Speaking as the early results came through Mr McCartney said: 'I want to thank all of our supporters who have voted for Labour Party candidates in the European, local and London elections.
'The key lesson so far from the local elections is that, despite suffering some Labour losses, the results show Michael Howard doing no better than William Hague did in 2000, a year before he suffered a major defeat in the 2001 general election.
'Over the coming months it is our job to roll up our sleeves and make sure that Howard's Tories get defeated at the general election as Hague did. We know that voters support the improvements to public services that they see in their communities but for many who voted yesterday these improvements were overshadowed by Iraq. However, the situation in Iraq is changing and throughout the campaign we have highlighted the difference a Labour government makes but there is more to do.
'This campaign was the opportunity for the Tories to come forward with a big argument about the direction of the country that really hit home with voters, as Labour did in 1995 and 1996. They have failed to do so.
'Instead, when the Tories have been put under pressure on matters of substance - like Letwin's proposals for public spending cuts, Tory divisions over Europe, and Howard's comments on possible fuel protests - they have made bad judgments and shown a lack of leadership.
'The truth is that people are worried about the Tories' plans for massive cuts to public spending, and all our polling evidence shows that in a general election, they would vote against the Tory plans for immediate cuts to schools, hospitals and the police which they themselves have admitted could total up to£150bn.
'Our message is simple. To fight to protect the investment in our communities and to fight against the Tory cuts, join us.'