Hat tip to Findalis
May 3, 2008
Gordon Brown’s first electoral test turned into a nightmare last night as Labour lost an astonishing 331 council seats and Boris Johnson won the London mayoral election.
Boris Johnson ended the eight-year reign of Ken Livingstone, delivering another body blow to the Prime Minister as Labour lost a quarter of the councillors who stood for the party on Thursday.
Johnson took a total of 1,043,761 first preference votes against 893,877 for Livingstone and was declared the winner after taking a further 124,977 second preference votes.
Mr Johnson thanked his team and heaped praise on his opponents, particularly Mr Livingstone who he described as a “very considerable public servant”.
He appeared to offer a possible role for the former mayor in his new administration before pledging to make greater London “greater still”.
He finished with the words: “Let’s get cracking tomorrow - let’s have a drink tonight.”
Mr Livingstone said he accepted full responsibility for the defeat and ended his speech with his voice breaking with emotion and clearly holding back tears.
The bloodbath consumed victims across the country, including the North and Wales, leaving Labour’s local government and campaigning base severely weakened.
Ministers now fear for their chances of surviving the next general election and Mr Brown’s authority was further damaged.
He promised to “listen and lead” and will launch a fightback this weekend, hoping to prove to the country that he, rather than David Cameron, has the experience and stature to take it through difficult times. It had been a “bad night”, he accepted.
Yesterday’s huge reverses make it almost certain that the next general election will take place in 2010 rather than next year. Mr Brown has an electoral mountain to climb to get his party into a position to win it.
Personal criticism of Mr Brown from the Labour side was muted. Hazel Blears, the Communities Secretary, told him that the message was to “get a grip”; one MP said that he had suffered a “John Major moment”; and his closest ally Ed Balls said that the results could not be dismissed as a traditional midterm kick to the governing party.
The electorate was cross with Labour, Mr Balls said.
Mr Brown’s main worry will be whether party discipline holds up as MPs fret about their re-election prospects. Last night’s results show that Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, and Ruth Kelly, the Transport Secretary, are highly vulnerable in their seats.
The Prime Minister is facing a further battle in three weeks’ time. Labour will try to hold Crewe & Nantwich in a by-election on May 22, which yesterday’s results suggest will be a tight race.
A challenge to his leadership can virtually be ruled out, but one MP said that he would give Mr Brown six months to get back on track.
It was Labour’s worst election night for 40 years, its councillors left almost defenceless in the face of the 10p tax row and economic worries. Labour finished in third place overall, with just 24 per cent of the vote. The Conservatives secured 44 per cent on an evening of unbridled triumph and the Liberal Democrats 25 per cent.
The Conservatives gained 256 seats and the Liberal Democrats a modest 34, with Nick Clegg voicing satisfaction over his party’s advances in the North, including his home city of Sheffield.
Labour lost key councils such as Southampton and Reading and was hit hard in its Welsh heartlands, losing Blaenau Gwent, Merthyr Tydfil, Torfaen, Caerphilly and Flintshire. It also lost Wolverhampton and Hartlepool. Tory gains included Bury and North Tyneside.
Mr Brown blamed “difficult economic circumstances” and claimed that measures taken by the Government to counter problems would become clear in the coming months.
He said: “I think people want to be assured that the Government will steer them through these difficult times. The test of leadership is not what happens in a period of success but what happens in difficult circumstances.”
Mr Cameron said: “This is a very big moment for the Conservative Party, but I don’t want anyone to think that we would deserve to win an election on the back of a failing government. I want us to really prove to people that we can make the changes that they want to see, in terms of schools and hospitals and crime and the other issues that really matter to all of us.
Mr Clegg said: “We were 13 per cent a few months ago, we’re now 25 per cent. We’ve overtaken Labour, we’ve taken seats off the Conservatives, we’ve taken seats off Labour. I am delighted, we are regaining momentum.”
Derek Wyatt, the Labour MP for Sittingbourne & Sheppey, who has one of the smallest majorities in the Commons at 79, said that the party had had a “John Major moment”. He said: “How many more Northern Rocks can there be? Look at the situation with fuel prices, the non-doms and the 10p tax band. Gordon has committed spectacular own-goals and the public is punishing him for it.”
The Labour leftwinger Ian Gibson said that Mr Brown was running out of time to prove that he was capable of leading the party to victory at a general election. “I’ll give him six months to do it or there will be really hard talking,” he said.
David Blunkett, the former Home Secretary, said that the Government had to re-engage with voters’ day-to-day concerns. “We’ve got to get a grip and we’ve got to build on the progress we’ve made, but we can’t rest on what we’ve done,” he said
Note from Radarsite: Merry Christmas, everybody!! I don't believe it! Just when I started writing my obituary for the West, the sleeping giant wakes. This, after the good news for Italy is just mind-boggling. We surely are living in interesting times. Radarsite will keep you posted. WOW!!!