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Labour suffers early defeats in 2021 elections as counts continue
6 May 2021, 22:03 | Updated: 7 May 2021, 08:09
Millions of people took to the ballot box to decide who represents them across a number of elections in the UK, with Labour seeing losses in early results.
Early results in council contests elsewhere also appeared to show voters deserting Labour, as ballots continue to be tallied up across England, Scotland and Wales following the Super Thursday polls - the largest test of political opinion outside a general election.
The Tories seized Redditch and Nuneaton & Bedworth councils in the Midlands from Labour, along with Harlow in Essex, while Sir Keir's party saw heavy losses across North East local authorities.
Ballots continue to be tallied up across England, Scotland and Wales following the Super Thursday polls - the largest test of political opinion outside a general election.
Results from the Holyrood election - where the issue of Scottish independence was a main feature in the campaign - will come through later on Friday and Saturday.
In Scotland and Wales, voters will have decided who they want to represent them in Holyrood and the Senedd respectively.
For the first time in Wales, people over the age of 16 have been allowed to vote.
There have also been 13 mayoral elections happening across the country, including for London Mayor.
Across England and Wales 39 police and crime commissioner elections have also taken place, which had previously been postponed due to the pandemic.
A total of 143 different councils have also run elections to see who should represent them.
In Wales, the make-up of the Senedd should become clear on Friday.
It could be Sunday night before all the results in England's local contests are known, while the final results in Police and Crime Commissioner elections may not come until Monday night.
Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon's push for a second independence referendum means the stakes are high in the Holyrood contest.
Boris Johnson sought to manage expectations ahead of the elections, playing down his chances of taking Hartlepool - despite one recent poll putting the Tories 17 points clear and bookmakers making Conservative candidate Jill Mortimer clear favourite to win the seat.
With results across England expected to filter through over several days as coronavirus restrictions slow the counting process, it could be a difficult long weekend for Labour.
Just minutes before polls closed in Hartlepool and the other contests, Labour acknowledged the elections would be "tough".
In a sign that Sir Keir Starmer's party is braced for a difficult set of results, a Labour source said: "These were always going to be tough elections for Labour.
"Keir has always been honest about the mountain we must climb to rebuild trust to win the next general election.
"Labour is listening and we will continue to change in order to win back the trust of working people in Britain and their communities."
YouGov local election polling published last week suggested the Tories could take over as the largest party in Bolton and Dudley, while Labour sources also fear they could lose control of both Sunderland and Durham councils for the first time in half a century.
Huge thank you to all the incredible Labour Party members who have given up their time to campaign in these elections. You're an inspiration. 🌹— Keir Starmer (@Keir_Starmer) May 6, 2021
The Prime Minister insisted it would be a "very tough fight" to win Hartlepool, a seat that has been Labour since its creation in 1974.
The Conservatives hope to achieve a "hat trick" of successes, winning Hartlepool and retaining the mayoralties in Teesside and the West Midlands.
For Labour, success is expected in the form of Sadiq Khan winning a second term in London.
While the results in England will determine who runs key authorities and give an indication of the state of politics ahead of the next general election due in 2024, the contest in Scotland could have a far greater impact.
The SNP is certain to emerge again as the largest party in the Scottish Parliament after the election, but it wants to win an overall majority of MSPs as it pushes for a second independence referendum - something which polls suggest remains in the balance.
Mr Johnson has refused to countenance another referendum, setting up the potential for constitutional fireworks over the coming years if Ms Sturgeon gets the outcome she desires.
The SNP leader insisted her focus would be on tackling coronavirus and rebuilding the economy.
But "when the Covid crisis has passed, we will give the people of Scotland the opportunity to decide if they want the recovery to be in the hands of the likes of Boris Johnson and the austerity-driven Tories, or to put Scotland's future in Scotland's hands with independence".
She said: "Despite the challenges of the last year, we should be optimistic about Scotland's future - and with the right leadership I know that we have the natural resources and human talent to deliver the fairer, greener and more prosperous Scotland that we all want to see."
In Wales, Mark Drakeford hopes to maintain Labour's grip on the Senedd - but he may find himself forced to forge a new coalition to stay as First Minister.
That could mean talks with Plaid Cymru, whose leader, Adam Price, has committed to an independence referendum within five years if his party wins a majority.
Mr Drakeford is unlikely to concede a referendum as the price for a coalition deal but he has argued for "an entrenched form of devolution" which cannot be rolled back by the UK Government.
In March he said the United Kingdom in its current form "is over" and a new union should be crafted to reflect a "voluntary association of four nations".