Conservatives hold London as Labour sweeps Britain | News | DW | 05.05.2012
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Conservatives hold London as Labour sweeps Britain

Conservative incumbent Boris Johnson has narrowly won a second term as London's mayor. The opposition Labour Party, however, has swept much of the rest of recession-hit Britain in local elections.

Britain's governing Conservatives held onto London's mayoralty in municipal elections on Friday, but suffered bruising losses in local contests elsewhere across the country.

London's re-elected conservative mayor Boris Johnson will lead the European Union's largest city during the 2012 Summer Olympic Games. Although Johnson was originally expected to win by a wide margin, he ultimately drew just 51.5 percent to defeat the Labour Party candidate Ken Livingstone, a veteran leftist, who got 48.5 percent.

Election results in London had been delayed by several hours due to a mix-up in one of city's 14 constituencies. In Brent and Harrow, two boxes of ballots were stored without being entered manually as required.

Local elections also took place in some 181 local authorities in England, Wales and Scotland on Friday. Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservatives lost around 400 local seats, including some in Cameron's own constituency, Oxfordshire in southern England. The Conservatives now control 42 local councils, having lost power in 12.

PM David Cameron and Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg

Setbacks for conservatives and liberals - Cameron and Nick Clegg

Spotlight on the economy

Cameron, however, defended his coalition government's controversial austerity measures, saying that his party would make difficult decisions that were in the national interest.

"These are difficult times and there aren't easy answers," Cameron said.

"What we have to do is take the difficult decisions to deal with the debt, deficit and broken economy that we've inherited and we will go on making those decisions and we've got to do the right thing for our county," the prime minister said.

Center-left Labour, meanwhile, managed to pick up some 32 councils, putting them in control of 75. In total, Labour won 824 local seats.

Labour leader Ed Miliband criticized the austerity measures and the Cameron government's handling of the British economy, which has slipped back into recession.

Miliband receiving handshakes from supporters in Birmingham

Handshakes all round in Birmingham for Labour's Miliband

"We are a party winning back people's trust, regaining ground, but there is more work to do," Miliband said. "People are suffering from this recession, people are suffering from a government that raises taxes for them and cuts taxes for millionaires."

Coalition tensions

Cameron's coalition partners, the centrist Liberal Democrats, also suffered loses on election night. The Lib Dems lost one of the six councils they control and shed some 329 local seats.

Some Conservatives have expressed dissatisfaction over the influence of the Lib Dems within the coalition government, calling for a return to core party values.

Foreign Secretary William Hague hinted at possible tensions within the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition.

"Of course the Conservatives can't do everything that we would like to do in government because we are in coalition within the Liberal Democrats," Hague said.

slk/ipj (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)