London votes firmly for an elected mayor

LONDONERS voted overwhelmingly in favour of an elected mayor in a referendum which ran parallel to the local elections.

Although not all results had come in at the time of going to press, votes were running at about four to one in favour of the proposal after five boroughs had declared.

By 2am this morning, City of London, Wandsworth, Camden, Lewisham, Southwark and Barking and Dagenham had declared their results. However the counts appeared to be taking longer than expected, delaying the local election results in the city. But turnout was very low, as it was in the rest of the country. It was running at between 30 and 35 per cent.

London's mayor will have sweeping powers to control large resources, at present more than pounds 3 billion; will direct new organisations responsible for transport and economic development; and will be a voice for London at home and abroad.

The proposed assembly's powers will range from tackling crime and planning transport to creating jobs, improving emergency services and promoting the arts, sport and tourism.

Although all the main political parties all welcomed the result, "No" campaigners argued that the low turn-out meant Londoners had not given a full mandate to the move.

Simon Randall of the "No for London" campaign said the result was not good enough.

"We are going to have a turn-out that is lower than any election ever in London: 25 per cent of Londoners support the proposal and 75 per cent just aren't interested. I wonder, is that what people really think of Blair's vision for London?" he said.

There was still mystery about who would take up the post, though.

The Transport Minister Glenda Jackson said all that mattered was the result. "Here we are, it is the referendum, the first votes have been cast and it's terrific."

However Ken Livingstone, the left-wing former GLC leader, said he was "delighted" to be shown ahead of other political figures in a poll. Labour leadership figures are believed to want to block his candidature.

CAPITAL OPPORTUNITY

Electors in London were asked to vote "Yes" or "No" to the question "Are you in favour of the Government's proposals for a Greater London Authority, made up of an elected mayor and a separately elected assembly?"

After results from six of 33 counts in the London referendum had been declared, the running votes totals were: Yes 193,060 (75.94%); No 61,173 (24.06%); Electorate 782,399; Turnout 254,233 (32.49%)

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