Livingstone's poll lead cut by half since rejoining Labour

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Ken Livingstone's lead in the race to become Mayor of London has halved since he rejoined the Labour Party, according to an opinion poll published yesterday.

The YouGov survey for the London Evening Standard put Mr Livingstone on 40 per cent, Tory candidate Steve Norris on 31, and the Liberal Democrats' Simon Hughes on 17. The British National Party is in fourth place on 4 per cent, ahead of the Greens on 3 per cent.

In December, Mr Livingstone was on 44 per cent, Mr Norris on 26 and Mr Hughes on 20. The new poll suggests Mr Livingstone, seeking a second term after winning the job as an independent four years ago, has been damaged by his readmission to the Labour fold before he seeks re-election on 10 June.

The survey suggests the contest is now a battle between Mr Livingstone and Mr Norris, which will come as a big disappointment for the Liberal Democrats. They believe they could win the election provided that Mr Hughes comes second in the first ballot, after which people's second preference votes are redistributed.

Mr Norris said last night: "Livingstone's support has fallen dramatically since he took the decision to rejoin Labour. This is clearly a two-horse race and Livingstone's failure to tackle crime is his Achilles heel. Voters want a safer London and on 10 June that's what they are going to get."