17.18 - Ok we're closing the blog down for now. There's still a few interesting results to wait for, not least in London where Labour are on the cusp of either a spectacular or disappointing set of results in Tower Hamlets and Barnet, but they won't be for some time. I'll update later if anything major happens.
Before you go, take a look at our editor Ian Dunt's analysis of the results: Four things we've learnt from the local elections.
Thanks for joining us here over the past 24 hours and we'll see you all over again for the European election results...
16.00 - The good results keep on coming in for Labour in London. They've now taken control of Harrow. This added to their victories in Croydon, Merton, Redbridge and Hammersmith and Fulham means it's looking like a stonking result for the reds in the capital. If they also win Tower Hamlets (which looks likely) and Barnet (which is still uncertain) they will have achieved their best ever result in London.
Tim Donovan says Labour have only surpassed their current performance in London once, in 1971, and it's not over yet #Vote2014— Paul (@bitoclass) May 23, 2014
15.46 -The BBC have released their projected national share for the local elections. Here it is:
LAB 31% CON 29% UKIP 17% LIBDEM 13% OTHERS 10%
So after all the talk of a "Ukip earthquake" their national share of the vote is actually down six points on what it was in the 2013 local elections.
15.00 - Jane Green again on the Lib Dems: "we would have expected the Liberal Democrats to be doing better in these local eletions where their vote is typically more robust". Says they are doing significantly worse than expected. Suggests the party is losing lots of votes to both Ukip and the Green Party.
14.45 - Labour MP John Mann launching a blistering attack against the party's election campaign. Says Douglas Alexander should "send [himself] on a train to Scotland". Ouch. Adds that Labour's decison not to take on Ukip was "a fundamental error".
"Some of them dont like talking about immigration," he tells the BBC.
"Equally dangerously some of them think they're playing some kind of clever game whereby you shuffle the deck around and if Ukip does quite well but not well enough that helps Labour get in. Well that kind of mindset will not win the general election..."
14.40 - Labour take control of their key target seat of Crawley in Sussex from the Tories. An encouraging result in what is a very mixed set of results for the party.
14.20 - Very interesting analysis from Professor Jane Green, from the University of Manchester on the BBC just now. She pointed out that Ukip's successes appear to be more in parts of the north (where Labour are strongest) where they have little chance of winning MPs and in parts of the south (where the Tories are strongest) where Ukip also have little chance of winning MPs, but they are not doing as well as expected in areas where they may actually have a chance of getting a seat in Westminster. Could the ultimate result of the Ukip surge, be a grand total of zero parliamentary seats won in 2015?
13.12 - Labour are still doing strikingly well in London. Barnet, which looked almost impossible for the party to take yesterday, now looks within their grasp. If things continue to go Labour's way it could be their best ever result in the capital.
If Labour win Tower Hamlets, Harrow, Barnet and hold the rest they already controlled in London, they will run 22 boroughs - their best ever— London Comms Agency (@LDNcomms) May 23, 2014
So how to explain the Labour surge in London. Part of it is demographics. Asked to explain her party's poor performance in the capital, Ukip's spokesperson said last night it was because they had always struggled to win over "educated, cultured and young," people in London. Where Ukip and the Tories have failed to win over these people, Labour have succeeded.
Part of Labour's success in London is also to do with issues. Government cuts to things like hospital accident and emergency services have gone down very badly in the capital and protests against them have been largely ignored by the government. However, the main reason is organisation. Labour's campaign machine in London is well honed and they have capitalised effectively on public opposition to government cuts in a way that Ed Miliband has failed to manage nationally. Without that organisation, the Tories would probably have won an outright majority in 2010. If they fail to win one again in 2015, then Labour campaigners in London will likely take much of the credit.
12.53 - Afternoon, Adam here. I'm up again and refreshed after a night of local council results.
I've written piece on the big story from these elections that nobody is talking about: how can David Cameron possibly win from here? Here's an excerpt:
"Labour's accident prone campaign and their losses to Nigel Farage in their northern heartlands will absorb most of the coverage today."
"But if these local election results were disappointing for Ed Miliband, they should be downright depressing for David Cameron."
"It is now almost nine years since David Cameron became leader of the Conservative party, and he is no closer to finding a route to victory than he was when he first started."
12:15 - OK I'm going to hand the blog back to Adam again now. I'll probably be back on later, as the results come in through the afternoon.
12:01 - Farage has just arrived in Thurrock, to cheers and mild euphoria from a small crowd. It was mostly journalists but the normal people there did seem genuinely enthused to see him. It's interesting he picked the place where they fought off Labour rather than the Tories to make his first appearance of the day. Anyway, here's what he had to say:
"A lot of people who voted Ukip probably hadn't voted for 20 years.
"Certainly London is a younger demographic. But the reason we're behind in London is because political parties rely on voluntary structure.
"What we have to do is get areas where we have clusters of candidates.
"The political class have been comforting themselves since Eastleigh thinking it's a protest vote and it'll all go away."
11:48 - Labour has taken control of Amber Valley for first time in 14 years. It seems to be another case of Ukip splitting the Tory vote.
11:32 - In the meantime, this just in from Miliband:
Across the country people have voted Labour to make change happen. I'm determined we persuade people we can improve their lives.— Ed Miliband (@Ed_Miliband) May 23, 2014
There is a deep discontent with the way the country is run and a deep desire to change.— Ed Miliband (@Ed_Miliband) May 23, 2014
11:31 - We're expecting a rash of results after midday by the way. Enjoy the current lull while you've got it.
11:15 - If I was a Tory member, I'd be aghast at the complacency of the Conservative response to these results so far. Sure, Labour has not done fantastically, but the shrug of the shoulders which has greeted evidence that the party is heading for general election defeat has been quite a thing to behold. Not so for the Tory think tank the Bow Group, who are demanding Grant Shapps be replaced as Tory chairman. They said:
"The Conservative party has ignored the rise of Ukip and is haemorrhaging voters as a result, but the fundamental problem is that it has ignored conservative principles, its members and voters for too long. The carry on regardless, business as usual approach still being advocated by the leadership isn’t going to work, we need urgent reforms to be enacted now, not after 2015. This needs to start immediately with the election of a new party chairman within six months, to begin the process of reform the party needs to win back members and explore an accommodation with Ukip, not by insulting UKIP voters but by finding a way to work with Ukip to unite the right in Britain."
10:55 - According to Michael Savage of the Times, disgraced former Tory MP Neil Hamilton has failed to win his council seat in Wandsworth.
10:41 - Graham Allen, Labour MP and chair of the political and constitutional reform committee, has issued a warning to the main parties about the rise of Ukip. But it also reads as if there is a pretty clear warning to Miliband there too, when he says that they've been given a year to buck up their ideas. Here it is:
"I am surprised not by the beating given to conventional politics by the British people but by their continued tolerance of the complacent, fearful, depoliticised main parties. It is a slap on the wrists not a kicking. We have all been given another year to re-create our mission, our belief, purpose and relevance to the public. It may be our last chance."
10:11 - Labour has officially won Croydon, by quite a margin. Sorry about the gap in writing, but our most transparent of governments has sneaked out big news about Iain Duncan Smith's Universal Credit programme under cover of the local election results, so I'm looking into it.
09:37 - Sky has done one of those projected vote things. There's a whole debate about the right way to do that that I won't go into. The results are - Labour: 308 seats (up 50) Conservatives: 272 seats (down 34) Lib Dems: 40 (down 17). That would make Labour the largest party but deprive it of a majority. You'd almost certainly be looking at a coalition with the Uncredible Clegg. It's less than impressive, but take a moment to note that that is indeed still the most likely outcome of the 2015 election. The absence of commentary about the Tory performance is increasingly hard to justify. They are on course to the lose the general election and these results are confirming that. And yet, the press has hardly a harsh word to say about them.
09:28 - Let's take a closer look at Croydon, a marginal seat which typifies a couple of the trends we're seeing. The person to follow on this one is Gareth Davies, chief reporter of the Croydon Advertiser and occasional columnist for Politics.co.uk. Like most reporters on the ground he's confident Labour has won it.
Emily Benn, granddaughter of the late Tony Benn, elected as a councillor in West Thornton, Croydon— Gareth Davies (@Gareth_Davies09) May 23, 2014
I know Labour were quietly confident, but I doubt many foresaw that margin of victory #croydon— Gareth Davies (@Gareth_Davies09) May 23, 2014
Difficult to underestimate that Waddon result. Devastating for Tories. Seems building a leisure centre not enough— Gareth Davies (@Gareth_Davies09) May 23, 2014
Tory leader Mike Fisher tells @croydonad: "Labour hasn't won Croydon, the Ukip vote has denied us control"— Gareth Davies (@Gareth_Davies09) May 23, 2014
Two things worth mentioning here: Firstly, it shows that even after digging in and providing solid results, the Tories just don't seem to be a natural fit for the capital. They struggled under Cameron's modernisation drive and now they have swung right on issues like tax and immigration it has gotten worse. Boris Johnson is not a weathervane. What he does in the capital, most Conservatives cannot. Secondly, the comment from Mike Fisher shows how instinctively Tories will blame the Ukip surge for a loss of control. It's exactly what Labour was hoping would happen and why Miliband was reticent about attacking the eurosceptics too strenuously. Paradoxically, that could be the best thing for Tory HQ. Maybe forcing Tory voters to realise that a Ukip vote can let in Labour will firm up their support in 2015, when it really matters.
09:08 - Interesting point from Mike Smithson of Political Betting. Ukip seem to lose popularity once they win elections.
Since the 2013 locals Ukip has lost every council by-election it has defended— Mike Smithson (@MSmithsonPB) May 23, 2014
On the other hand, having councillors allows you to build up a local base, in the way the Lib Dems once did - a comparison Nigel Farage made himself this morning. This could stand the party is good stead to take the next step and take control of councils next time around.
08:56 - Labour's London performance still going strong. The party just took Redbridge for the first time.
08:37 - Some thoughts on those interviews. Alexander mentioned policy, but ultimately these two men came at the Ukip problem from opposite directions. The Labour man clearly sees the problem as one of engagement, similar perhaps to the way Khan and Featherstone spoke earlier. The way to counter Ukip, he suggested, was to dig in in local areas and build relationships doorstep by doorstep. Gove put the entire emphasis on policy, suggesting that the Ukip balloon can be popped by showing that government is responding to concerns about immigration and welfare. Of the two, Gove's is by far the worst response. As he himself suggested, the Tories have already given the electorate the impression they would be tough on welfare. It has done nothing to stem Ukip. They even announced an in-out referendum on the EU, something Tories were sure would neutralise Ukip. It didn't. You can't out-Ukip Ukip. Gove's response also threatens a degradation of political discourse in the months to come, as mainstream parties adopt ever harsher immigration rhetoric. Alexander's solution looks vague. Gove's looks damaging.
08:30 - Douglas Alexander, one of Miliband's inner circle, was just on the Today programme with a mostly uninteresting message. He says Ukip can be beaten by a combination of policies and engaging in local communities. I've taken down what I can:
"Labour can win the general election if we take the right steps between now and a year's time. How you deal with Ukip... I honestly don't believe you beat them doing interviews in a TV studio. You have to defeat the cynicism that defines their vote by argument, it's doorstep by doorstep. It's hardly a secret politicians aren't well trusted.
"There is a policy challenge and in the course of the next year Labour will set out credible and radical policies to address the concerns people have. Unless we are rooted in communities in this country, engaging with those voters, we still won't break the gap of trust that's opened up between the government and the public."
He was followed immediately by Michael Gove, who was uninteresting and also unhelpful. His view is that the Tories have to show they have the policies that reflect Ukip voters' concerns. Here's what he had to say:
"One issue is immigration, another is the EU, another is how the welfare state is constructed, another is education. By voting Ukip many people have sent clear direction to government to deliver in these areas. You can't say were inactive in these areas. There's a particular responsibility on all of us to show that the anger people feel is reflected in government.
"I don't believe what we need to do is have a pact. Absolutely not. But there are lots of people who voted Ukip who share a conservative outlook of the world.
"There isn't a tougher politician for dealing with immigration than Theresa May. She delivers. Look at Iain Duncan Smith. Is anyone going to say they're tougher with the welfare state than Iain?
"Farage articulated the concerns of electorate. We have policies that express that concern. What we must ensure is that our policies deliver."
08:10 - Let's try to put some of this Ukip flood in context. They will have a few more councillors at the end of all this than they had before, but not as many as their rivals. They will, in all likelihood, not control a single council. And of course they will definitely lose some of their support when voters are going to the polls for a general election. This is not really about results. It's more about their effect on the other parties. You can see some of that in comments from Khan and Featherstone today, who are using uncommonly plain words to describe the failure of Britain's political class. You can see it in the words of Michael Gove, who says it proves voters need more assurances about immigration. And he havoc the party is playing with other parties' prospects is making Tory backbenchers and Labour MPs very nervous.
07:58 - Looks like Kingston is going to the Tories. Lib Dem leader Liz Green just congratulated the Conservatives for taking it. It's proof the Tories can take the party's southern seats in 2015. Much of the campaign centred on high council taxes.
07:52 - We've only seen results from seven wards, but it seems Croydon is going to Labour. This was considered a test of the party's prospects. If Labour did not win it, it would have been disastrous. Labour performance in the capital has generally been strong. That is a tribute to shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan and gives his mayoral candidacy prospects a boost. It also cements the impression, long made by modernising Tories, that the governing party needs to start identifying with young and ethnic minority voters if it is to ensure its long-term survival as an electoral force. Ukip, as I mentioned earlier, isn't making any inroads in London. As John Curtice, wind-up election wizard, just said on the Beeb, Ukip does well in areas with fewer graduates. They poll 30% in areas where less than 20% of people have degrees.
07:44 - The Lib Dems have held Sutton council, so there should be at least some relief that the total wipeout predicted in some quarters has not materialised. All eyes now on Kingston, which the Tories are optimistic about taking.
07:27 - Overnight summary
- Ukip have surpassed most independent forecasts, having already won over 80 seats. The party performed particularly strongly in Essex where it gained 11 seats in Basildon and deprived the Tories of control of the council. But it is a threat to everyone. Also in Essex, it gained five seats in Thurrock and robbed Labour of control of that council. Its share of the vote has been impressive even where it did not win.
- But London is resistant to the Ukip message. The hard right party can't get traction in the capital. The better educated, more diverse electorate is standing firm against the Ukip tide.
- Labour is not doing well enough. It took Hammersmith and Fulham, a vital seat and one that has come to represent the resistance of diverse, urban areas to David Cameron's Conservatives. They also took Merton and Cambridge. But the performance has been nowhere near strong enough so far to reaffirm the party's confidence in its leader after such a shaky campaign. The Labour advance is just three per cent higher than when these councils went to the polls last in 2010 – a day which saw Labour support reach a nadir. This is not the performance of a party heading for government.
- The knives are out for Miliband already. The Labour leader's series of problematic interviews, disastrous photo ops and a vague election message are the subject of heated debate by Labour figures. Blackley and Broughton Labour MP Graham Stringer attacked Miliband in colourful terms to broadcasters, particularly his failure to be able to answer questions about his own cost of living when running a cost of living campaign, a mistake he branded "unforgivably unprofessional".
- The Tories are doing badly, having lost seven seats, including Brentwood, home of Eric Pickles. It's a shoddy night for the Conservatives but much more typical of where a governing party would expect to be at this point in the political cycle. A poor Tory performance has also been factored in to the party's share price by expectation management over the last couple of months. But Tories will be wary of seeing a similar process take place at the general election, with a Ukip surge doing enough to split their vote and rob them of local victories. The usual suspects on the Tory backbenches – Douglas Carswell, Peter Bone and Jacob Rees-Mogg – have already called for an electoral pact with Ukip.
- The Liberal Democrats are having an awful night, as expected. In a quite remarkable quote from Lib Dem minister Lynne Featherstone, she admitted mainstream politicians had ceased to sound like human beings. "I think they've managed to sound like human beings, and I think that's Nigel Farage's big win," she said. "All of us have gotten to the point where we are so guarded, we are so on message, that we seem to have lost some of our humanity."
07:07 - Morning. Ian here. The blog will now run through straight until about 5pm. when we've have an almost complete picture of the final picture. I'll have a summary of the evening's developments in a moment.
04.15 - Ok I'm giving into sleep now. The Croydon result, which I've been waiting for, still hasn't come in almost two and a half hours after it was meant to. My colleague Ian will be picking up where I've left off in a couple of hours time...
03.40 - Worrying result for Labour in Rotherham where they have lost the popular vote to Ukip. Elsewhere in the country they've also lost control of Thurrock in Essex, their second target seat at the general election. The party seem to be going backwards in parts of the country that have historically formed their core vote, while making strong advances in London. Are Labour losing touch with their core supporters in favour of what Ukip call the 'metropolitan elite' in the capital? These are the questions the party will agonise over in the coming weeks and months.
03.30 - Painfully slow progress on declarations tonight, but the early signs are good for Ukip, disappointing but mixed for Labour, poor for the Conservatives and even more poor for the Lib Dems.
03.05 - If Ukip's performance in London is as bad as these early results suggest then that could potentially have a knock on effect in the European election results.
02.59 - Merton is the first gain for Labour. Ukip so far winning just 6% of votes in London, but that could change after seats in outer East London are declared.
02.29 - First results coming in from London. Labour have won two safeish seats from the Tories in Wandsworth and look set to gain control of Merton. If true this would be a very encouraging result for the party, who have not held control of Merton since 2006. Early days still, but the London results look positive for Labour.
Curtice: 1st declaration in from London&suggests UKIP's performance there may well be much less impressive than in rest of the country.— Chris Mason (@ChrisMasonBBC) May 23, 2014
02.10 - Ukip also set to push Basildon council into no overall control. Will this surge in Essex reach outer London as well?
CON about to lose control of Basildon. That'll be the 3rd Essex council we've left control of tonight #Vote2014— Hamish Hunter (@HamishSHunter) May 23, 2014
01.45 - First signs of the Tories losing to Ukip in the south. Party loses five councillors to Nigel Farage's party in Castle Point in Essex.
01.30 - Peter Bone joins the queue of Tory MPs calling for a Ukip pact.
Peter Bone takes on Matt Hancock live on air demanding pact with UKIP— Ross Hawkins (@rosschawkins) May 23, 2014
00.40 - A second Tory MP, Jacob Rees-Mogg, calls for an election pact with Ukip. "We have to sort out in the next year how we bring our boats together" he tells the BBC. "It's not going to happen" replies Grant Shapps.
00.20 - Elections expert John Curtice tells the BBC that the very early signs are that Ukip are doing about as well as they did in last year's local elections.
23.56 - Liberal Democrat MP Lynne Featherstone says Sunderland results are "not our finest hour," says Farage came off better out of the election debates than Clegg, and suggests that the party "may have lost its' humanity". Ouch.
23.50 - Only a handfiul of results are in but already the two main party's are engaged in "soul-searching" whatever that involves. According to the Times, nameless "Labour figures" are worried that Miliband is too "weird" tand hasn't done enough to tackle the Ukip threat. Meanwhile Tory MP Douglas is calling for a pact with Ukip. Here we go...
In tomorrow's Sun, Tory backbencher Douglas Carswell calls for 2015 pact with UKIP, joint candidates. Attacks "crass" smearing of UKIP— steve hawkes (@steve_hawkes) May 22, 2014
23.40 - Sunderland results coming in thick and fast. So far some gains for Labour and lots of second places for Ukip, with around 24% of the vote overall so far going to the party. Big swings to Nigel Farage's party but still no signs of an electoral breakthrough yet.
23.10 - First results now starting to come in. Two Labour holds in wards in Sunderland, which both show a reduction in their vote from 2012 and a good second place performance from Ukip. A sign of things to come?
Sunderland Pallion. LAB 47.8%, UKIP 30.1%, CON 14.3%, GREEN 4.8%, LD 3.1%. LABOUR HOLD but down 18.9% since 2012. #Vote2014— Lewis Atkinson (@LewisAtkinson) May 22, 2014
In 2012 Labour polled 66.7% in Pallion ward. This time it was 47.8% and UKIP 30.1%— HOPE not hate (@hopenothate) May 22, 2014
22.50 - There's five mayoral elections taking place, four of which are in London. The most high-profile of which is in Tower Hamlets between Labour and the controversial incumbent independent mayor Lutfur Rahman. Labour have put a lot into winning this back. The signs are they've pulled it off, according to the Guardian's Dave Hill:
Think it's true & now OK for me to say Labour confident of mayoral triumph in Tower Hamlets, possibly by a good margin. But we shall see.— DaveHill (@DaveHill) May 22, 2014
22.40 - It's Question Time on BBC One. "Are Ukip racist?" appears to be the first question. I don't think we're going to learn much about the local elections here.
22.30 - Two of the key battles in London should be in the marginal boroughs of Barnet and Croydon. Labour had been hoping to pick up the former and to clearly win the latter. The former now looks very unlikely and the latter far more uncertain. If Labour can't win Croydon then big questions will start to be asked about whether the party is on course to win in 2015.
22.11 - The results in London should give us the clearest sign of how the two main parties are doing and whether Ukip have been able to push into areas they so far have failed to.
Here's a list of when London council election results are due to be announced:
Croydon - 2.00
Redbridge - 2.00
Wandsworth - 2.00
Enfield - 4.00
Haringey - 4.00
Sutton - 4.00
Bexley - 5.00
Kingston upon Thames - 6.00
Brent - 7.00
Richmond upon Thames - 7.00
Hammersmith and Fulham - 9.00
Westminster - 13.00
Hounslow - 14.00
Barking and Dagenham - 15.00
Islington - 15.00
Lambeth - 15.00
Havering - 16.00
Hillingdon - 16.00
Greenwich - 17.00
Tower Hamlets - 17.00
Waltham forest - 17.00
Barnet - 18.00
Newham - 18.00
Southwark - 18.30
Camden - 19.30
Ealing - 20.00
Kensington and Chelsea - 20.00
Lewisham - 2.00
22.05 - Reports across the country suggest that turnout may be surprisingly (and relatively) high in these elections. Normally that would benefit the larger parties, but interestingly some polls have found that Ukip voters were more likely to vote than those for other parties. Will this make a difference?
22.00 - And that's that. The polls have closed. The first result is due to come in at quarter to midnight in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire.
21.50 - It's local elections night. Can you feel the excitement? We certainly can here at Politics.co.uk, so why not spend the night here with us.
All 32 London boroughs are up for grabs plus five mayoral elections and a shed load more seats in metropolitan boroughs, unitary authorities and district councils.
It's set to be a thrilling night, or at least a mildly diverting one, until we all pass out waiting for the declaration for Purbeck council and wake up wondering what the hell we've been doing with our lives.
The polls are due to close at ten. Here's a link to when all the counts across the country are due to be announced for us to be getting on with until then.