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Coalition braced for rough ride

The coalition is braced for a rough ride as counting gets under way in key local elections.

Polls closed at 10pm on Thursday amid speculation that a drizzly day across much of the country could result in a low turnout.

The Tories and Liberal Democrats are expected to lose hundreds of the around 5,000 seats at stake on 181 local councils across England, Scotland and Wales.

But Prime Minister David Cameron will be hoping that Boris Johnson can buck the trend by securing re-election as London Mayor.

An eve-of-poll survey for the Evening Standard suggested that Mr Johnson - who gave a confident thumbs-up as he arrived to cast his ballot in north London on Thursday morning - is set for victory over Labour's Ken Livingstone, by a margin of 53% to 47%.

A senior Labour source said early signs were that the party had performed "strongly".

They expressed confidence about gains in the Midlands and South, including key battlegrounds such as Harlow and Reading.

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