of oxygen, we never ran out of hospital beds.
'I think there's an awareness that in a crisis it has been managed well.
'Labour is a party that does not know yet what their core is.
'I think they're going through an annus horribilis - maybe two.'
In the mayoral elections, Conservative Ben Houchen was re-elected to lead the Tees Valley combined authority.
And Joanne Anderson has become the new Labour mayor of Liverpool after surviving a strong challenge from independent candidate Stephen Yip.
At Basildon BC, it was a glum day for Labour, who lost out at the expense of the Tories, who also took control of Dudley MBC, and traditionally bellwether Nuneaton & Bedworth BC.
In a blip for the party, Cambridgeshire CC returned to no overall control after four years of Conservative rule.
But the Conservatives did win Harlow DC, Nottinghamshire CC, Northumberland Council and all nine seats up for grabs at Redditch DC, which had been under no overall control.
Mr Werran said the Basildon results possibly pointed to 'southern discomfort for Labour' in addition to the party's losses in the north.
Nine Labour councillors lost their seats on Sunderland City Council, the party lost control of Sheffield City Council for the first time in a decade - with leader Bob Johnson losing his seat to the Green Party - while LGA Labour group leader, Nick Forbes, already faces a challenge at Newcastle City Council from party rival Nick Kemp.
LGA Labour group political adviser Martin Angus tweeted there had been 'some disappointing results' for the party.
Former Labour chair of the Local Government Association, Jeremy Beecham, said he thought voters had 'gathered round the Government in this time of national crisis' but claimed it was 'getting away with murder'.
The Lib Dems won eight seats to become the largest group at Stockport MBC and took overall control of St Albans City & DC.
LGA's Lib Dem group leader, Cllr Howard Sykes, held on to his Oldham MBC seat while Labour council leader, Sean Fielding, was turfed out by voters.
Head of office at the LGA's Lib Dem group, Terry Stacy, told The MJ: 'This election was about them holding the white working class vote outside London but Labour has performed really badly.
'This was a disastrous election for Labour.
'Labour has an identity crisis.'
Mr Stacy pointed out the Lib Dems were 'defending a lot of seats this time' but he hoped the party would maintain - if not improve - its standing.
Speaking on Friday morning after an all-nighter, he said: 'I think we've seen some excellent results.
'We're really taking the fight to Labour in their heartlands.'
A spokesperson for the LGA independent group said there had been 'impressive wins' across the country.
They added: 'In places like Oldham, Sheffield, Nottinghamshire and Essex we’re seeing voters start to turn away from the big Westminster parties and instead support candidates who put people before politics.’