THE Liberal Democrats 'are back in the West Country' after gaining Dorset Council from the Conservatives in the local elections, Sir Ed Davey has said.

The party leader said the victory came following the Lib Dems' victory in Somerset two years ago and 'stunning successes' in Devon in 2023.

The Lib Dem leader travelled to Dorset to greet winning councillors, as the party eyed up its chances at Tory-held constituencies ahead of a general election.

In the councils which went to the polls on May 2, the Lib Dems won more seats overall than the Conservatives did.

The party beat the Tories into second place, winning 552 seats, up nearly 100.

The Conservatives are just behind on 515 seats, down nearly 400.

Labour won 1,158 seats, an increase of more than 232.

The Lib Dems’ most significant victory was in Dorset, where they gained the council from the Tories.

The party now has 42 of the 82 seats on the council, with Conservatives on 30 after losing 13.

The Lib Dems believe they can use the victory to overturn Tory majorities at the general election, winning the West Dorset, and Mid Dorset and Poole constituencies.

On a flying visit to meet Lib Dem campaigners, Sir Ed said: “This victory in Dorset is an historic and stunning result for the Liberal Democrats.

“From tackling issues with the NHS and the local environment to supporting people with the cost-of-living crisis, I know the new Liberal Democrat team on Dorset council will do everything they can to give people here a fair deal.”

He added: “After our victory in Somerset two years ago and our stunning successes in Devon last year, this win in Dorset confirms that the Liberal Democrats are back in the West Country and will be the main challengers to Conservative MPs here whenever the general election is called.”

As the party celebrated early victories on Friday, Sir Ed posed in Winchester alongside people in inflatable dinosaur costumes, dubbed “Tory dinosaurs”.

In the Lib Dems’ latest campaign stunt, the three costumed individuals also carried a banner reading “Make this Conservative Government history”.

Additional reporting by David Lynch, PA Political Staff.