Boris Johnson is hoping to restore some pride in an election-battered Tory party by being re-elected as London mayor later today.
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The Conservatives have suffered major defeats in local elections across the country, losing hundreds of seats to Labour.
The Lib Dems have also lost heavily in a bad swathe of results for the coalition.
But an opinion poll published before voting started suggested that Mr Johnson, the Tory candidate for London mayor, will win a second term.
The Evening Standard poll suggested that Mr Johnson is set for victory, with a 53% to 47% margin over Labour’s Ken Livingstone.
The role of London mayor commands the largest personal mandate in British politics, and the contest to run the capital is central to the Conservatives’ strategy.
Siobhan Benita (Independent), Carlos Cortiglia (British National Party), Jenny Jones (Green), Brian Paddick (Liberal Democrats) and Lawrence Webb (UKIP) are also standing.
Although most local election results were announced overnight, full results for the London mayoral contest are not expected until this evening.
As well as the London battle, 10 cities from across the country held referendums on whether to have elected mayors.
Nottingham and Manchester were among cities to reject the idea – another major blow for Mr Cameron, who supports the idea.
Nottingham voted “no” by a margin of 57.5% to 42.5%, on a turnout of less than 24%.
Nottingham City Council’s Labour leader, Jon Collins, said: “This was a referendum imposed on us by the coalition Government which the majority of local people clearly did not agree with.
“I am pleased with this outcome because an elected mayor would have been expensive and unnecessary.
“This outcome shows that local people recognise we have a system in Nottingham which is working well for them and the city.”