The Liberal Democrats are celebrating “big wins” in traditionally Conservative areas that they say could help demolish the “Blue Wall” of seats Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Tories need to win the next election.
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said local elections were a “turning point” for his party.
A centre party, the Liberal Democrats believe they can appeal to Conservative voters who cannot support Labour as well as disillusioned Labour voters. But they have found it difficult to gain major wins at the national level.
Speaking in Wimbledon, Sir Ed said: “We are going to have a Liberal Democrat MP for Wimbledon at the next election. And I think there are other places where we're going to see Liberal Democrat success for the first time ever.
“I'm really excited about the south-west of England and coming back there. I'm excited about all those seats across the Blue Wall which, frankly, we haven't been players in for a long time.
“And I'm looking forward to results yet to come in Scotland and Wales.”
The Liberal Democrats won the new unitary authorities of Somerset — traditional Conservative territory — and Westmorland and Furness, also dislodging the Tories in West Oxfordshire and pushing the council into no overall control.
Mr Davey said the local election results would send an “almighty shock wave” through the government.
“We're making big gains from the Conservatives, gains that I think we can turn into seats in the next election,” he said.
“I said that people could use their vote to send a message to Boris Johnson that he's not providing the leadership on the cost-of-living emergency, which is really the issue on the doorsteps that I found, and I think the real situation here is the economy is in a real mess, the Conservatives have failed to provide that leadership and people are turning to the Liberal Democrats for an alternative party.”
He added: “The dissatisfaction amongst lifelong Conservatives with the prime minister was really palpable — they don't think he's a decent man.”
Sir Ed also dismissed calls for a pact with the Labour Party to defeat the Tories at the next general election.