London mayoral election: Brown faces first poll test
Londoners go to the polls today to select a new mayor, the most powerful directly elected position in the UK. The vote is being seen as a major test for Prime Minister Gordon Brown. A loss for Labour incumbent Ken Livingstone at the hands of Conservative challenger Boris Johnson could be the beginning of the end for Brown's government.
The results of the election are not expected until Friday evening, UK time.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown, his popularity plunging and his reputation for economic competence under fire, on Thursday faced his first electoral test since taking over from Tony Blair last June.
The local council seats up for grabs in England and Wales -- alongside a high-profile clash to pick the next mayor of London -- were last contested in 2004 when anger over the Iraq war was running high.
Labour did badly then. If Brown loses even more ground this time, it could deal a blow to his standing, already plummeting in opinion polls.
A poor showing could also heighten speculation of a potential leadership challenge less than a year after Brown took the reins, especially if Labour were to lose London as well.
Governments traditionally suffer a bloody nose in mid-term polls but Brown does not have to call a parliamentary election until 2010, by which time he will be hoping the global credit crunch will have eased.