Sadiq Khan looks set to become the new Mayor of London – boosting Labour after it slumped in Scotland’s elections.
Mr Khan, who would be the city’s first Muslim mayor, is on course for victory over Conservative Zac Goldsmith.
The result would bolster leader Jeremy Corbyn after Labour were beaten into third in Scotland by the Tories and lost English councillors.
In Scotland, the SNP said it would form a minority government after winning its third election in a row in Scotland.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is celebrating what she said was an “emphatic” victory, her first as party leader, after the SNP emerged as the largest party at Holyrood with 63 seats, ahead of the Conservatives on 31 and Labour on 24.
But she played down talk of another independence referendum after falling short by two seats of an overall majority.
In Wales, Labour remains as the largest party, with 29 out of 60 seats, but was denied a majority as Plaid Cymru and UKIP both made notable gains. Counting is continuing in Northern Ireland although it has been a good day so far for the DUP and Sinn Fein.
Mr Khan’s expected victory would end nearly a decade of Conservative control of City Hall. The former Labour MP and minister, 45, would become London’s third mayor after Mr Johnson and Ken Livingstone.
Although the result has yet to be declared he got 44.2% of first preference votes to Mr Goldsmith’s 35.6% – second preference votes are now being counted with Mr Khan set to pass the crucial 50% mark when they are added in.
Mr Khan distanced himself from Mr Corbyn during the campaign, pledging to freeze fares on the capital’s transport network and build more affordable housing, but also promising to champion business and cut taxes on enterprise.
His victory follows a controversial campaign in which the Conservatives were accused of trying to smear Mr Khan by accusing him of sharing a platform with extremists – tactics defended by ministers but questioned by some in the party.
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A Labour victory in the capital was seen as a minimum expectation if Mr Corbyn was to avoid a full-blown leadership crisis after the party suffered one of its worst ever results in Scotland – losing 13 seats and being pushed into third place by the resurgent Scottish Conservatives.
Speaking before Mr Khan’s victory, Mr Corbyn talked up Labour’s performance, saying it had defied predictions by retaining control of councils in the south of England such as Southampton, Hastings, Crawley and Norwich.
“All across England last night we were getting predictions that we were going to lose councils,” he said on a visit to Sheffield. “We didn’t. We hung on and we grew support in a lot of places.”
Allies of Mr Corbyn have called on critics within the party to rally round the leader, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell urging an end to “carping” and shadow environmental minister Clive Lewis said they should “put up or shut up”.
But former shadow minister Michael Dugher said Labour was “not on a trajectory to victory” in the next general election, scheduled for 2010 while former shadow chancellor Chris Leslie said Labour should have done much better.
In other election developments:
- Former Tory MPs Neil Hamilton and Mark Reckless are among UKIP candidates elected to the Welsh Assembly
- UKIP gains English council seats, including six in Thurrock, and comes second in two by-elections
- Gill Furniss, the widow of Labour MP Harry Harpham, retains his Sheffield seat in a Westminster by-election
- The Lib Dems gain MSPs in Edinburgh and Fife, take control of Watford Council and add 29 councillors
- Labour wins seats from the Conservatives on the London Assembly
- Liverpool’s Labour Mayor Joe Anderson is re-elected
- Shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham considers running for newly created role of Greater Manchester mayor
- Ex-Labour MP Vera Baird is re-elected as police and crime commissioner for Northumbria, as the 40 results are declared
Labour’s vote share is down about 6% on average on 2012 – the last time these seats in England were contested – with 24 fewer councillors. But its share is up 4% on the general election in key wards, with the Conservatives down by a similar amount.
On the basis of Friday’s results, the BBC is calculating that Labour would have got a 31% projected share of the national vote, slightly higher than expected, with the Conservatives on 30%, the Lib Dems on 15% and UKIP on 12%.
In Scotland, Labour gained one seat from the SNP – Edinburgh Southern – but failed to take other targets and was beaten into third place by the Conservatives – a result that would have been unthinkable in the past.
Speaking in Edinburgh, Nicola Sturgeon said the SNP had a “clear and unequivocal” mandate and would govern on its own rather than in alliance with other parties.
On the question of a future vote on independence, she said the SNP would make “its case with passion, with patience but will always respect the opinion of the people”.
But Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson, who said any prospect of the issue being reopened in the next five years had been “utterly shredded” by the SNP’s failure to win a majority.
In Wales, Labour’s vote is down by eight points overall, the Conservative vote is down by three points, while Plaid Cymru is up by two points.
Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood celebrated a famous victory after she took the seat of Rhondda from Labour in its south Wales heartlands. The Lib Dem Welsh leader Kirsty Williams resigned after her party was reduced to one seat in the Welsh Assembly.
But the biggest story of the night in Wales was the performance of UKIP, which saw its vote increase by 12 points and saw seven candidates elected. The party’s leader Nigel Farage hailed it as a significant breakthrough.
Thursday’s polls were the single largest test of political opinion before the next general election, which is scheduled for 2020, with 43 million people entitled to take part.
In total, 2,747 seats in English councils – spanning metropolitan boroughs, unitary authorities and district councils – were up for grabs.
David Cameron said the party’s second place in Scotland and its showing in England, where it took control of Peterborough Council and won council seats in key Westminster marginals such as Dudley and Nuneaton, represented a good result for a party in government for six years.
“Local election day for sitting prime ministers is supposed to be a day of dread, waiting for the knock on the door like a condemned man waiting for a hangman,” he said. “But that’s wasn’t what it was like last night.”
What’s still to come (all timings are estimates)
Friday 6 May
11:30 onwards: Forty four councils in England declaring on Friday
15:00: First results of London Assembly elections
17:00: First preference vote share information for elections to Northern Ireland Assembly
1800: Result of first preference votes for Mayor of London (final result expected early evening)
Results of Police and Crime Commissioner elections in England and Salford mayoral contest are also expected on Friday.
Saturday 7 May
14:00 Results from five remaining councils in England
16:00 Result of Bristol Mayoral contest
Result of elections to Northern Ireland Assembly expected
Sunday 8 May
16:00 Result of elections to Bristol Council (final council in England to declare)
Results of Police and Crime Commissioner elections in Wales