02/05/2008

'Bungling Boris' Beating 'Limp Livingstone'

Early reports from the London Mayoral election count put Conservative candidate Boris Johnson ahead in the race over the incumbent Ken Livingstone.

With 27% of votes counted in each of the 14 electoral areas, the blond fop of Johnson has the lead in nine areas while Labour's Livingstone limps behind in the remaining five.

The final results are not expected until after 8.30pm on Friday.

Turnout is estimated a relatively impressive 45%, which is not only up from 36.95% in 2004, but is also around 10% higher than the council elections, which are also being counted.

Opinion polls placed Mr Livingstone and Mr Johnson in a dead heat, with Lib Dem’s strident ex-police commander candidate Brian Paddick a distant third.

As the early indications leaked out, Boris Johnson said: "I think the party's done fantastically nationally but London is a very different kettle of fish and we'll have to see what happens."

Although the results look in favour of Boris, the figure only covers roughly a quarter of the total votes cast and is only a record of the first preference votes.

Brian Paddick's performance is expected to pick up as the second preferences votes come through. The two main candidates' diametric opposition to each other is believed to leave voters unwilling to pass their second preference onto the competition, leaving Mr Paddick to pick up the leftovers.

The election will also decide the 25 members of the London Assembly, which scrutinises the work of the mayor.

Mr Livingstone has proved a controversial Mayor, and although the influential ex-Labour backbencher won the last two mayoral elections, in each case the count went to second preference votes.

Boris Johnson's celebrity profile is thought to have garnered enough attention to push the conservative candidate past the post despite a career famously fraught with gaffs and calamity.

(DW/JM)

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