When the polls closed for the Local and London Authority elections in the UK at 10.00 pm GMT on May 1, it was clear that the governing Labour Party of Prime Minister Gordon Brown would suffer a heavy defeat. David Cameron was radiant: His Conservative Tory opposition would soon yet celebrate yet another success at the ballot box.
Soon it was confirmed: Labour had secured only 24% of the electorate of the 137 Local Authorities and reached only third place after the Liberal Democrats (25%), while the Tories clearly led with 40%.
But none of the parties was prepared for what unfolded in the early hours, when the votes were still counted for London Mayor and the London Assembly. The controversial Conservative candidate Boris Johnson was chosen as London’s new mayor, succeeding after two terms the city’s first-ever elected mayor, Ken Livingstone.
Although the race was close, it was expected that Livingstone – former left-wing Labour rebel who was elected in 2000 as an independent, and readmitted to the Labour Party in January 2004 – would still get his third term in office. But with only 29.5% of the popular vote, he dropped well behind his Conservative challenger who carried the victory with 33.5%.
While David Cameron, Tory Party Leader since 2005, had seen the signs of change coming in national politics as soon as May 2010 – the latest possible time for the Prime Minister to call general elections – Gordon Brown admitted that the result had indeed been worse than he expected.
“Today’s polls suggest, though, that Brown may be in fact in the same position as John Major in 1995 – headed for defeat,” concluded Nick Robinson, the Political Editor of the BBC, in his Newslog.