The Greens and the BNP capitalised on Liberal Democrats vote slipping in Bolton’s local council elections last night.
There were concerns about turn-out, which is estimated to have been a worryingly low 32%, down on last year’s 37%.
Conservative leader John Walsh blamed postal voting, which he said encouraged laziness among voters.
The big shock of the evening was the crushing defeat suffered by the Lib Dems at the hands of the Green Party and, in one case, the BNP.
In nine of the 11 wards the Greens had candidates, they won more votes than the Lib Dems.
In Tonge with the Haulgh, it was the BNP who capitalised on Lib Dem failure, taking home twice as many votes.
Lib Dem leader Councillor Roger Hayes said: “The voters are split – there are people who want to vote in the councillor who will look after the ward but there are also a lot of people who want to punish the government.
“It’s been a difficult campaign.
“It’s always difficult when the government isn’t popular.”
Both the Conservatives and the Lib Dems accused Labour of turning local politics national with their campaign.
They argued that the results were not a true reflection of politics in Bolton, but of wider disappointment in the Coalition on a national level.
Cllr Hayes said: “The Labour Party’s campaign in Bolton was based almost entirely on national issues. I think it’s a bit bizarre seeing that they are the party which created this mess.
“It makes you wonder how long-term a memory the voters have.”
It has been a difficult year for voters in Bolton.
Since the 2011 election, the council have announced an £18m package of spending cuts in addition to the previous £42m announced.
A third of all Bolton’s libraries are expected to close despite 15,000 people signing a petition against the move.
One in five council jobs could also be axed under the proposed cuts.
It was widely anticipated that the three main parties would suffer casualties, but voter apathy paved the way for unexpected success for minor parties.