LABOUR promised to bail out the Tories over Brexit yesterday as both parties suffered a bad night in England’s local elections.

The Tories lost 1334 councillors and 44 councils, while Labour were down 82 seats and lost control of six authorities when, as the opposition party at Westminster, they would under normal circumstances have been expected to make major gains.

It was a good night for the Lib Dems, who added 703 seats. The Greens also made significant gains, as did a number of independents.

There was also a huge spike in the number of people spoiling their ballot papers. Pictures shared on social media showed slips with messages including “Get May out”, “Brexit betrayal” and “Traitors” written across them. One voter wrote: “I’d rather poo in my hands and clap than vote for this lot.”

Labour’s John McDonnell said the results sent a clear message. He tweeted: “We’ll see what final results of local elections look like by end of day as they are pretty mixed geographically up to now but so far message from local elections – ‘Brexit - sort it.’ Message received.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon disagreed. She said: “If the message Labour take from English local elections is that they should now be the facilitator of a Tory Brexit, I suspect their troubles will just be beginning.”

The remark left a number of Labour MPs furious. It followed Barry Gardiner, the shadow business secretary, telling the BBC that his party was “trying to bail out” the Tories to rescue Brexit.

Gardiner made the comments after Tory Brexit Minister James Cleverly accused Labour of blocking the UK’s departure from the EU.

He said: “You, as Brexit Minister, should understand that we are in there trying to bail you guys out,” Gardiner told him. We are now trying to negotiate with you because your Prime Minister, who has lost control of her party, who has lost any chance of getting her deal through Parliament, has had to come to us.”

Labour MP Owen Smith said: “When a Labour shadow cabinet member thinks his job is to ‘bail out‘ the Tories you know something is going seriously awry in Labour.”

Labour leader Jeremy Cobryn told ITV that the results showed that “a deal has to be done” on Brexit.

He said: “I think it means there’s a huge onus on every MP, and they’ve all got that message, whether they themselves are leave or remain, that an arrangement has to be made, a deal has to be done. Parliament has to resolve this issue – I think that is very, very clear.”

The National:

Veteran Labour MP Ben Bradshaw said the party’s drubbing was down to Corbyn’s “constructive ambiguity” on Brexit. He said: “It showed that when you cower in the middle of the road on the biggest existential crisis facing Britain for generations you get squashed.”

Veteran Labour activist and actor Tony Robinson, best known for his role as Baldrick in Blackadder, and a, took to Twitter to announce he was leaving the party. He said: “I’ve left the Labour Party after nearly 45 years of service at branch, constituency and NEC levels, partly because of its continued duplicity on Brexit, partly because of its anti-Semitism, but also because its leadership is complete shit.”

LibDem leader Vince Cable, above, said his party was “the big winner” in the vote. He said: “Voters have sent a clear message that they no longer have confidence in the Conservatives, but they are also refusing to reward Labour while the party prevaricates on the big issue of the day: Brexit.”

Green Party co-leader Jonathan Bartley said it was the “biggest election night in our history”, adding: “Voters see that we need a new kind of politics, one that recognises the huge imperative of acting on climate change, but also the social emergency that is creating misery and suffering in communities across the country.”

Strathclyde University election expert Professor John Curtice told the BBC the electoral hold of the Conservative and Labour parties on the British electorate is looking now as weak as it has done at any point in postwar British politics.”

He said the results pointed towards another hung parliament at the next General Election. “It just seems voters, period, saying: ‘A plague on both your houses’,” he said.