Livingstone streets ahead of rivals

Ken Livingstone remains on course to crush Labour's Frank Dobson in the race to become London Mayor, according to a poll published today.

The survey, for London's Evening Standard newspaper, shows Mr Livingstone, standing as an Independent, with 61 per cent support, Mr Dobson on 16 per cent, Tory Steve Norris on 13 per cent and Liberal Democrat Susan Kramer on 8 per cent.

Mr Livingstone's lead of 45 per cent is 10 points down from a poll taken on the day he announced he was standing as a candidate. But any lingering Labour hopes that that survey was a freak have been dashed.

Labour had predicted that once campaigning was under way, Mr Dobson's ratings would soar while Mr Livingstone's would plummet.

In fact the ex-Health Secretary's rating has improved only 3 per cent since the poll on March 6 - within the margin of error of most surveys. And since a similar poll on February 20 it has fallen by 6 per cent.

The ICM poll of 1,005 voters across the capital was conducted on Tuesday and Wednesday - largely before yesterday's rebuke for Mr Livingstone from the Commons standards and privileges committee for failing to declare more than £158,000 of outside earnings.

But Labour hopes that the affair might severely dent the maverick's campaign suffered when the 300 voters questioned after the news broke still gave Mr Livingstone a high rating for trustworthiness.

Pollsters said their answers were similar to those who did not know of the MPs' censure, with an overall honesty rating for Mr Livingstone of 62 per cent, with only 18 per cent believing him to be dishonest.

Voters also showed little enthusiasm for Mr Dobson being replaced as Labour's candidate by former Northern Ireland Secretary Mo Mowlam.

If that were the case, said the survey, Mr Livingstone was still preferred by 55 per cent to 23 per cent of those polled.

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