Professor Sir John Curtice, of Strathclyde University, has calculated that if the whole country had been voting in the elections on Thursday, Labour would have gained 35 per cent of the vote - five points ahead of the Conservatives on 30 per cent.
In an analysis for the BBC based on voting on more than 700 key wards involved in Thursday’s election, Sir John estimated the Liberal Democrats would have gained 19 per cent of the vote, and other parties 16 per cent.
Although Sir John said the result simply matches what Labour achieved in the 2018 local elections under Jeremy Corbyn, he added it marks a six-point improvement on its performance in the last local polls.
He said its five-point advantage over the Conservatives is the largest in any local elections since 2012, when David Cameron was in Downing Street and Ed Miliband was Labour leader.
In contrast, he said the Conservative vote share was down five points on 2018 and six points on last year.
With the exception of the 2019 local elections, when the party was riven by divisions over the Brexit negotiations, Sir John said it represented the Tories’ worst performance in a local election since before the EU referendum.
The Lib Dem result also matched what the party achieved in the 2019 locals, he said, which was its best performance in any local election since it entered coalition with the Conservatives in 2010.
However it was a more mixed picture in other councils in the country, with the party losing to the Liberal Democrats in Hull but seizing control in the new Cumberland authority.
Reacting to the results on Friday, Boris Johnson said: “It is mid-term. It’s certainly a mixed set of results.
“We had a tough night in some parts of the country but on the other hand in other parts of the country you are still seeing Conservatives going forward and making quite remarkable gains in places that haven’t voted Conservative for a long time, if ever.”
Meanwhile, Sir Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat leader, has hailed the party’s net gain of more than 100 councillors so far as a “turning point” for his party’s prospects.