No frills, no thrills, just one enormous grin

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Indy Politics

There were no flowers, no confetti and definitely no religion. But when Ken Livingstone formally wed himself to the Greater London Assembly yesterday, his grin was as wide as any bridegroom's.

Some 14 years since he last ruled the capital, the maverick MP was officially sworn in as Mayor of London in a ceremony that had all the pomp and pageantry of a register office marriage.

At 9.35 am, in a plain meeting room in the GLA's temporary home at Romney House, Westminster, Kenneth Robert Livingstone was finally installed to the post he says he was born to occupy.

Romney House, a nondescript office block that makes the Welsh Assembly look like the Kremlin Palace, was the perfect setting for the no-frills, no-thrills inauguration.

Seated on a line of plastic chairs, the invited guests waited patiently as Robert Chilton, the temporary head of paid service at the GLA, tried his best to inject some sense of occasion to the event.

"This is the restoration of democratic governance toLondon. It's a historic moment," he said, before launching into his legal preamble for declarations of office under Section 407 of the Greater London Authority Act 1999.

The registrar then called upon each of the persons present to come forward and sign the form of declaration, pausing only to point out the guidance on ethical standards entailed in the vows.

As Britain's most famous political polygamist, Mr Livingstone had not one but 25 brides to marry, each of them set to sign up to a union for the next four years. However, thanks to more important commitments, failure to realise the time of the event or just plain cold feet, only nine turned up.

An embarrassed GLA spokesman explained that all members had been informed of the event. "We expected there wouldn't be a need a for a three-line whip," he said.

Neither Nicky Gavron, the putative deputy mayor, Toby Harris, the putative chair of the police authority, nor any of the four Liberal Democrats, had succumbed to the I Love Ken virus, and will have to sign up later. "Some of our assembly members will be joining us later on, That's not a problem," Mr Chilton said.

Not that the Mayor was perturbed. The independent Mr Livingstone was pleased to be finally working in the same room as his erstwhile opponents, even though there were only four Labour, three Tory and two Green members of the Assembly in attendance.

The bridegroom wore green and the assorted brides wore grimaces as one by one they stepped up to the table and signed their consent to live together as one big happy family. Ken stepped up first, signing a pledge that read: "I Kenneth Robert Livingstone, having been elected to the office of Mayor of London, declare that I take that office upon myself, and will duly and faithfully fulfil the duties of it to the best of my judgement and ability."

He then struck a genuine register office pose for the photographers, holding a pen above the declaration book.

There was a polite ripple of applause as Mr Livingstone then made way for his new colleagues to plight their troth.

Unfortunately for Tony Blair, there was no section of the ceremony that allowed anyone who knew any just cause or impediment to halt the marriage.