Recriminations between the coalition Government's Conservative and Liberal Democrat partners broke out even before the first results were in from the votes which have taken place all over the UK .
Former Lib Dem leader Lord Ashdown launched a scathing attack on Prime Minister David Cameron for his conduct during the campaign for the referendum on electoral reform.
Lord Ashdown - a close ally of Nick Clegg - accused Mr Cameron of "panicking" in the face of pressure from the Tory right and allowing a largely Conservative-funded No campaign which targeted the Deputy Prime Minister personally.
Mr Cameron's failure to dissociate himself from the No campaign's "regiment of lies" was a breach of faith which would have knock-on effects for the way the coalition operates, he said.
"You cannot fund a deeply vicious campaign to destroy the personality of your partner, who has been unmoved in his brave support of the coalition, without there being consequences," Lord Ashdown told The Times. "When it comes to the bonhomie of the Downing Street rose garden, it's never again glad confident morn."
Mr Clegg is expected to be the big loser of the night, with Liberal Democrats bracing themselves for setbacks in council elections across England as well as the devolved legislatures in Scotland and Wales. Senior figures also came close to acknowledging defeat in the referendum on the Alternative Vote when the result is announced later.
Opinion polls in the run-up to the elections suggested Ed Miliband's Labour Party can expect to seize hundreds of council seats from both Lib Dems and Tories, though senior party sources were playing down suggestions that they could gain 1,000 or more.
A close finish between Labour and the Scottish National Party is expected in the battle to control the Scottish Parliament, while in the Welsh Assembly voters are waiting to see whether Labour can regain its overall majority after four years of coalition with Plaid Cymru. Results in the Northern Ireland Assembly elections are not due until the weekend.
Lib Dem officials said they are now expecting to lose 12 seats in Sheffield - where Mr Clegg has his parliamentary seat. They are also predicting the party "could lose everything" in Liverpool, which has traditionally been a stronghold.
Meanwhile, the first result was declared by Sunderland. The Tories lost four councillors, and Labour gained four to increase its majority to 37.