May-day elections to test Gordon Brown’s sway

April 30th, 2008 - 10:52 am ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Gordon Brown
By Dipankar De Sarkar
London, April 30 (IANS) British Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s faltering leadership of the Labour Party is expected to be sorely tested Thursday in key elections to the London mayor’s office and local authorities across England and Wales. In the first nation-wide elections since Brown assumed power last June, some 13,000 candidates will be contesting 4,000 seats in 137 local authorities in England and 22 in Wales. Another 300 candidates are in the fray for 25 seats in the London Assembly, besides 10 for the most keenly-contested of all of Thursday’s polls - for the office of the mayor of London.

So important are these mid-term elections, some analysts say the outcome could well decide when Brown will call the next general election, due by the summer of 2010.

Equally, the elections will also test the mettle of David Cameron, leader of the Conservative Party, the largest in opposition.

According to Colin Rallings, director of the LGC Elections Centre at the University of Plymouth, the Conservative Party must wrest at least 200 seats in order to pose a serious challenge to Labour at the next general election.

“On the other hand, anything fewer than about 100 gains would mean the party has fallen back since last year’s contests, raising questions about the party’s ability to take advantage of Labour’s economic woes,” he said.

Brown has been under sustained attack through the 11 months that he has been premier. Most recently he was forced to withdraw a proposal to abolish the 10 pence starting rate of income tax after Labour rebels protested it would hit the British poor the hardest.

An ICM opinion poll, published Monday, put Labour 10 percent behind the Conservatives.

More worryingly, a ComRes poll for The Independent put the Conservatives on 40 percent, two points up on last month and 14 points ahead of Labour who are down five points on 26 percent.

According to The Independent, such a swing could see the Conservatives regain power in a general election.

“Downing Street is hoping for modest Labour gains but also braced for net losses of 100 or more seats,” wrote Michael White, the political editor of The Guardian, a pro-Labour newspaper.

Thursday’s most high-profile contest will be the one for the office of London Mayor, where left-wing incumbent Ken Livingstone of Labour is running and neck-and-neck with his upper class opponent Boris Johnson of the Conservative party.

Livingstone, who has been mayor ever since the post was created in 2000 and is bidding for a third term, is a popular figure in London and is generally considered to have brought about major improvements in transport, environment, housing and the economy.

Livingstone, who famously opposed Brown’s predecessor Tony Blair over Britain’s invasion of Iraq, takes the public transport to and from work every day, carrying a trade-mark rucksack on his back.

Johnson accuses him of being soft on crime, and has made failing law and order his main campaign issue.

The mayor is responsible for the Greater London area, a massive city covering 1,579 sq km and an estimated (mid-2006) population of over 7.5 million. According to the Greater London Authority, the office headed by the mayor, there are 5.5 million voters in London, but also an unknown number of unregistered voters.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Posted in Politics |