According to BBC estimates of national vote share, Charles Kennedy's party have overtaken Labour in share of the national vote for the first time in living memory. Meanwhile the Conservatives appear to have done no better than they did with William Hague as their Leader in 2000.
'Thursday night's local election results show the Liberal Democrats continuing to gain support and council seats - and challenging Labour in what were previously Labour heartlands.
'Labour have suffered a significant setback, falling to just 26% on BBC estimates so far - below the 28% share they had under Michael Foot's leadership in the 1983 General Election. Labour now face a serious threat from the Liberal Democrats in many city seats.
'The Conservatives have failed in their objective of winning back support in the cities - failing to win a single council seat in Liverpool, Manchester or Oxford.
'Liberal Democrats believe that our gains in the 2004 local election results are the precursor to substantial gains from Labour at the next general election - just as their local election gains in the mid 1990s pointed the way to substantial gains from the Conservatives at the 1997 general election.'
Key points from Thursday night's results
Many more results are still be declared later today, but estimates so far show 80 net gains in the 2004 local elections. Since the 2001 election, the Liberal Democrats have gained over 250 seats.
An ICM Poll for the BBC has shown Charles Kennedy to be the most trusted of the main party leaders, with voters believing him to be more in touch than Tony Blair and Michael Howard.
The BBC estimated vote share for the 2004 local elections is:
Liberal Democrats 30%
2001 General Election Result
Liberal Democrats 19%
The swing from Labour to the Liberal Democrats is 14%. The swing from the Conservatives to the Liberal Democrats is 3%.
The Tories continue to have vast swathes of 'No-Go' areas. They failed to win any councillors in Knowsley, Liverpool, Manchester or Oxford.
Liberal Democrats have made significant gains across North-West Metropolitan Districts including Manchester (+11), Bolton (+7), Sefton (+5), Rochdale (+3), Burnley (+2). The results in Rochdale and Bolton have made the Liberal Democrats the biggest party on those councils. The Liberal Democrats won overall control of Pendle Council by gaining six seats.
The change in party fortunes since the Conservatives defeated a Labour government in 1979 and since the last general election is well illustrated in Liverpool. At that election the Conservatives represented two Liverpool constituencies including Wavertree. The aggregate results across the Wavertree constituency on Thursday compared with the last general elections were as follows:
Local Elections 2004 General Election 2001
Liberal Democrat 17,802 (61.3%) 7,836 (24.4%)
Labour 6,736 (23.2%) 20,155 (62.7%)
Liberal 2,533 (8.7%)
Green 1,270 (4.3%)
Conservatives 341 (1.2%) 3,091 (9.6%)