LONDON: Boris Johnson was re-elected mayor of Olympic host city London late Friday to relief Prime Minister David Cameron, after his Conservative Party took a beating in mid-term local elections.
Eccentric Johnson, famed for his dishevelled blond locks and gift for buffoonery, said he would "continue to fight for a good deal for Londoners" as he accepted a second four-year term just before midnight.
"In just 84 days' time London will welcome the world," he said at City Hall in southeast London. "The world will see a city that is going through a neo-Victorian surge of investment in public transport."
The 47-year-old won 51.5 percent of the vote in a closely fought run-off with rival, Labour's Ken Livingstone.
Elsewhere, the Labour Party made big gains in the local elections at the expense of the Conservatives and their Liberal Democrat coalition partners.
Capping a bad month for the government after Britain slid back into recession, Cameron's push to create the posts of elected mayors in England's biggest cities was widely rejected in referendums.
Cameron said the partial polls in England, Wales and Scotland had taken place against a "difficult national backdrop", and insisted he would not hide from taking unpopular decisions where necessary. "These are difficult times and there aren't easy answers," he said.
"What we have to do is take the difficult decisions to deal with the debt, deficit and broken economy that we've inherited and we will go on making those decisions."
A BBC estimate put Labour up two percent on 38 percent, the Conservatives down four on 31, the Liberal Democrats unchanged on 16. They projected a low turnout of 32 percent.
With results in from all 181 local councils, the centre-right Conservatives controlled 42 councils, having lost power in 12. They had 1,006 seats, losing 403.
Centre-left Labour were the big winners, gaining control of 32 councils to give them power in 75, and taking 2,159 seats (up 824).
The centrist Lib Dems controlled six councils, down one, and had 438 seats (down 329).
Across Britain, fewer than a third of English seats were up for grabs, while all seats in Scotland and almost all in Wales were up for election. Northern Ireland did not vote this time.
Labour's showpiece gain was wresting back control of Britain's second city Birmingham from a Conservative-Lib Dem coalition after eight years.
And in another embarrassment for Cameron, the Conservatives even lost seats to Labour in his own constituency in Oxfordshire, southern England.
Cameron wanted elected mayors in all major English cities, but only Bristol in southwest England backed the idea: voters in nine other cities rejected it.
Labour's gains also showed they were winning support in the towns and suburbs of the more affluent south of England, where they need backing if they hope to win the general election due in 2015.
Ed Miliband, whose leadership of the Labour Party was heavily criticised just weeks ago, said the vote was the result of Cameron promising change but delivering disappointment.
"We are a party winning back people's trust, regaining ground, but there is more work to do," he said.
Following a bad month for the Conservatives on a string of domestic issues, some within the party have called for a return to core right-wing values, bemoaning the influence of their centrist Lib Dem coalition partners.
Hinting at the frustration in the ranks, Foreign Secretary William Hague said: "Of course the Conservatives can't do everything that we would like to do in government because we are in coalition within the Liberal Democrats." (AFP)