London: Britons on Thursday trudged to polling booths to cast their votes in elections to 181 local councils and for the next Mayor of London, with incumbent Boris Johnson widely expected to retain City Hall in an Olympic year, but the ruling coalition is likely to suffer a blow.
It is widely believed that the ruling Conservative and Liberal Democrats is likely to witness significant reverses due to deep funding cuts, recession, job losses and the bad press that the David Cameron government has received since it came to power in 2010.
Conservative leaders insist that voters will have local issues foremost in their minds while voting today, but admit that the none-too-positive political climate at the national level will affect the party`s fortunes, as well as those of its ally Liberal Democrats.
The most high-profile contest is the election to the mayorship in London, in which Conservative Johnson is locked in a close contest with Labour`s Ken Livingstone. The two have sparred acrimoniously during the run-up to the election.
A poll in London`s Evening Standard yesterday put Johnson on 53 per cent and Livingstone on 47 per cent.
Candidates for the London Mayor`s post include Indian origin Benita Siobhan, 40, who resigned as a civil servant to contest as an independent.
Of the seven candidates for the election, the main contest is between Johnson and Livingstone.
Livingstone has promised to re-open trade offices in India if elected.
He had established the offices in Mumbai and Delhi before losing the last election in 2008 to Johnson, who shut them down on becoming Mayor as part of cost-cutting exercises.
The results of the elections are expected to be announced from early Friday.