Boris Johnson defied political gravity yesterday as the Conservatives racked up a string of stunning poll victories.
Labour was thrashed in the Hartlepool by-election, with Jill Mortimer securing a majority of almost 7,000 in a seat the Tories had not held since 1964.
Tory Ben Houchen won a second term as mayor of Tees Valley in the North East, with an astonishing 73 per cent share of the vote.
And the Conservatives gained control of a series of councils, including Northumberland, Nottinghamshire, Dudley, Harlow and Nuneaton and Bedworth – reversing the mid-term slump often suffered by governing parties.
With the Tories also winning seats across the West Midlands, senior figures were increasingly confident that the region's mayor Andy Street will secure a second term in office when returns are announced today.
Labour conceded the results were a 'shattering' blow to Sir Keir Starmer, who last night admitted his party had 'lost the trust of working people'.
The dismal results triggered a fresh wave of Labour infighting, with the Left hitting back at claims by Lord Mandelson that the party was suffering the effects of 'Long Corbyn' syndrome.
Khalid Mahmood dealt a fresh blow to Sir Keir last night by announcing he was quitting Labour's front bench.
The former defence spokesman said the party had been 'effectively captured' by a 'London-based bourgeoisie, with the support of brigades of woke social media warriors'.
Labour sources warned that low turnout and voter 'complacency' could even cost Sadiq Khan a second term as London mayor – a contest he had been expected to win by a landslide.
But senior Tories remained on alert for results from the Scottish Parliament elections, with Nicola Sturgeon insisting a majority for the SNP would give her a 'mandate' to hold a second independence referendum.
The Tories finally gained Northumberland County Council after a decade of no overall control and previous Labour dominance dating back almost 5 decades
A disappointed and under pressure Sir Keir Starmer leaves his house in north London after it was announced that the Conservative Party have won the Hartlepool by-election as a victorious Boris Johnson fixed a leaky pipe during a visit to Severn Trent Academy in Coventry
Dudley is turned almost entirely blue after Labour took an absolute pasting
The Tories also made inroads into Wolverhampton overnight, taking five new seats from Labour
Labour lost control of Harlow in Essex, losing six of its seven seats as voters rejected the party's candidates at the polls
Labour also lost all but one of its seats in Nuneaton and Bedoworth, with the Tories clearing up on a bad night for their rival party
Brexit meant that Ukip's seats on Thurrock council have been wiped out by the Tories, who increased their majority over Labour overnight
Southend remained under no overall control but the Tories edged towards one as Labour lost a seat
Labour has held Oldham and Rochdale, but Greens, Tories and Independents made inroads
Staunchly Labour Sunderland was held by the party, but the Tories and Lib Dems made big gains in one of the party's heartlands
On South Tyneside, every seat in 2016 was Labour - the party has held it but lost seats to the Tories, the Greens and an independent
Labour held Newcastle, but lost seats as traditional voters moved away from Sir Keir Starmer's party
In Stockport, Greater Manchester, there was no overall control, with the Lib Dems enjoying the best night among the main parties
The Tories have won Hartlepool, and a comparison between today and 2001 show how Labour has lost many of its heartlands
Conservative Ben Houchen (pictured with his wife Rachel today) was re-elected as Tees Valley Mayor with a whopping 73 per cent of the vote, up from 40 per cent in the 2017 election
Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford looks at Independent election candidate for Cardiff West, Captain Beany, as they wait for the election results
On a victory tour of Hartlepool yesterday, the Prime Minister acknowledged that the success of the vaccine programme had played its part in the results, but said it was now up to ministers to deliver for voters on his pledge to 'level up' opportunity.
He said Brexit had allowed the Government to deliver the vaccine rollout 'faster than other European countries'.
Asked about the future, he replied: 'Number one is continuing the vaccine rollout, making sure that we go from jabs, jabs, jabs, to jobs, jobs, jobs, make sure that we have a strong economic recovery.'
The results came as:
Tories take a wrecking ball to Labour's Red Wall AGAIN with historic Hartlepool by-election win by 7,000 votes – as Keir Starmer vows 'no excuses'
Jill Mortimer (pictured after being declared the victor) will now serve as the constituency's MP in Westminster after she trounced Labour contender Paul Williams
Boris Johnson delivered a devastating hammer blow to Sir Keir Starmer today as the Tories romped to an historic victory in the Hartlepool by-election.
Labour has held the seat since it was created back in the 1970s but Sir Keir was left humiliated as the Conservatives piled up a majority of nearly 7,000 - overturning the previous margin of 3,500.
Jill Mortimer will now serve as the constituency's MP in Westminster after she trounced Labour contender Paul Williams. 'Labour have taken the people of Hartlepool for granted for too long... people have had enough,' she said in her speech.
The official announcement of the result was made just after 7am but Labour had already conceded defeat hours earlier, with shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon telling Sky News that 'we are not close to winning this'.
The victory by 15,529 to 8,589 votes shows that Boris Johnson's realignment of the British political landscape is continuing, with more of the so-called Red Wall collapsing. The 16 per cent swing is believed to be the biggest to a governing party in a by-election since the Second World War.
It heaps pressure on Sir Keir amid a growing revolt from hard-Left activists. A senior source admitted this morning that Labour had 'not changed nearly enough' to woo voters and insisted there will be no 'excuses'.
The party is now bracing for further bad news as the votes are counted in England's council and mayoral battles following 'Super Thursday' elections.
Questions are being asked over the choice of a Remainer former MP as the Labour candidate in Brexit-voting Hartlepool.
As brutal recriminations begun, Corbyn allies Diane Abbott and John McDonnell were among those demanding a more left-wing approach.
Brighton Kemptown MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle tweeted: 'Good to see valueless flag waving and suit wearing working so well... or not?'
Corbynite MP Richard Burgon said: 'We are going backwards in areas we need to be winning. Labour's leadership needs to urgently change direction.'
Thursday's polls were the biggest test of electoral opinion since the 2019 election, with 48million people able to vote in local, regional and devolved elections.
Both main parties admitted being surprised by the scale of the Tory surge, following a campaign in which normal election canvassing was heavily restricted by Covid regulations. Counting was also delayed by health and safety restrictions imposed because of the pandemic.
But, as the results rolled in, it became clear that Mr Johnson had confounded the conventional wisdom that voters use local elections to punish the sitting government.
Mr Johnson said delivering on his pledge to 'Get Brexit Done' had been vital in boosting Tory support in Leave-voting areas in the North and Midlands.
He said the results gave him a 'mandate' to deliver on the rest of his programme, but studiously avoided any sense of triumphalism.
Mr Johnson said people 'can see we did get Brexit done... and I think what people want us to do now is to get on with delivering on everything else'.
In an upbeat assessment he said upgraded economic growth forecasts from the Bank of England suggested there was a 'prospect of a really strong rebound in the second half of the year'.
A lack of Labour wins to celebrate meant that Sir Keir was forced to deliver his response to the election from his office in London.
The Labour leader appeared rattled by the scale of the setback, but insisted the party was not facing an 'existential crisis'. He promised to do 'whatever is necessary' to rebuild voter trust following a 'bitterly disappointing' defeat in Hartlepool.
Lord Mandelson, who once held Hartlepool for Labour, said Jeremy Corbyn still cast a 'long shadow' over the party.
The architect of New Labour said the pandemic had also played a key role, with voters more interested in vaccines and the release from lockdown than day-to-day policies.
Richard Burgon, a former Labour frontbencher, claimed Mr Corbyn would have won in Hartlepool, and urged Sir Keir to move further to the Left.
'We are going backwards in areas we need to be winning,' he added. 'Labour's leadership needs to urgently change direction.'
Counting gets underway for the Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch Constituency and Regional votes in Inverness for the Scottish Parliament
Votes are now being counted for the local and mayoral elections at the Wavertree Tennis Centre, Liverpool, with results expected later
Liverpool elects first black female mayor
Liverpool has elected its first black female mayor as Labour held on to the role despite corruption allegations.
Joanne Anderson was named as the successor to Joe Anderson on Friday, after the former mayor chose not to stand following his arrest as part of a Merseyside Police fraud investigation.
After her victory, Ms Anderson, no relation to her predecessor, apologised for the previous administration, referring to the findings of a report by local government inspector Max Caller, which included themes of bullying, intimidation, 'dubious' deals and 'jobs for the boys'.
Speaking after she was declared the new mayor, Ms Anderson said: 'The first thing I want to do is apologise to the city for what's happened in terms of the Caller investigation and what's happened under the previous administration.
'I've stood up because I want to make this right and I will do everything in my power to make it right.'
She pledged to give the city an 'accountable and transparent' authority that the 'people of Liverpool deserve'.
Commissioners appointed by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) are taking over some of the city council's functions for the next three years following the report.
Independent candidate Stephen Yip, founder of children's charity Kind Liverpool, came in second place in the mayoral race with 32,079 votes to Ms Anderson's 46,493 after second round votes were counted.
Previous mayor Mr Anderson, who had been in the role since its creation in 2012, announced on New Year's Eve he would not stand for re-election.
Three female candidates, councillors Wendy Simon, Ann O'Byrne and Anna Rothery, had been in the running to stand for Labour but in February the party announced it was reopening the selection process and did not invite the previous candidates to apply.
Cabinet ministers believe there has been a permanent shift in the nation's political identity and claimed Mr Johnson could outlast Margaret Thatcher's 11 years in Downing Street, The Times reports.
They believe the Conservative Party must establish its electoral advantage by winning the 'culture wars' and challenging 'woke' views.
The Tories could snatch dozens more Red Wall seats at the next General Election following a collapse in support for the Brexit Party, with a switch in allegiance of Nigel Farage's old voters winning Mr Johnson the Hartlepool by-election.
At the last election in 2019, Labour managed to cling on to the constituency with 15,464 votes as Leavers were split between the Tories and Brexit Party – which picked up 11,869 and 10,603 votes respectively.
But this time support for Mr Farage's party – now renamed Reform UK – dwindled to just 368 votes, allowing Mr Johnson to clean up with a majority of 6,940.
A Daily Mail analysis has found there are a further 36 Labour seats across the country where the party's lead over the Tories in 2019 was smaller than the number who voted for the Brexit Party.
Alarm bells will be sounding in Labour HQ about if these are the next bricks in the Red Wall to fall.
The party's leader Sir Keir Starmer is considering moving out of London to the North to reconnect with Red Wall voters, sources told the Guardian.
Fellow Tory MP Neil O'Brien, who was appointed last week as the Prime Minister's 'levelling up' adviser, said there was a chance to 'use this incredible moment to change the country for the better'.
Nick Forbes, Labour leader of Newcastle City Council, said results were promising in his city but admitted the party was facing a bleak night across the country
Hilton Dawson (left), of The North East Party sits with party supporters as they wait for the count process to begin in the Hartlepool Parliamentary By-election
Welsh Labour exceeds expectations
Welsh Labour looks set to win the Senedd election after the party fought off challenges from the Tories to key red wall seats in North Wales.
Labour First Minister Mark Drakeford said his party had 'exceeded expectations' and ended Friday with 30 seats, just one short of a majority.
The results of eight remaining regional seats, for South Wales Central and South Wales East, will be announced on Saturday, though Labour is not expected to pick up any more from that number.
Meanwhile, the Welsh Conservatives have 12 seats, including taking Vale of Clwyd from Labour, Plaid Cymru have nine having lost former leader Leanne Wood's Rhondda seat to Labour, and the Liberal Democrats have one.
Mr Houchen, who has become a galvanising figure for Tory support across the North East, said his thumping win in what was once a rock-solid Labour area was down to a record of delivery following 'years and years of neglect'.
He added: 'Governments of both colours have failed to invest in this region and this Government under Boris Johnson has invested hugely – people are seeing tangible benefits on the ground.'
Simon Clarke, Tory MP for Middlesbrough South, said political allegiances that saw some communities vote Labour for decades were now shifting.
'People in the North East have stopped voting Labour 'because my parents did',' he said.
'They are looking at the two parties clear-sightedly, on the basis of what they offer – and they aren't going to go back for being taken for granted.' In Hartlepool, Mrs Mortimer gained 15,529 votes – more than half the total cast.
#StarmerOut: Keir Starmer becomes subject of humiliating memes as fury builds over Labour's loss in Hartlepool by-election and faces more pain at the polls today
Labour leader Keir Starmer became a figure of ridicule this morning as he was subjected to an avalanche of memes urging him to stand down after party stronghold Hartlepool was won by the Tories.
As #StarmerOut began to gain traction on Twitter the 58-year-old was likened to a clown and suggested to be so weak he could be defeated by a feather.
Another teasing image mocked him up as Rick Moranis's bumbling character in film Honey I Shrunk The Kids, this time titled 'Honey I shrunk the Labour Party'.
And he was even photoshopped so he replaced Boris Johnson in the humiliating picture of him waving flags stuck on a zipline.
A more niche ribbing featured the The League of Gentlemen's Creme Brulee member Les McQueen looking deflated caption as if it was Sir Keir visiting Hartlepool.
It came hours after Labour MP for Brighton Kemptown Lloyd Russell-Moyle took to Twitter on Thursday night to question his party's attempts to change its image.
Starmer was mocked up to look ridiculous in many of the memes slating the Labour leader
This meme put his head on a picture of Boris Johnson looking absurd stuck on a zipline
Another meme showed former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn laughing and drinking alcohol
One meme about Starmer showed a scene from the League of Gentlemen TV show
One picture posted online showed praise for Jeremy Corbyn spoiling a ballot paper
He said: 'Good to see valueless flag waving and suit wearing working so well... or not?'
The comment seemed to be a reference to a leaked strategy document which suggested Labour must make 'use of the flag, veterans, dressing smartly' to win back voters in red wall seats in the party's former industrial heartlands.
Labour's new strategy was based on extensive focus groups conducted in places from Watford to Grimsby last September alongside UK polls. It was suggested displays of patriotism are needed to reinforce the idea the party has changed and to win back losses in the 2019 election.
Mr Russel-Moyle became the first Labour MP to publicly question Sir Keir and his strategy.
One meme of Sir Keir showed him in the Houses of Parliament made up to look like a clown
This image on Twitter made him look like he was too weak to beat a feather in the boxing ring
Labour MP for Brighton Kemptown Lloyd Russell-Moyle has publicly mocked his party's election strategy
Labour are facing a disastrous Super Thursday in a blow to Sir Keir Starmer's bid to rebuild after the losses the party suffered in 2019
The result in Hartlepool
Jill Mortimer, Conservative
15,529 (51.88 per cent of total vote, up 22.96 per cent on 2019)
Paul Williams, Labour
8,589 (28.69 per cent, down 8.99 per cent)
Sam Lee, Independent
2,904 (9.70 per cent)
Claire Martin, Heritage
468 (1.56 per cent)
John Prescott, Reform
368 (1.23 per cent)
Rachel Featherstone, Green
358 (1.20 per cent)
Andrew Hagon, Lib Dem
349 (1.17 per cent, down 2.97 per cent)
The Brighton MP was an ally of previous leader Jeremy Corbyn before joining the shadow frontbench under Sir Keir.
He stepped down as the shadow minister for air quality and the natural environment last July.
His resignation came weeks after he apologised to author JK Rowling for writing an article where he accused her of 'using her own sexual assault as justification for discriminating' against trans people.
In 2018, he hit headlines after he was suspended from the Commons for picking up the ceremonial mace in protest at a Brexit vote being deferred.
Lloyd Russell-Moyle reacted furiously after the Government whip formally postponed the vote - because then-PM Theresa May was facing a humiliating defeat.
The mace is the symbol of the authority of the House and during sittings is placed on the table next to the despatch box in front of the Speaker.
In 2019, Russell-Moyle joined thirteen other Labour MPs on Westminster Bridge, next to the Houses of Parliament, in a protest against Brexit under the banner 'Love Socialism Hate Brexit'.
Hartlepool is expected to be the first major result announced after a raft of elections across the UK, with Boris Johnson hopeful of snatching the seat from Labour which has held the constituency since its inception in the 1970s.
Counting is now underway in the Hartlepool by-election as the Tories try to win the seat from Labour
The Labour Party has held Hartlepool since the constituency's inception back in the 1970s