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All change for London as Boris ousts ‘red Ken’

By Anna Tomforde, DPA,

London : Londoners, in their plucky way, have said a resounding goodbye to the era of Ken Livingstone and elected Boris Johnson as the city’s first-ever Conservative mayor.

“Hello Boris, good bye Ken,” said the posters supporting the dramatic change from working class, leftist Ken to Boris, a conservative eccentric with all the trappings of a privileged upbringing.

The transition from newt-loving Ken to Boris, a cycling classics scholar, has frightened some Londoners who had wholeheartedly identified with the distinctive brand of Livingstone’s eight-year rule.

“Ken has brought people together, I fear Boris will divide Londoners,” said one downcast Livingstone supporter.

But others said that Ken, the “formidable streetfighter,” had simply been “overawed” by Boris in the mood for change that had swept Britain after years of Labour rule in London, and at national level.

While it can be safely expected that the style and tone of office will change as Boris moves into City Hall, there is every indication that London’s new mayor will try his best to be a unifying figure, analysts said.

In a move underlining the close ties between London and New York, forged by Livingstone in the wake of the terrorists attacks of Sep 11, 2001, and in London four years later, Johnson took a congratulatory phone call from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whom he is due to meet in London next Friday.

“I’ll work flat out to repay and to justify your confidence. Boot me out with gusto if in four year’s time I haven’t pulled it off,” Boris told voters after his election was confirmed at midnight Friday.

In a notably generous victory speech, he heaped praise on his predecessor, confirming the complete lack of animosity between the two men evident during the mayoral election campaign.

“You shaped the office of mayor. You gave it national prominence and when London was attacked on 7 July 2005 you spoke for London,” Boris said in his tribute to Ken.

Through his “courage and sheer exuberant nerve” Livingstone had earned the thanks and admiration of millions of Londoners, “even if you think that they have a funny way of showing it today”.

“And when we have that drink together which we both so richly deserve, I hope we can discover a way in which the mayoralty can continue to benefit from your transparent love of London, a city whose energy conquered the world and which now brings the world together in one city.”

Johnson said he did “not for one minute believe that this election shows that London has been transformed overnight into a Conservative city”, but that it would remain the “greatest, most cosmopolitan, multi-racial generous hearted city on earth”.

Livingstone, who at 62 has grown from Labour Party rebel to older statesmen, rising to the job offer, assured Boris that he would do “all I can to help the new administration”.

“It has been the most amazing experience and Boris, the next few years will be the best few years of your life,” he said.