Despite many results in local and mayoral elections still to be declared, Labour has good reason to be cheerful about its performance so far, while Conservatives will be licking their wounds and looking for signs of light in the gloom.

In what was the last major test of public opinion before the country chooses the next government, the Prime Minister has looked to the Tees Valley for consolation as his party suffered a drubbing across the rest of the region and the country.

Ben Houchen’s re-election on Teesside was one of the few bright spots for the Conservatives as the party lost around 50% of its councillors across England just months away from a general election.

Meanwhile, Labour hailed a “truly historic” result in Rishi Sunak’s own backyard of York and North Yorkshire, where David Skaith defeated Tory Keane Duncan by almost 15,000 votes.

Speaking at Northallerton Town Football Club, Sir Keir Starmer said the result was a “historic victory” for Labour in “the heart of Tory territory”.

Elections experts have said, once the final results are in, the Conservatives could lose 500 council seats in potentially the party’s worst showing at local elections in 40 years.

Painful defeat in the Blackpool South by-election saw a 26.33% swing to Labour from the Tories, the third largest since the Second World War.

The task of finding a positive take on events is an unenviable one, with a danger that misplaced optimism or a stretched interpretation could be perceived as unrealistic.

Conservative Party chairman Richard Holden fell back on a common position in these circumstances by admitting it has been a “tough night” but a “typical” one for a mid-term Government.

There is a renewed sense of optimism within the Labour Party after what appears to have been a very positive night for the Opposition, with a particular focus on victory in the Blackpool South by-election.

With a demand that will only increase in frequency, the constituency’s new MP Chris Webb called on the Prime Minister to “admit you have failed and call a general election”.

The Prime Minister has continued to rule out calling a general election in July as he keeps everyone guessing,

But it is difficult to see, despite the welcome result in Teesside, why he would opt to go to the polls two months after such a bruising set of results.

Labour will keep up the pressure as they sense political blood, but it currently looks likely the Prime Minister will want more time to try to obscure the memory of voters abandoning the party en masse.

More big policy moves will follow but progress on issues such as migration and the economy will take more time, leading to autumn still being considered the most likely option.

The emergence of significant discord among Tory MPs, including firm evidence of a leadership challenge, would complicate the timing of a general election further.

Ministers have previously said that the local election results will not shift their support for the Prime Minister, but it remains to be seen whether this position holds.

Seemingly anticipating a strong reaction from within the party, Tory chairman Richard Holden appealed to restive MPs to “wait through the weekend”, saying Rishi Sunak is “the right man” to lead the party.

But jeopardy for the Prime Minister could still emerge from the backbenches, where influential MPs who have previously demonstrated a taste for trouble could be spooked into action by both the scale of losses and the performance of Reform UK.

What is clear, however, is it is Mr Sunak that must ask the country for a judgement. After two unelected Prime Ministers taking office in the last two years, a third would not be accepted by the public.

If the Tories want to change their leader, they must go to the country first. 

Polling experts are clear that the Conservative vote has collapsed since 2021 and Labour has made big gains.

Mr Houchen's victory does not let the Prime Minister off the hook. He has many challenges ahead.