Ken wins historic victory

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Indy Politics

Ken Livingstone became London's first directly-elected mayor today, soundly defeating his three main challengers.

His share of the vote slipped as the day dragged on, and in the end he scored a lower-than-expected 39 per cent of the poll.

But this was still enough to finish comfortably ahead of Steve Norris despite a late surge that saw the Conservative candidate poll 27 per cent.

The official Labour candidate, ex-Minister Frank Dobson, was relegated to a humiliating but ultimately successful dogfight for third place with Liberal Democrat Susan Kramer, polling 13 per cent to her 12.

The political make-up of the GLA that Mr Livingstone will have to work with for the next four years was also took shape.

The Conservatives secured a majority of the directly-elected constituency seats when they snuffed out the Liberal Democrat challenge in the last to declare, London South West.

That result left them with eight of the directly elected seats to Labour's six. Both the Tory and the Labour representation rose to nine when the top-up seats were allotted using proportional representation.

The Liberal Democrats and the Green Party earned four and three seats respectively by the same method to create an excruciatingly finely balanced assembly.

However the in race for mayor, voters in almost every constituency gave Mr Livingstone a clear mandate to run London. Only West Central, scene of the Conservatives' recent Kensington by-election victory, and true blue Bexley and Bromley, resisted his assault and voted Norris.

The election - which will cost William Hill £100,000 in payouts to Livingstone-backing punters - went to a second stage, with the second preferences of losing candidates redistributed between Mr Livingstone and Mr Norris.

In the end the Brent East MP won by 776,427 votes to 564,137 on the second count. Mr Dobson scraped home for third place with 223,884 - just 20,000 votes ahead of Mrs Kramer.

Despite the low turnout of 33.6 per cent, technical problems with the new electronic counting system had delayed the results for many hours after the expected declaration time.

Although Mr Livingstone complained he had been the target of an "absolutely vile campaign," he marked his victory by promising to work closely with Tony Blair's government.

"People say a lot of silly things during an election campaign and then afterwards they have to work with the reality of what voters have done," said Mr Livingstone, who was expelled from the Labour Party after he entered the race as an independent.

Tony Blair said of the rebel's victory: "It is important that we do everything we can to make sure that this works for London and works for Londoners."

The people of London had made their choice and both he and Mr Livingstone now had a responsibility to Òmake this workÓ.

The Lord Mayor of London, Clive Martin - figurehead of the City of London financial district - said he would have no problems working with Mr Livingstone.

He told the BBC's Today Programme: "I don't see that as difficult at all. I look forward to working with Ken and welcoming him to this new responsibility.

"What he and I do together is obviously vital to the City of London and vital for Londoners."

Mr Norris said: "I am delighted to have reached out to Londoners who would never previously considered voting Conservative. The fact that I am streets ahead of the official Labour candidate is something that we are taking a lot of pride from.

"I think the overwhelming sentiment - rather than logic - in this election has been poking Blair in the eye with a stick."

Frank Dobson denied he was feeling let down. Asked whether he was feeling miserable, he replied: "Certainly not."

Ken Livingstone was given a taste of the problems he will face when his Tube train from Willesden Green to Westminster was delayed.