POLITICS
04/05/2018 13:09 BST | Updated 04/05/2018 14:23 BST

Lib Dems: 'We're Back'

Party celebrates capturing Richmond from the Tories.

One party leader who was authentically able to be all smiles on Friday morning was Sir Vince Cable.

Labour and the Conservatives both had a mixed night. The two main parties made advances in some parts of the country while falling back in others.

But for the Lib Dems it was a more straightforward success.

The party grabbed control of Richmond-upon-Thames from the Conservatives - taking 24 seats while the Tories lost 28.

And Cable’s party has gained more than 34 councillors across England and held on to Eastleigh, Cheltenham and Sutton.

Speaking in Richmond, Cable said the results showed his party was “very much on the way back”.

“We have shown that we can win anywhere,” he said. “These elections represent an important step in our re-establishment as a political force.”

And he hailed a “big breakthrough in Hull” where the party gained seven councillors taking its total to 24 - behind Labour’s.

The gains are of course from a very low base. The last time these seats were contests, in 2014, the Lib Dems had a shocking night.

Then in government, the party lost 310 seats and control of two councils - including their their flagship council of Kingston in south London.

We lost all our local government base,” Lib Dem MP Wera Hobhouse told HuffPost UK prior to Thursday’s vote. “We were a very damaged party throughout the coalition government.”

At the launch of his campaign, Cable said his party was the “well-kept secret” of this year’s local elections.

Today’s results allow him to justify that claim and will likely dampen down some of the mutterings about his leadership.

As one pleased Lib Dem source put it this morning: “The sun is shining in more ways than one.”