AT JUST before midnight last night, Boris Johnson was returned as London mayor, bringing the Tories some consolation after a night of losses around the country.
Mr Johnson beat his Labour opponent Ken Livingstone by the narrowest of margins, winning by 51.53 per cent to 48.47 per cent – or just over a million votes to his rival’s 992,000.
No candidate won enough votes in the first round to secure victory, meaning second preferences had to be counted in a contest that was much closer than anyone had predicted.
The Greens, Jenny Jones came in third with almost 99,000 votes, pushing the Liberal Democrat candidate Brian Paddick into fourth place.
Mr Johnson told crowds at County Hall: “We will continue to fight for a good deal for Londoners.”
He said he was looking forward to representing the city during the Olympics and Paralympics, saying: “In just 84 days time, London will welcome the world and they will see a city that is going through an almost Victorian surge of investment.”
He said he would continue to lobby for further investment, for more policemen on the streets and for more opportunities for young people.
While the night ended in defeat for Mr Livingstone, Labour was expected to win in the London Assembly, increasing their number of members to 11 out of 25.
The London results were delayed by a power cut that set back the start of counting at Alexandra Palace by an hour. A couple of mislaid ballot boxes delayed the count still further and at one stage there were even rumours Mr Livingstone would demand a recount.
Victory in the London mayoral election had been Prime Minister David Cameron’s last hope for a silver lining after a poor showing in nationwide council polls left his party under a cloud.
The BBC reported that straight after the results were announced, Mr Johnson was expected to rush over to Downing Street for a photo opportunity with the Prime Minister.
Neither of the main contenders in the mayoral race have a straightforward relationship with their parties. And the mayoral race was characterised more by their personalities than by party politics.
Shadow chancellor Ed Balls had said that Mr Johnson might win “despite his association with David Cameron and George Osborne, rather than because of it”.
Shadow Olympics minister Tessa Jowell, who chaired Mr Livingstone’s campaign, said there had been an assumption based on opinion polls that the Tory candidate would “walk away with it”.
She said the closeness of the campaign reflected a national lack of confidence in the Conservatives, adding: “It’s not just the last few hours, but the last few months for the Tories have been absolutely catastrophic.”