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Friday, 5 May, 2000, 05:44 GMT 06:44 UK
Livingstone on course for mayor
Ken Livingstone, the independent candidate and maverick MP expelled from Labour, is set to enter the political history books as London's first ever elected mayor.
But the result predicted in a BBC voter poll could be closer than opinion polls had suggested, with Conservative Steve Norris making a late surge.
Frank Dobson, the Labour candidate who beat Mr Livingstone in the party's bitter selection battle, is expected to poll only 14%, a major blow to party leaders who had been determined to stop Mr Livingstone.
Elsewhere across England, Labour lost control of 14 local councils as the Tories and Liberal Democrats gained ground. But there was a surprise as the Conservatives lost to the Liberal Democrats in the Romsey by-election.
Labour did see victories in the first two declared results from the elections to the Greater London Assembly (GLA), with the Tories winning in Croydon and Sutton.
The BBC London poll suggests that Mr Livingstone has won 42% of first preference votes - backed up by results from GLA seats - but will clinch the mayoralty with the help of the second preference votes of Labour and Liberal Democrat voters.
Despite a low turnout - below 33% for areas already announced - the final mayoral result is not expected until after 0930 BST.
Mr Norris's first preference 26% is expected to rise to 32%, while Ms Kramer is battling for third place with Mr Dobson.
Labour and the Conservatives appear to be neck-and-neck in the elections for the London Assembly, with the Greens likely to win up to three seats in a major shift in the shape of British politics.
Mr Livingstone said he would fight for the interests of Londoners as mayor, demanding more money from the government and telling ministers they were wrong over plans to partially privatise the London underground.
He said his expected victory had prevented Mr Norris from winning the election.
London Labour Party head Jim Fitzpatrick MP described the mayoral election as "a disappointing result for Labour"
He said: "We had a lot of faith in Frank Dobson - he is a genuine, decent man, but obviously has not won and that is disappointing.
"There will be an assessment of the campaign, and obviously there will be some people pointing fingers. We will have to look at what was done, learn lessons and move forward. I don't think it is going to be a blame game."
Ministers moved quickly to extend an olive branch to Mr Livingstone, with Education Secretary David Blunkett urging him to "work together" with the government.
But Mr Norris was refusing to concede defeat, saying: "We know it is going to be close. I'm not sure how scientific any of the entry polls are.
"I am pleased obviously that we have got a really good campaign.
"I think the message about action rather than politics has obviously resonated."
In the Romsey by-election, caused by the death of Tory MP Michael Colvin, the Liberal Democrats pulled off a shock result by taking the seat with a majority of more than 3,000 over the Tories, with the Labour candidate losing his deposit.
The result was hailed by Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy as "absolutely sensational".
In English council elections, the Tories and Liberal Democrats made gains at the expense of Labour, particularly in areas regarded as the government's heartlands.
Labour lost control of Bradford, Hartlepool, Oxford and also Portsmouth, which went to the Lib Dems.
Tory gains came in Cherwell, Eastbourne, Solihull - a major target for the party - and Torbay.
Tory leader William Hague said Labour had been "hammered" across England.
He said: "These are sensational results. These are far beyond any expectations that anybody had.
"It is genuine and really serious progress."
And Mr Livingstone warned that the council results had serious implications for Labour.
He said: "Those of us who are Labour, even if we are not currently in the Labour Party, will realise this is a real wake-up call.
"The Tories have done very well and we can't take the next election for granted."
Greater London Assembly elections latest
Brent and Harrow: Labour win; turnout: 29.39%
North East: Labour win; turnout: 33.48%
Croydon and Sutton: Conservative win; turnout: 35.54%
Greenwich and Lewisham: Turnout: 32.69%
Lambeth and Southwark: Turnout: 32.87%
South West: Turnout: 38.26%
West Central: Turnout: 34.24%
Merton and Wandsworth: Turnout: 36.58%
Barnet and Camden: Turnout: 31.86%
Ealing and Hillingdon: Turnout: 38.1%
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04 May 00 | UK Politics
Livingstone voters snub Blair
05 May 00 | UK Politics
Romsey defeat mars Tories' night
05 May 00 | Local elections
Hague cheers as Blair counts losses
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