Londoners vote for a mayor by three to one

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The Independent Online
LONDON is to have an elected mayor for the first time after voters in the capital voted by three to one in favour of the move in yesterday's referendum.

But there were claims that the mandate for the move was not strong enough after a turn-out of only around 35 per cent.

Even worse, only a little more than a quarter of the population turned out across the country to vote in elections to 166 local authorities.

Although London's local election results were delayed by the referendum counts, by 2am today the Conservatives had made 243 net gains outside the capital. Labour suffered a net loss of 129 seats and the Liberal Democrats lost 84 seats overall.

The figures were based on results four years ago in which Labour and the Liberal Democrats performed strongly and the Conservatives performed badly.

The Conservatives would have had to gain about 500 seats to return to their 1990 level.

The share of the vote showed Labour notching up around 38 per cent. The Tories were winning 32 per cent of the vote and the Liberal Democrats 25 per cent.

Those figures compared with a share of the vote in the General Election in England last year in which Labour scored 43.5 per cent of the vote, the Conservatives won 33.7 per cent and the Liberal Democrats 18 per cent.

Paddy Ashdown, the Liberal Democrat leader, said that he was delighted by the results. His party had won Liverpool and had hopes of gaining control of Islington from Labour. "It is a night of considerable success in some areas, consolidation in others and a few losses which seem to me to be inevitable," said Mr Ashdown.

Tony Blair welcomed the result of the referendum vote, saying that he was confident that other cities would follow suit when they saw how London benefited.

"This will be a great boost for the capital. For many years I have believed that elected mayors will help to strengthen and rejuvenate local government," he said.

Labour was jubilant at snatching Hastings from the Liberal Democrats and at seeing off a Tory challenge in Trafford. Warwickshire also stayed Labour in a one-off by-election despite predictions that it was likely to end up with no party in overall control.

The Conservative vice-chairman Alan Duncan told the BBC: "What we are seeing tonight, and it is very early days, is a modest advance. We are seeing, I think, the Labour Party is going back a bit."

He said that he expected the steady advance would be born out in results throughout the rest of the counts. "I think it confounds a lot of the critics," he added.

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