Conservative Johnson re-elected London mayor

Boris Johnson beats Labour rival, but his party and Liberal Democrats suffer crushing nationwide defeat in local polls.

    Conservative Johnson re-elected London mayor
    Ministers have been accused of being out of touch with voters struggling with unemployment and inflation [Reuters]

    Boris Johnson, a member of the UK's ruling Conservative party, has been re-elected mayor of London on a day his party suffered a humiliating nationwide defeat in local elections.

    "I will continue to fight for a good deal for Londoners, a good deal from the government that will help us deliver prosperity for everybody in this city," Johnson said on Friday in his victory speech at the capital's City Hall.

    Johnson, one of the most popular politicians in his party, managed to beat his rival Ken Livingstone from the centre-left Labour party, but with a reduced margin from 2008.

    Liberal Democrat candidate Brian Paddick was beaten into fourth place by the Green party's Jenny Jones, with independent runner Siobhan Benita fifth.

    With results declared in all 181 councils being contested across the country, Labour had gained 823 new councillors, while the Conservatives had lost 405 and their Liberal Democrat coalition partners were down by 336.

    Labour, which had until now struggled to capitalise on the coalition's problems, captured 38 per cent of the national vote, versus 31 per cent for the Conservatives and 16 per cent for the Lib Dems. Voter turnout was low at 32 per cent.

    The right-wing UK Independence Party (UKIP) contested only a fraction of the total seats up for grabs, but where it did field candidates it averaged a record 14 perc ent of the vote.

    This translated into just nine councillors because UKIP's support is geographically scattered, making it hard for the party to win any individual ward.

    Cameron apology

    David Cameron, the British prime minister, apologised to Conservative candidates who lost their positions, blaming the defeat on the tough decisions he had been forced to make to reduce the country's debt mountain.

    "There aren't easy answers," Cameron, whose party lost seats to Labour in the rural constituency he represents in parliament, said after the defeat.

    Cameron's government has introduced a slew of austerity measures since it came to power in May 2010 that have proved to be highly unpopular.

    The ruling coalition damaged by a return to recession last month and weeks of blunders that made ministers appear out of touch with voters struggling with high unemployment, price rises and low wages.

    Labour said the results were a wake-up call for the government to soften its flagship deficit-cutting agenda.

    'People are hurting'

    "People are hurting, people are suffering from the recession, people are suffering from a government that has raised taxes for them and cut taxes for millionaires," Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, said.

    Foreign Secretary William Hague sought to play down the scale of the Conservatives' defeat, saying it was "perfectly common" for governments to suffer losses at mid-term local elections. General elections will be held in 2015.

    Cameron's cherished policy of strengthening local democracy by introducing elected mayors also suffered a setback.

    Voters in eight cities voted against having a directly elected mayor, with only Bristol voting in favour.

    The picture was equally bleak for the Liberal Democrats, whose support has collapsed since they went into government.

    The local election results in England were the worst in their history.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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