LONDON –– Sadiq Khan has been elected the new Mayor of London –– boosting Labour after it slumped in Scotland’s elections.
Khan is the city’s first Muslim mayor, after beating Conservative Zac Goldsmith.
The result bolsters 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.
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.
Khan’s victory ends eight years of Conservative control of City Hall. The former Labour MP and minister, 45, becomes London’s third mayor after Johnson and Ken Livingstone.
Khan distanced himself from 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 Khan by accusing him of sharing a platform with extremists –– tactics defended by ministers but questioned by some in the party.
Goldsmith’s sister Jemima has criticised how his campaign was run, while former Conservative Cabinet minister Baroness Warsi called it an “appalling dog whistle campaign”.
Goldsmith tweeted: “Sad that Zac’s campaign did not reflect who I know him to be –– an eco friendly, independent-minded politician with integrity.”
She also congratulated Khan, calling him a “great example to young Muslims”.
A Labour victory in the capital was seen as a minimum expectation if 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 Khan’s victory, 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 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”.
And the general secretary of the GMB union Tim Roache has told the BBC Corbyn should be given “a year or so” to prove himself.
Roache said Corbyn’s critics within party should rally around his leadership but conceded Labour “should be winning hundreds of seats” at this stage.
But former shadow minister Michael Dugher said Labour was “not on a trajectory to victory” in the next general election, scheduled for 2020 while former shadow chancellor Chris Leslie said Labour should have done much better.
Labour’s vote share is down about six per cent on average on 2012 –– the last time these seats in England were contested –– with 24 fewer councillors. But its share is up four per cent 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 per cent projected share of the national vote, slightly higher than expected, with the Conservatives on 30 per cent, the Lib Dems on 15 per cent and UKIP on 12 per cent.
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.