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Last Updated: Friday, 11 June, 2004, 21:12 GMT 22:12 UK
Ken's victory is steeped in irony
Analysis
By Nick Assinder
BBC News Online political correspondent

The fact that Tony Blair's best local election news came in the victorious shape of London mayor Ken Livingstone, once his arch enemy, is riddled with irony.

Ken Livingstone
Mr Livingstone is a million miles from New Labour
And that is only sharpened by the fact that it is quite probable Mr Livingstone won in spite of being re-admitted to the Labour party rather than because of it.

In the end he was given a serious run for his money by Tory candidate Steve Norris, leading him to claim that "rumours of the death of the Tory party have been rather overplayed."

But, when second preference votes came into play he coasted to a comfortable, if not runaway victory.

He may have briefly wondered if he would have done significantly better had he stayed outside the Labour party and run as an independent.

And the prime minister's relief that Labour has at least won something in these polls will be tempered by the fact that it was in this fashion.

No revolution

Mr Livingstone is a million political miles away from New Labour, is opposed to a whole series of key government policies and was vocal in his opposition to the war on Iraq.

The UKIP vote may even signal trouble ahead for both the main parties when the European election results are published on Sunday
But during his first term in the job he did not spark the socialist, anti-government revolution some had feared.

So when it was obvious that the official Labour candidate would be humiliated in the mayoral election, Mr Blair relented and opened the door for Mr Livingstone's readmission to the party he had kicked him out of before the last London election.

Put bluntly, he wanted a winner and if that had to be Ken Livingstone then he could live with that.

Elsewhere in the London Assembly, Labour's performance was closer to its national one - that is not good.

Robust fight

And smaller parties including the Greens and most notably the UK Independence Party did well.

The UKIP vote may even signal trouble ahead for both the main parties when the European election results are published on Sunday.

For the Tories, the fact that Steve Norris put up such a robust fight will be seen as further evidence that the party is being taken seriously again and may yet take this prize in the future.

The Liberal Democrat's Simon Hughes, unlike his party nationally, failed to score a significant advance and was left trailing in third place - pretty much as predicted.





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