Business leaders back Johnson despite growing 'buffoon' factor

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Indy Politics

Business people want Boris Johnson to win the race to become Mayor of London but believe Ken Livingstone will secure a third term, according to a ComRes survey of 100 City bosses.

Of those polled, 62 per cent would prefer the Tory candidate to win, with 24 per cent opting for Mr Livingstone and 15 per cent for Brian Paddick, the Liberal Democrat candidate. The proportion who believe Mr Johnson would project a good image of London as Mayor has jumped from 46 to 55 per cent.

But the poll revealed signs that his appeal could be on the wane. The number of business people who think the Tory candidate is seen as "too much of a buffoon" has risen from 53 to 65 per cent since January, while the proportion who believe he does not come across as serious enough has also increased, from 57 to 63 per cent. The number of business people who think he has a clearly defined set of policies has dropped from 33 to 30 per cent over the same period.

Perhaps as a result of these concerns, 69 per cent of those polled expect Mr Livingstone to win the election on 1 May, with 28 per cent predicting Mr Johnson will become Mayor and only 2 per cent forecasting a Liberal Democrat victory.

By a 2-1 margin, business leaders do not think Mr Livingstone has done a good job and should be given a third term. Some 70 per cent believe he has been divisive and 72 per cent that he is too left-wing. But 60 per cent think he has shown imagination and courage in introducing policies such as the congestion charge.

Mr Livingstone, who trails Mr Johnson in the opinion polls, will unveil his crime manifesto today as he tries to close the gap. He will pledge to reduce crime in London by 6 per cent a year in the next four years.

The Mayor, who has financed an extra 6,000 police and 4,000 community support officers, will add a further 1,000 police this year. He will also promise to build up defences against terrorist attacks; tackle the murders of young people; combat drug crime; reduce crimes against women, including rape and domestic violence, and make sure the make-up of the Metropolitan Police reflects London.

Yesterday, the Labour and Tory candidates clashed over the environment after Mr Johnson's "green" manifesto pledged incentives for Londoners to recycle and that he would work with boroughs "to reward people for going green, rather than fining them".

He would invest £6m in making open spaces cleaner and safer; plant 10,000 street trees; protect the green belt and oppose development on gardens; cut London's carbon emissions by 60 per cent from their 1990 levels by 2025 through greater energy efficiency and cutting congestion; oppose the third runway at Heathrow; give council tax rebates to people who insulate their homes and make London "cycle-friendly".

Pledging to make London "the greenest city in the world," Mr Johnson said: "While the current Labour Mayor and his officials have spent time and taxpayers' money jetting around the world attending climate change conferences, key aspects of our local environment have been neglected."

But Mr Livingstone claimed Mr Johnson was "completely out of touch" as one of the few politicians to side with George Bush in opposing the Kyoto treaty on climate change.

"In line with this, his manifesto lacks any credible policies to seriously cut carbon emissions or improve London's environment," he said. "Sixty-one per cent of Londoners support a £25 CO2 charge on gas-guzzling cars like some so-called 'Chelsea Tractors,' high-powered sports cars and luxury executive vehicles, yet Boris Johnson is not willing to alienate wealthy, Tory voters."