Gains, pains and strains: Midlands elections take their toll

Nick Clegg Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Liberal Democrats' pains have been the greatest in the 2011 local elections

How do you sum up the long day's journey into night and another day and night?

That's how this political epic feels right now as I morph from my overnight duties at Birmingham's council election count into the declarations from Friday's counts and, eventually, the declaration of the AV Referendum result.

It's certainly been a story of gains.

Labour made sweeping progress in Stoke-on-Trent to recapture one of their traditional power bases which had fallen into No Overall Control in recent years, with the BNP, for much of that time, in possession of as many as nine seats on the council.

They have now been wiped out.

Gains, strains and pains

Labour also captured control of North Warwickshire and Telford & Wrekin and, with 14 extra seats in Birmingham, they are now comfortably the biggest party on our biggest council, but six seats short of the overall majority they needed to overturn the ruling Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition.

Image copyright bbc
Image caption This has been one of the most intriguing local elections in recent decades

But the swing statistics tell an interesting story: from the Conservatives to Labour the swing in Birmingham was around 8%; from the Liberal Democrats to Labour, over 10%.

Yes, it's the Liberal Democrats whose pains are greatest. There was precious little consolation for them: even their long-serving and widely-respected leader of Cannock Chase Council's outgoing administration, Neil Stanley, lost his seat.

For the Conservatives, it's more a case of strains: will relationships within their coalitions with the Lib Dems and in councils like Birmingham reflect the tensions of these election campaigns and the bad blood that spilled over between the parties during the AV Referendum campaign?

And yet it wasn't a disaster for David Cameron's party.

They do at least have something to celebrate in Gloucester and Tewkesbury where they gained overall control, as they did in Solihull. Here, paradoxically, it was the decline of the Liberal Democrat vote which undid the Lib Dems' ruling "agreement" with Labour.

Searching questions

The town's Liberal Democrat MP Lorely Burt will be among our guests on Sunday's Politics Show.

Even though she's in coalition with the Conservatives at Westminster, she's spent her political life fighting them in Solihull only to see them back in power there.

Now the chair of her party in Parliament, she can expect searching questions about how the fall-out from this most acrimonious period since the General Election a year ago will impact on the government partners.

So too will Christopher Pincher. Having just celebrated his first anniversary as the Conservative MP for Tamworth, he will also be with me live in the studio, as will the Labour MP for Birmingham Selly Oak and Opposition Whip, Steve McCabe.

And I hope you will be able to join us too, at the earlier time of 1100 BST on BBC One - Sunday 8 May.