Labour gained a much-needed morale boost in the latest council by-elections, scoring a landslide victory against the British National Party in the West Midlands, but it lost two marginal seats to Tories.
Its candidate Delia Edwards won at Princes End in Sandwell. The defending BNP trailed in third behind the Tories.
Labour had won another of the ward's seats with a majority of just 20 votes in May's main polls. But it went down to two defeats by the Tories this time.
Conservative Garry Purdy comfortably gained at Masson, Derbyshire Dales District, while Sheena Williams won by 11 votes at Shepway South, Maidstone Borough, Kent, leaving the party just one seat short of an overall majority.
In London, Liberal Democrats slumped at Barnes in the Richmond-upon-Thames Borough. Although this is traditionally Tory territory, it had been marginal last year.
Analysis of this week's five contests suggest a projected 14.8 per cent nationwide Tory lead over Labour.
A calculation based on four wards fought both times by all three major parties gives a line-up of Con 44.0 per cent, Lab 28.0 per cent, Lib Dem 21.1 per cent.
* Sandwell Borough - Princes End: Lab 796, Con 517, BNP 314, Lib Dem 29. (May 2007 - Lab 898, BNP 878, Con 498, Ind 241). Lab gain from BNP. Swing 14.1 per cent BNP to Lab.