Vote 2007 under way across the nation

VOTING got underway this morning as millions of voters across mainland Great Britain prepared to elect councillors in every English shire district and Scottish authority, members in a number of metropolitan and unitary English authorities, and members of the Scottish parliament and Welsh assembly.

By Graham Dines

VOTING got underway this morning as millions of voters across mainland Great Britain prepared to elect councillors in every English shire district and Scottish authority, members in a number of metropolitan and unitary English authorities, and members of the Scottish parliament and Welsh assembly.

Tony Blair is steeling himself for an abject set of results, as voters take out their pent up frustration on candidates standing under the Labour banner.

After a string of poor performances in local elections, Labour holds just 28% of Britain's 21,892 council seats - its weakest position since 1973 - against the Tories' 39%.


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312 of England's 388 local authorities go to the polls today with all seats up for grabs on 25 unitary authorities and 150 district councils, and one third of seats facing re-election in 36 metropolitan boroughs, 20 unitary authorities and 81 shire districts.

It is the biggest election in the local cycle in England, with around 10,500 seats being contested, and across England some 32.8 million people are eligible to vote. London is the one area entirely untouched by the elections.

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There are also polls for directly elected mayors in Bedford, Mansfield and Middlesbrough.

The elections will also be a tough test for Conservative leader David Cameron, who has to convert the Tory poll lead into electoral gains across the county.

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell will also be looking for signs of progress to reassure internal party critics that he is the man to take them into the General Election of 2009/10.

Polling stations close at 10pm, and results are expected to start flooding in after midnight - but not in Suffolk, where all seven districts have decided to delay counting until tomorrow morning.

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