Conservatives win control of London in dual blow to Brown

May 3rd, 2008 - 10:10 am ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Gordon Brown
London, May 3 (DPA) Conservative candidate Boris Johnson has been elected the new mayor of London, ousting veteran incumbent Ken Livingstone in a further blow to the ruling Labour Party of Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Results late Friday showed that Johnson, a maverick politician and journalist, won the support of 1.16 million Londoners in Thursday’s election, compared with 1.02 million for Livingstone, who became the city’s first mayor in 2000.

The outcome represents a dual blow to Brown, whose Labour Party suffered a major reverse in local elections earlier Friday, scoring its worst results in 40 years.

Johnson, 43, is the first Conservative mayor of London, a culturally and ethnically diverse metropolis of seven million people.

Results showed that a record number of Londoners - 2.5 million - voted Thursday, compared with two million in the last mayoral election in 2004.

Johnson, a 43-year-old journalist and Conservative member of parliament, is a colourful and eccentric figure whose politics are in stark contrast to those of Livingstone.

His victory backs a trend away from Labour, already apparent in local elections in large parts of England and in Wales, and marks a triumph for the Conservatives at the national level.

Commenting on the humiliating losses for Labour in the local elections, Brown said Friday that he would “learn the lessons” and “listen and lead”.

“It’s clear to me that this has been a disappointing night, indeed a bad night for Labour,” Brown said.

Final results Friday evening showed that Labour lost a staggering 331 council seats, while the Conservatives gained 259 seats and the Liberals increased their presence by 34 seats.

The results also confirmed BBC research that Labour had slipped to third place in the ranking of Britain’s leading political parties.

The Labour Party’s projected share of the national vote dropped to 24 percent, compared with 44 percent for the Conservatives and 25 percent for the Liberal Democrats.

David Cameron, leader of the opposition Conservatives, said the local election result was a “vote of confidence” in the Conservative Party.

The elections were the first important popularity test for Brown since he took over power from Tony Blair in June 2007.

While Brown loyalists attempted to attribute the slump to parliamentary “mid-term blues,” critics spoke of a “nightmare result”.

The Conservatives hailed their gains as a “big step forward” in their aim to unseat Labour at the next general election, due in May 2010 at the latest.

Brown blamed “difficult economic circumstances” for Labour’s poor showing.

“I think people want to be assured, and indeed people are questioning and want to be assured, that the government will steer them through these difficult times,” he said.

“The test of leadership is not what happens in a period of success but what happens in difficult circumstances.”

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