Boris Johnson won a second term as mayor of London on Friday in a marquee contest between two of Britain’s biggest personalities to run the country’s biggest city.
Johnson’s victory after a hard-fought, profanity-laced campaign guarantees that it will be his endearingly goofy face, framed by a perpetually awful haircut, that will welcome millions of international spectators and athletes to the Summer Olympics here in the British capital, which kick off in less than three months.
But many of the challenges from Johnson’s first term remain, including how to improve London’s creaky infrastructure and maintain its status as a world-class city fit for the 21st century.
The closely watched race between Johnson and Ken Livingstone (with other candidates far behind) was a rerun of the 2008 election, except their roles were reversed back then: Livingstone was the sitting mayor and Johnson the upstart. This time the incumbent prevailed, though by a slim margin: 51.5% of the vote for Johnson, 48.5% for Livingstone.
Johnson’s win was the brightest spot of news Friday for his Conservative Party, which was soundly thrashed in other local elections across Britain. Two years into power at the national level, the Conservatives have seen their popularity plummet over the last few months as the result of a series of government missteps and the painful effects of the harshest austerity cuts seen here in at least a generation.
Though voter turnout was low, those who did go to the polls Thursday turned the Conservatives out of more than 400 local council seats, according to results tabulated Friday. The Liberal Democrats, the Conservatives’ junior partner in Britain’s ruling coalition, lost more than 300.
The opposition Labor Party picked up more than 800 seats, gaining control of local government in key places such as Birmingham in central England, Britain’s second-largest city, and Cardiff, the capital of Wales.
“This is a Labor Party getting back in touch with people, getting back in touch with people’s concerns,” said Ed Miliband, the leader of the party, which was ousted from power in 2010 after 13 years. “Labor knows the battle to regain trust is an ongoing battle.”
-- Henry Chu
Photo: Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, speaks immediately after being declared the winner of a second term, with his main rival, Ken Livingstone, looking on behind him. Credit: Peter Macdiarmid / Getty Images