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Oona King to launch bid to be London Mayor

Former MP Oona King will launch her bid to take on Boris Johnson as Labour's candidate in the London mayoral election in 2012 today, the first to formally declare her candidacy since nominations opened yesterday.

Ken Livingstone has repeatedly made clear his desire to be handed the chance to try to snatch back the capital's top political role from the colourful Conservative who ousted him in 2008 after eight years at City Hall.

He is yet to join the race formally, however, and Ms King will use a speech at her old school today to make an early pitch for the job with a pledge to work with young people to stop them turning to knife crime.

Ms King, Britain's second black female MP, represented Bethnal Green and Bow in the Commons for eight years before being narrowly defeated by Respect's George Galloway in a major upset at the 2005 general election.

Now seeking to revive her political career, she will declare that she can deliver the "energy and renewal" London required from its mayor.

And speaking to an audience of young people this afternoon at the Camden school where she was educated, she will declare her intent to be "an advocate for children, and help prevent them becoming a future burden.

"We must show an interest in them when they are still young enough to be guided in the right direction. Because they aren't the only ones to suffer; damaged human beings leave a trail of victims in their wake, especially as they turn from toddler to teenager and tragically exchange a baby's rattle for a large kitchen knife," she will tell pupils.

"I want to engage with young people and ensure they get work and that their endeavours contribute to a better society. Instilling aspiration in all of them will change London to benefit all of us. Throughout my life I've been inspired by people who learn how to change and become better. That's what I want for London."

Hopefuls have until June 18 to put their names forward and will then be whittled down to a shortlist by a panel of national and London party representatives on June 24 before a series of hustings across the capital.

An electoral college, made up half-and-half of votes by London party members and members of affiliated organisations, will then pick the candidate.

The result will be announced on September 22 - the day before the party reveals who has won the race to succeed Gordon Brown as national party leader.

Speaking after the Board of the London Labour Party met to ratify the election arrangements, director Ken Clark said: "In the recent elections in London - against all predictions - Labour took control of 18 town halls across the capital.

"Electing our candidate to be the next Mayor of London provides an excellent opportunity to remind Londoners that they are being let down by a Conservative mayor who has broken promise after promise."