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Local elections
England & Wales, May 2008
By Andrew Stevens and Brian Baker

NEWS SECTIONS: World news | Election news | News from Europe | News from North America | News from Latin America | News from Asia and Australia | News from Africa | Urban events | NEWS SPECIALS: The 2010 Love Parade tragedy | Local elections in England & Wales 2008 | London elections 2008 | Latest news story | London and Glasgow terrorist attacks 2007 |

Boris Johnson elected
new mayor of London

London, 3 May 2008:
The two term London mayor Ken Livingstone has crashed out of office at the hands of the Conservative Party, whose candidate Boris Johnson was able to secure victory after a bitterly fought campaign in results announced at midnight on May 2. Johnson was not able to secure outright victory in the first round however, but gained a comfortable lead over Livingstone once second preference votes were taken into account.  In the London Assembly, the far right British National Party gained their first ever seat.

In the first round Boris Johnson led with 1,043,761 votes against Livingstone's 893,877, which saw an aggregate total of 1,168,738 votes once second preferences were taken into account. Livingstone's final tally was 1,028,966 votes after second preference transfers. Liberal Democrat candidate Brian Paddick ranked third with 236,685 votes. The Green Party's Sian Paddick ranked fourth, followed by the British National Party's Richard Barnbrook. The remaining order of minor candidates was Alan Craig (Christian Choice), Gerard Batten (UK Independence Party), Lindsey German (Left List), Matt O'Connor (English Democrats) and Winston McKenzie (Independent).
Following the elections to the London Assembly, the Conservatives gained two seats (now on 11 members), the Labour Party gained one (now on nine), the Liberal Democrats lost two (now on three) and the Green Party retained their two list seats.  While the right wing One London party (a splinter of the UK Independence Party) lost their two seats, the British National Party mayoral candidate Richard Barnbrook was elected to the Assembly, becoming the most prominent elected politician for the far right in the UK.

In his speech at the results, the outgoing mayor gave an upbeat assessment of his eight years in office and paid tributes to the public servants who "restored public services" to the capital after 14 years of no city-wide government. However, in addition to Labour's nationwide woes in the 1 May elections, Livingstone's previous good standing in the capital was steadily eroded by his insouciance to concerns over the conduct of his advisers and his tumultuous relationship with the media in the final months of his term of office. (Report by Andrew Stevens)

Labour Party humiliated
in British local elections

London, 3 May 2008:
Britain’s ruling Labour Party has been relegated to third place in local elections held on 1 May in England and Wales. Final results have the opposition Conservative Party on 44 per cent, the Liberal Democrats on 25 per cent, while Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s Labour Party was supported by only 24 per cent of voters. The results are Labour’s worst electoral performance in almost 40 years.

With all 159 council, where elections were held, declared, Labour lost 331 councillors, while the Conservatives gained 256 seats and took control of an additional 12 councils including Southampton, Bury, Harlow and Maidstone.

The Liberal Democrats made net gains of 34 council seats. While losing seats to the Conservatives in southern England, they benifited from Labour's weakness in the north of the country. They now control the cities of Newcastle, Sheffield and Hull. The Liberal Democrats also retained control of Newcastle and, after a cliff hanger, that of Liverpool following the decision by an independent councillor to join the party.

In Wales the Nationalists gained 33 councillors.

Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown described the results bad and disappointing but newspaper headlines called the election outcome a 'Bloodbath for Brown' or Labour's 'Black Friday'.

Conservative wins: Basingstoke & Deane, Elmbridge, Southampton, Bury, Harlow, Maidstone, North Tyneside, Nuneaton & Bedworth, Redditch, Rossendale, Solihull, Vale of Glamorgan, West Lindsey, Wyre Forest
Conservative losses: Colchester, Coventry

Labour wins: Durham, Slough
Labour losses: Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly, Flintshire, Hartlepool, Merthyr Tydfil, Reading, Torfaen, Wolverhampton

Liberal Democrats wins: Burnley, Kingston-Upon-Hull, Sheffield, St Albans
Liberal Democrats losses: Pendle

Across England and Wales – there were no elections in Scotland and Northern Ireland - some 13,000 candidates fought for more than 4,000 seats on 159 municipal councils, while in London voters were asked to elect a mayor and a new assembly.

Labour loses heavily
in its Welsh heartland

Cardiff, 3 May 2008:
In Wales, every council seat was up for election so the changes were more comprehensive than in most of England. 18 of the 22 councils are now under no overall control, therefore negotiated administrations will be necessary across Welsh local government and within the Wales Local Government Association for the next four years.

Labour lost control of six councils, leaving them with an overall majority in only two. The Conservatives gained Vale of Glamorgan in the south of the country and retained control of Monmouthshire along the border with England. The new council leader in Vale of Glamorgan, Gordon Kemp, was rewarded with a brief early morning visit from the Conservatives leader David Cameron.

Labour lost heavily in its heartland, the former industrial areas in the valleys of southern Wales, where electors in four areas, Caerphilly, Torfaen, Merthyr Tydfil and Blaenau Gwent rejected the party. Labour also lost Flintshire in the North East.

In Welsh cities, Labour lost control of Newport in the east, whilst Swansea, in the south west, remains under no overall control.

In Cardiff, the capital, the Liberal Democrats strengthened their grip as largest party, adding three more councilors. They are likely to continue to lead the administration in the city. The Conservatives ousted Labour from second place and Plaid Cymru, the Welsh nationalist party, made gains.

Labour lost almost 30 per cent of the seats the party was defending across Wales. But they will remain the largest party with a final total likely to be in excess of 330 seats. The Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru all increased their total numbers of councilors. Plaid Cymru strengthened its position in 2nd place, whilst the Liberal Democrats, despite increasing their representation overall, slipped to 4th behind the Conservatives.

Plaid Cymru lost Gwynned, in the Welsh speaking north-west of the country, the only council where they enjoyed overall control. A controversial school closures policy prompted an effective local campaign and cost the party’s national president Dafydd Iwan his council seat. (Report by Brian Baker)

Debating chamber of the London Assembly

On other pages
Local government
in the UK

There are a total of 468 local authorities in the United Kingdom. In Scotland, Wales and urban England, with the exception of London, single-tier unitary authorities provide all local services, whereas non-metropolitan England is served by a two-tier system split between district and county councils.

Local government in the United Kingdom is a settled feature of the constitutional architecture and has long acted as an agency of the state in order to fulfil many of the functions required by central government to ameliorate social problems throughout the years. The need for a comprehensive system of local authorities arose alongside the expansion in the population of urban centres around the time of the Industrial Revolution, with the old administrative units of what constituted a ‘local state’ unable to cope with the demands placed on them, such as disease, sanitation problems, squalor and unemployment. From 1835 onwards, with the creation of municipal corporations in urban areas, the history of British local government became a legislative one. In 1888, another Act brought into being the two-tier system of counties and boroughs that still exists in most non-metropolitan areas to this day.

During the 1960s, a review established by the Labour government of Harold Wilson recommended the introduction of a unitary pattern of local government across England, though the party’s exit from government in the 1970 election prevented its introduction. The Conservatives had faced internal opposition to the loss of county councils and the government indicated early on that it preferred an evolutionary approach by introducing a comprehensive two-tier system of counties and districts from 1974 in the majority of England and Wales, and metropolitan counties and metropolitan districts in six urban areas of large population density.The metropolitan counties and the Greater London Council were then abolished in 1986, with a further round of unitary local reorganisation taking place in 1996-98.  A further round of reorganisation, either for county unitaries or two unitary counties, is scheduled to take effect in 2009. More