It’s time for London’s mayoral election, and the campaigning is beginning to heat up. And it’s not just limited to Boris Johnson v Ken Livingstone, although it will likely boil down to that in the end. There’s a full cast of contenders willing to promise free ice cream and pony rides – and anything else, for that matter – in return for your precious vote.
So, when you see their beaming mayoral candidate faces on the TV over the next two months, you’ll need to know who’s who. Which one is a dog-whistle racist? Which one wants driverless Tube trains within two years? Which one used to be an archaeologist? Which one breeds newts?
Read TNT’s interview with Boris and Ken – click here
Siobhan Benita – Independent
What’s the story? She’s come from nowhere, ditching her job as a civil servant – in which she’s compiled an impressive and varied CV – in the hope of breaking the cosy duopoly by running as an independent. She’s big on transport and urban renewal, promising a “more creative, more inclusive, more forward-looking London”, extending the Tube’s operating hours, freezing fares until 2014 and sending a ‘hit-squad’ to spruce up the capital’s derelict buildings.
What they won’t be saying: “I’m the best of both worlds – a bit like Boris and a bit like Ken.”
Carlos Cortiglia – BNP
What’s the story? Born in Uruguay, but with Italian and Spanish ancestry, Cortiglia moved to the UK in 1989, making him a curious candidate for a party so opposed to immigration. His main concern is ‘reclaiming’ parts of London for “indigenous caucasians” – he has compared Tower Hamlets to the old Yugoslavia because immigrants have been setting up “ghettos that usually have their own language, their own customs and their own values”.
What they won’t be saying: “London’s diversity and rich cultural tapestry is what makes it a truly global city.”
Boris Johnson – Conservative
What’s the story? London’s snowy-haired incumbent, whose ‘charming buffoon’ schtick belies a prodigious intellect, began his career as a journalist, working at The Times, The Telegraph and The Spectator before moving into politics. It can be tricky to pin Johnson down on details – he presents more as “bubbles in the champagne” than a full-blown policy wonk – but he has committed to introducing driverless Tube trains within two years, after 23 strikes since 2008.
What they won’t be saying: “The City of London and their banker mates are lovely. People should leave them alone.”
Jenny Jones – Greens
What’s the story? After spending 10 years working as an archaeologist in the Middle East, Jones joined the Greens and has become a prominent activist, focusing on transport, planning and social justice. She would likely hold the Met’s feet to the fire, having hammered them on crowd control tactics and attitudes toward young people. She’s also a forceful advocate of cyclists, healthy food in schools and allotments to enable people to grow their own food.
What they won’t be saying: “Boris said all new buses would be hybrid electricals but, hey, let’s not sweat the details.”
Ken Livingstone – Labour
What’s the story? An avowed atheist, former food critic and breeder of newts, ‘Red Ken’ became the first mayor of London when the post was created in 2000 and is now seeking a return to office. During his tenure, Livingstone secured the Olympics, introduced the congestion charge and made a stirring, defiant speech following the 2005 London bombings. Livingstone has promised to boost police numbers and reintroduce living allowances for London-based students.
What they won’t be saying: “Well done, Boris – you deserve to preside at the opening ceremony of my Olympics.”
Brian Paddick – Liberal Democrat
What’s the story? During more than 30 years at the Met, Paddick became Britain’s most senior openly gay policeman and ruffled a few feathers by instructing officers in Brixton to not bother arresting people busted with cannabis. After resigning from the Met over the handling of the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes, Paddick ran in 2008 but is back, promising to reduce bus fares, reform policing and move toward running the Tube on renewable fuel.
What they won’t be saying: “Rebekah Brooks promised she would give the horse back once she was done with it.”
Femi Solola – Independent
What’s the story? The former teacher and Met community support officer is one of the feel-good stories of the mayoral election but faces an uphill battle to distinguish himself from the other candidates with greater name-recognition. So far, Solola has offered a grab-bag of crowd-pleasing promises: to improve the cost-effectiveness and reliability of the city’s transport systems, as well as helping small businesses by persuading banks to lend at lower interest rates. Good luck.
What they won’t be saying: “I now realise that proper, career politicians are just better at this stuff than me.”
Lawrence Webb – UKIP
What’s the story? A former electrician and member of the Territorial Army, Webb is hoping to capitalise on the financial crisis gripping Europe by pushing the party’s line that the UK should remain independent of the continent. This approach will also manifest itself in calls for tighter immigration laws to protect jobs and housing in London, as well as rolling back London’s Low Emission Zone, which will make life harder for businesses that rely on dirty vehicles.
What they won’t be saying: “We still hate the French, but maybe it’s a good idea to switch to the Euro after all.”