Boris's manifesto? He'll teach Ken how to ride a bike

Boris Johnson has unveiled his green transport policy – free cycling lessons. Not for all Londoners, but for Ken Livingstone, the man he is trying to oust as Mayor of London, who admits he can't ride a bike.

The Tory candidate, a keen cyclist, praised Mr Livingstone's plans for a Paris-style scheme to hire out 6,000 bikes from street corner stands in central London but could not resist drawing attention to the Mayor's wobbly credentials as a cyclist at the first hustings of the Mayoral election campaign.

Boris Johnson from

Mr Johnson won the biggest laugh of yesterday's 100-minute session when he said Mr Livingstone should "lead by personal example and learn to ride a bike". He told the Mayor: "I am willing to give free lessons – in complete safety and discretion. It is high time that, like me and every other cyclist in London, you face the full horror of trying to overtake a bendy bus." Mr Livingstone was not amused.

Mr Johnson was on good form as he poked fun at his rival. He explained that the meeting started seven minutes late because Mr Livingstone was delayed by London's transport problems.

Ken Livngstone from

But for the most part, it was Serious Boris rather than Buffoon Boris on show. His blond thatch has been shorn for the contest, and his suit was smart rather than scruffy. There were none of the gaffes that have punctuated his political career.

His only minor blip was to talk about the bike hire scheme that Mr Livingstone was going to launch. He corrected himself swiftly. "I am going to introduce it," he said, and got another laugh.

The Tories' private polls show Mr Livingstone and Mr Johnson running neck and neck. Labour officials admit their man faces the biggest fight of his life as he seeks a third term. Some had predicted that the Blond Bombshell would have self-destructed by now but it hasn't happened.

Senior Tories are hoping that Boris remains on his best behaviour. "Every time he does open his mouth, we keep our fingers crossed," one admitted. "We will be sweating right up to 1 May."

Mr Livingstone looked cool throughout yesterday's hustings, helped perhaps by his linen suit. He couldn't match Mr Johnson for humour but was scathing about the Tory's green credentials. A relatively mild-mannered debate finally caught fire in extra time when the Mayor accused his Tory challenger of talking "an awful lot of hypocrisy" and "posing as Green" after previously attacking environmentalists in his Daily Telegraph columns.

He said: "You can't have candidates saying 'I am in favour of nuclear power and I am terribly green' ... that 'I am going to be the greenest mayor ever but I applauded George Bush for not signing the Kyoto treaty'. It is rubbish." Mr Johnson barked back: "Stuff and nonsense."

The mayoral race is not a two-horse one, although it feels like one. Sian Berry, the Green Party candidate, was well-received by a sympathetic audience at the event, organised by the Green Alliance. She landed a well-targeted blow on her three male rivals, describing them as "men in suits" who would agree with most of her environmental policies. The public had to ask whether they trusted them to implement them, she said.

Sian Berry from

The Liberal Democrat candidate, Brian Paddick, the gay former senior Metropolitan Police officer, objected to being called a "suit" even though he was wearing a smart one. "I think people would raise a few eyebrows if I turned up in a dress," he said.

Burnishing his green credentials, Mr Paddick suggested that he would have the smallest carbon footprint of the four candidates on the platform. He didn't own a car, he walked everywhere, he had had the heating on in his one-bedroom flat for only 45 minutes this winter. Vote Liberal Democrat for lower fuel bills –and feeling cold.

Brian Paddick from

Mr Livingstone promised that, by 2010, the Thames would be the cleanest river in a major capital and people would start swimming in it. Surprisingly, Boris did not offer him free swimming lessons.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power