LONDON - British Prime Minister David Cameron on Saturday hailed fellow Conservative Boris Johnson’s re-election as London mayor but it was the sole bright spot for his party as it took a mid-term beating.
In local elections on Friday the opposition Labour party took control of 32 councils and won more than 800 seats at the expense of the Conservatives and their coalition partners the Liberal Democrats.
“I think it was a very strong campaign by Boris. It was based on his record, on the excellent things he has done out there and I am delighted to congratulate him,” said Cameron, standing alongside Johnson at City Hall.
“It was a campaign the whole Conservative party got behind. I enjoyed campaigning for Boris but now what matters is working together for the good of London, as PM, as mayor, and that is exactly what we are going to do.”
Eccentric Johnson, famed for his dishevelled blond locks and gift for buffoonery, won 51.5 percent of the vote in a closer-than-expected run-off with rival and predecessor, Labour’s Ken Livingstone.
“It was a very hard-fought long campaign,” said Johnson, who will now lead London into the Olympic Games in July.
“I am grateful to the Conservative Party. They did turn out in large numbers to help me but I think we were able to reach people across the city with a message that resonated with them in tough times.”
British newspapers said Cameron now faces pressure from the right wing of the Conservative party to ditch policies including support for gay marriage, and bring in more radical tax and spending ideas.
“Now stand up for Tory values,” said the right-leaning Daily Mail newspaper, while the left-leaning Guardian said the “drubbing” also boosted Johnson’s own credentials for a possible Conservative leadership challenge.
The Conservatives lost 12 councils and more than 400 seats in the local elections while the centrist Lib Dems, led by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, lost one council and lost more than 300 seats.
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.