Before he surprisingly unseated Ken Livingstone 4 years ago last month, Boris Johnson was widely regarded as an upper class Tory oaf with a propensity for putting his foot in his mouth. Since then he has acquitted himself surprisingly well, and like Livingstone he has acquired a man of the people image. On the other hand, Ken came from the other extreme. Once known as Red Ken, by the time he assumed office in May 2000, his long years in politics had taught him that it is one thing to promise the Earth and another to deliver it. At the late and unlamented GLC, the loony left had a ball spending other people's money, but when you have to set and meet your own, realistic budget, it's a different game entirely. This led some people to accuse him of selling out, but as with many radical politicians and the not-so-radical - like Barack Obama - Ken was not betraying his principles, rather he was coming to grips with reality.
The third contender for Mayor is Brian Paddick, who is previewed here
. In spite of the rhetoric, he too is within the political mainstream, even so, it remains to be seen if he would be able to deliver everything he promises should he upset the odds.
Talking of odds, here is how the bookmakers saw things
The three outsiders, including the one independent, Siobhan Benita, are profiled in miniature here
. Benita is the only candidate who wants to see a third runway at Heathrow, though she'd probably have second thoughts if she lived in Harlington or somewhere else under its flight path.
It is not air transport that concerns most Londoners so much as transport within the city, in particular the extortionate cost. An off-peak travel card at £7.80 is bad enough, but for those people for whom off-peak travel is not an option, the rail fares beggar belief. Then for drivers there is the congestion charge, the cost of parking, fines and clamping fees for those who are unlucky or caught out, and then there are the extras that all motorists have to pay such as the ever increasing cost of petrol, road tax and insurance.
Though Boris has been doing a lot to tackle street crime and anti-social behaviour, apart for his “Boris bikes
” and what has been called his vanity project, the new Routemaster bus, he has done precious little for Londoners as far as transport is concerned. Livingstone has made fares an issue, and has produced an amusing video featuring the MP Steve Pound
. (Obsessive letter writer Mark Taha
has an amusing anecdote about him, but as this is a family show, it can't be related here).
Although Johnson is currently the bookmakers' favourite, Livingstone cannot be ruled out, especially if people do some heavy thinking about transport over the next few weeks. And Brian Paddick? Although he is certainly not a 100/1 shot in spite of the published odds, and it would be premature to rule him out, it doesn't look like he will be able to pull off a major upset.
There is one factor though that may just swing things Johnson's way, the Olympics. As the incumbent he has naturally been closer to the preparations than Ken, and although both men are mavericks, Boris seems to have more of a team spirit, certainly when it comes to sport. This may be good news for our sportsmen and women, but unless Livingstone upsets the odds or there are some major policy developments at the national level, London's commuters can look forward to years of misery with increasing travel costs however they get to work. Unfortunately, so can everyone else in Britain, wherever they live.