5.5 million people can vote in today’s Mayor of London election, and commentators on all sides are predicting as many as 50% of them may exercise their democratic rights.

Such is the interest in a contest that has attracted press coverage across the world and dominated the headlines for months.

However, it is not just Londoners going to the polls today.

The Labour party is braced for considerable losses in the 4,500 council seats up for grabs across England and Wales.

The party could lose control of Sheffield to the Liberal Democrats. Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg is an MP for the city.

It is Gordon Brown’s first major electoral test since becoming Prime Minister last year and Mr Clegg’s first as party leader.

In cities such as Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle and Sunderland, and 73 English district authorities, one third of the council seats are up for election.

Seven English district authorities will elect half of the council while in Wales all councillors on all 22 councils will be elected.

But all eyes are on the capital today, and the race between Tory Boris Johnson and Labour’s Ken Livingstone is on a knife-edge.

The latest polls are contradictory – YouGov has Boris six points ahead on second preferences, while Mruk Cello and Ipsos MORI both show a one or two percent lead for the incumbent Ken, seeking a third term in charge of a city of seven million people.

Considering that in 2004 just 37% of Londoners turned out to vote in the Mayoral elections, predictions of up to 70% turnout this time round indicate the extent to which the race has captured the imagination of the electorate.

The Lib Dem candidate, Brian Paddick, who is gay, is predicted to win between 9% and 12%. The second preference votes of his supporters will likely decide who will preside over London’s £11bn budget for the next four years.

The 25-member London Assembly will also be elected today, and there is concern that the fascist, homophobic British National Party may win a seat for the first time.

The polls close at 10pm, but counting will not start until tomorrow morning and a result is not expected until late on Friday afternoon.

Full list of candidates for Mayor of London:-
Richard Barnbrook – British National Party
Gerard Batten – UK Independence Party
Sian Berry – Green Party
Alan Craig – Christian Peoples Alliance and Christian Party
Lindsey German – The Left List
Boris Johnson – Conservative Party
Ken Livingstone – Labour Party
Winston McKenzie – Independent
Brian Paddick – Liberal Democrats