VOTERS have delivered a “plague on both your houses” verdict in the English local elections, Ruth Davidson has claimed, as the Conservatives and Labour suffered a Brexit backlash, losing a raft of seats and councils.

The pro-Remain Liberal Democrats, already picking up 308 seats with half the results in, are the biggest beneficiaries. Sir Ed Davey, the party’s Home Affairs spokesman, declared his party was “back in business”.

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The Greens also made gains, picking up 42 councillors in early results, prompting Jonathan Bartley, the party’s co-leader, to say it had been the “biggest election night in our history”. Ukip, in contrast, lost 54.

With the cross-party Brexit talks due to resume next week, John McDonnell for Labour, which overnight lost 73 seats, said the electorate had delivered a message to the politicians to get the issue of Britain’s departure from the EU “sorted”.

But Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister, commented: "If the message Labour takes from English local elections is that they should now be the facilitator of a Tory Brexit, I suspect their troubles will just be beginning."

As the Conservatives took the biggest hit, losing 452 seats, and were looking to lose as many as 1,000 by the end of the day, there were already calls for Theresa May to go.

Priti Patel, the Brexiteer former International Development Secretary, noted: “We need change, I don’t think we can continue like this….Many of my constituents have said this to me: we need a change of leadership; perhaps the time has now come for that.”

Senior Tory Brexiteer Sir Bernard Jenkin claimed his party leader had “lost the plot” and warned the party would be "toast" unless it "mends its ways pretty quickly".

With the European elections set for May 23, pressure is now mounting on both the Tories and Labour, but particularly the PM, to seal a Brexit compromise deal.

The expectation is that Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party will be the winner in the Euro poll, which would pile immense pressure on Mrs May to resign if, by then, she has not clinched a deal with Labour and begun the process of getting the Withdrawal Agreement Bill through Parliament; legislation needed to ratify Britain’s departure from the EU.

In early council results, the Conservatives shed 442 seats and 18 councils, Labour lost 79 councillors and thee councils. The Lib Dems gained 248 seats and picked up control of 16 councils. The Greens and Independents also made gains.

Brandon Lewis, the Tory Chairman, said: "The reality is we were fighting these elections from a real high-water mark for us off the back of the 2015 General Election. People are frustrated with where they see parliamentarians are. And the fact that we have found this impasse in Parliament.

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"It's a stark reminder to everybody in the House of Commons that we need to get past that impasse, deliver on what people voted for, and focus on that as parliamentarians as well," he added.

Ms Davidson told Sky News: “The message is pretty clear. It seems to be a plague on both your houses to the Conservatives and the Labour Party, who they see as a block on finding some sort of resolution to Brexit.

"So, we know that the talks are ongoing; hopefully, this will focus minds in the room and, hopefully, we can get past the impasse that we are in and move on to the next stage."

Nadhim Zahawi, the UK Education Minister, said the Tory losses reflected the anger among voters over Brexit; he urged colleagues to rally behind Mrs May's deal.

"Because we haven't been able to deliver Brexit on March 29 we are seeing these results. The PM has stretched every sinew, she has tried everything. We can keep blaming her; ultimately, it is in the hands of us parliamentarians."

For Labour, Jeremy Corbyn, on a visit to Trafford, a former Conservative stronghold where Labour won over-control of the council, said: "Results across the country are interesting, to put it mildly.

"But I also say the swings to Labour in many parts of the country show that we can win seats in a general election, whenever that comes.”

The party leader admitted he had wanted Labour “to do better, of course,” but added: “I am looking forward to a general election when we will take our message out there; of an end to austerity, of investment in the poorest and most left behind communities all across Britain, a national investment bank that invests for the whole of the country, not just London and the South East."

Labour’s Jess Phillips blamed the party's position on Brexit for the losses, saying it was offering support for a second referendum only in a limited set of circumstances.

“Our position on Brexit has failed," declared the Birmingham MP. "Bravery is needed. If you combine kindness and effectiveness with a bit of grit most people will respect you even when they don't always agree."

But her Labour colleague Lisa Nandy argued that the results were more than just about Brexit.

She tweeted: “Bolsover, Bolton, Ashfield, Walsall, Derby…Labour has a problem but it’s not the simplistic Leave vs Remain narrative being pushed by our different Brexit factions. We’ve had a problem in these towns for decades and we still don’t get it

“What does Labour losing control of Bolton but gaining control of Trafford tell us? That the same trends we saw in 2017 and 2018 are holding – we’re gaining amongst graduates, often in cities, and losing our core vote elsewhere.”

Sir Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat leader, at a victory rally in Chelmsford, where his party seized control of the council from the Tories, hailed the "really great result".

Speaking to jubilant councillors and party activists, he said the party's victory in Essex reflected a "story across the country".

He told them: "The Lib Dems were written off at one point but we're coming back very, very strongly. We're the big winners of the night throughout the country."

Sir Vince added: "Voters have sent a clear message that they no longer have confidence in the Conservatives but they are also refusing to reward Labour while the party prevaricates on the big issue of the day: Brexit.”

Mr Bartley for the Greens said his party’s message was “clearly taking hold and can win anywhere”.

He insisted: "Voters see that we need a new kind of politics, one that recognises the huge imperative of acting on climate change but also the social emergency that is creating misery and suffering in communities across the country."

Change UK MP Chuka Umunna, the former Labour Shadow Business Secretary, said the local election results illustrated that "politics is broken in Britain".

He tweeted: "These local election results illustrate that people believe, as we do, that politics is broken in Britain and the two main parties are responsible, which is why our MPs left them; those parties can't be the solution because they are part of the problem."

Professor Sir John Curtice, the elections expert from Strathclyde University, said the Conservatives and Labour had been "punished" by voters with a similar drop in the share of the vote.

"We knew already that the Conservatives were in deep trouble as a result of their failure to deliver Brexit but it also looks as if the Labour Party is being punished, because of the dissatisfaction with the way it's been reacting to the Brexit impasse," he told the BBC.

But he pointed out parties suffered most "where they were seen as part of the Establishment" with Labour's vote falling most in the north and the Conservatives in the south.

In the early results, the Conservatives lost Peterborough, Basildon, Southend, Worcester, St Albans, Welwyn Hatfield, Folkestone and Hythe, Broxtowe, Tendring and Tandridge to no overall control while Winchester, Chelmsford, Bath and North East Somerset, Somerset Wesand Taunton, Vale of White Horse, Cotswold and Hinckley and Bosworth fell to the Liberal Democrats, with North Kesteven going to independents.

However, the party held on in the bellwether council of Swindon, seen as a possible Labour gain, and took Walsall and North East Lincolnshire from no overall control.

Labour, meanwhile, lost control in Bolsover, Hartlepool and Wirral and the mayoralty in Middlesbrough, where its vote was down 11 per cent as independent Andy Preston was elected, although it did gain Trafford from no overall control.

Even where the party held on in its traditional stronghold of Sunderland, which voted heavily for Brexit in the 2016 referendum, it still lost 10 council seats.

For their part, the Lib Dems, as well as picking up councils from the Tories, took North Norfolk and North Devon from no overall control.