Voters deserted the Lib Dems in absolute droves yesterday as the party fronted nationally by Nick Clegg was left with just three councillors out of sixty serving on Salford Council.
The Lib Dems were defending seats in Claremont and Swinton South and lost both to Labour, coming a distant fourth in Swinton South, behind the Tories and Greens.
In eight out of the twenty wards where candidates were standing, the Lib Dems came bottom of the poll, getting just 94 votes out of over 2,500 cast in Cadishead, 94 votes out of almost 2,400 in Irlam, and 116 votes out of over 2,400 in Walkden North. It was a shocking showing that had many Lib Dems walking out of the count way before the results were announced at 3am this morning.
"I'm sad to say we've lost some excellent councillors and not just here in Salford but nationally the clear message to us is that it's the Liberal Democrats are taking the flak for this coalition" said Salford Lib Dem Leader, Norman Owen
"We have taken some very hard decisions as part of the coalition" he added "And I am proud to be the leader of the Liberal Democrats in Salford. The Liberal Democrats are not going to go away overnight…"
Elsewhere the Tories lost seats in Cadishead and Eccles as the Cameron factor kicked in. Conservative Leader, Karen Garrido was unrepentant, saying "It ain't going to be easy but as long as we stand with our heads up and say that David Cameron is doing the right thing we'll be alright…We've been here before and got back into government."
The big Labour gains even surprised Salford Council Leader John Merry, who in his platform speech had talked of the "nasty and vindictive government" and how he intended to campaign "until we rid ourselves of this government that doesn't care a damn about the people who live here".
Talking after his closing speech John Merry said "I was surprised how strongly we polled, even in Tory areas – I thought we would make gains but I didn't expect five gains…obviously the Lib Dem vote has collapsed."
The Labour Leader was also pleased with the dismal BNP vote which saw only one of the party's five candidates scrape over the 200 vote mark.
"I'm obviously very pleased about the BNP vote" he added "They said they would come second in Irwell Riverside and they finished fourth with a totally pathetic share of the vote."
UKIP, standing in fifteen out of the twenty seats up for election, also failed to make any inroads, Paul Doyle pulling 368 votes and third place in Eccles being its best showing.
The smaller parties failed to make many gains at all as a result of the Lib Dem collapse, although for the Greens, Joe O'Neill came third in Swinton South polling a more than respectable 481 votes, and in Swinton North, Reg Howard more than doubled his vote from last year's election to come third.
Outside the three main parties, the big surprise of the evening was in Ordsall where George Tapp, standing for TUSC (Trade Union and Socialist Coalition) took second place out of five candidates.
"It says a lot about the Labour Party not walking the streets and doing the job they were elected for" he said "This gives us more encouragement to stand candidates elsewhere and next year we'll be doubling our vote. With a little bit more work we're going to come first."
John Merry paid tribute to George Tapp, an ex-Labour councillor who quit the Party when Tony Blair took the leadership…
"I respect George and he got a very good personal vote but the Labour Party got a lot more" he said "I'm not trying to crow about us beating candidates from the left, what I am crowing about is the collapse of the Lib Dem vote and the Tories votes going down as well.
"I don't particularly like arguing with people on the left" he added "So hopefully we can see what we can do to unite the forces and see how we can work together to bring the Government down."
For full Salford Local Election results click here
Update 6th May 2011 - Salford AV VOTE
Salford voted against AV by 37,373 to 16,601 votes
30.76% in favour
* The average turnout for this year's local election was just 33.5%
Main photo shows Lib Dem candidates Steve Middleton and Bernard Carson
Photos (apart from result announcement photos) by Steven Speed