Frank Dobson's hopes of becoming mayor of London looked doomed yesterday after the latest opinion poll put him in third place behind Ken Livingstone and Steven Norris.
Mr Livingstone's lead has been cut by 12 points to 49 per cent, but he is still way ahead of the other contenders, according to the ICM/Evening Standard poll.
Mr Norris, the Conservative candidate, has moved into second place for the first time,commanding 16 per cent. Mr Dobson came third with 15 per cent, and the Liberal Democrat, Susan Kramer, had 12 per cent.
The poll's findings show Mr Dobson has failed to make any impact in the mayoral contest since he was declared Labour's official candidate in February. With the election due on May 4, the former health secretary has 20 days in which to narrow the 34-point gap between himself and Mr Livingstone.
However, Labour claimed that the 16-point drop in support for Mr Livingstone proved that the Londoners were realising the damage the independent candidate could do to London.
The party also pointed to the poll's findings on elections to the Greater London Assembly (GLA), which put Labour on 44 per cent, the Tories on 27 per cent and the Liberal Democrats on 17 per cent. The Greens, who are likely align themselves with Mr Livingstone if he becomes mayor, are on seven per cent.
The poll was welcomed by the Liberal Democrats because it showed Mrs Kramer had increased her support to get within "spitting distance" of the established candidates.
Mrs Kramer, who launched her manifesto yesterday with pledges to recruit 1,000 community policemen and charge motorists £5 a day to enter central London, said there was a "dead heat" between herself, Mr Dobson and Mr Norris.
Mr Livingstone admitted that the poll indicated he had gone beneath the 50 per cent threshold he needed to win on the first round of voting, but said it was more realistic:"I have always said it will be a tight fight and I have always thought it would go to a second ballot."
Mr Norris said that he was delighted with the poll. "Steve versus Ken - it's quite a good prize fight and I am sure we will both go the distance," he said.
The poll findings come as the four main mayoral candidates took part in a debate on the London Eye wheel yesterday for BBC Radio 2's Jimmy Young Show. Mr Dobson shrugged off his third place in the poll and claimed the most significant finding was the fall in Mr Livingstone's support. "Ken has lost 12 points and Steve Norris and myself are level pegging. As the seriousness of the campaign and the seriousness of the mayor's job becomes more widely known, I will do better," he said.
Later he added that Labour's 44 per cent showing in the GLA part of the poll showed the party was on course for its best performance in London for nearly 30 years.Reuse content