Tears in his eyes – but will Ken the 'underdog' have last laugh?

Andy McSmith sees Livingstone, the London Mayor's main rival, launch his campaign

Tears sprang to Ken Livingstone's eyes yesterday as he watched the election broadcast his team put together to support his campaign to get back his old job as Mayor of London.

His show of emotion – which invoked a comforting pat on the shoulder from the Labour leader, Ed Miliband – was a sign of how much the result means to him – and possibly also a nagging fear that it is slipping from his grasp.

Opinion polls earlier this year put him neck and neck with the Tory incumbent, Boris Johnson, as Londoners reeled from the impact of an inflation-busting rise in the cost of bus and Tube fares.

But the most recent polls show Mr Johnson recovering his old lead, as attention focused on Mr Livingstone's tax affairs. At a hustings meeting in central London last night, the former mayor was booed and answered with shouts of "hypocrite" and "champagne socialist" as he struggled to explain why he channelled his earnings through a private company, avoiding income tax.

The Liberal Democrat contender, Brian Paddick, pointed out that arrangements such as Mr Livingstone's were lawful, but added: "Why should we be complaining? The answer is because Ken Livingstone condemned other people for doing exactly the same thing."

A better moment for Mr Livingstone – and a worse one for Boris Johnson – was when the candidates answered questions about the summer riots.

Mr Livingstone launched a scathing attack on the current Mayor for continuing on his US holiday as the riots escalated.

"I couldn't believe it that the days went by and we didn't hear from Boris. If you love this city, you want to be here when things are going wrong," he said, to loud applause.

The launch of Labour's London manifesto, in Greenwich, earlier in the day, drew a smaller crowd than Boris Johnson's campaign launch on Tuesday. And while Mr Johnson's election broadcast was about him and his nine-point plan for London, Mr Livingstone had only a walk-on part in the Labour broadcast, which featured a range of Londoners saying why they wanted him to win.

Mr Livingstone said afterwards: "I did find it very moving. It's an awesome responsibility to make sure we win because we can deliver so much for Londoners."

Mr Miliband added that his candidate has "always been the underdog" in the mayoral campaign.

The main promise in the manifesto that Mr Livingstone launched yesterday was a 7 per cent cut in fares on London's public-transport system, which he claims can be financed from Transport for London's cash surplus.

He has also promised to reinstate a £30-a-week Educational Maintenance Allowance to help children from low-income families to stay in education.

In a document headed "Can't Afford Ken", Boris Johnson's campaign team claimed to have counted 24 promises in Mr Livingstone's manifesto, which they reckoned would cost a minimum of £2.7bn. But Labour hit back yesterday evening with its own document accusing the Tories of a "catalogue of mistakes".

Opponents say support will be dismally low. In January, Salford voted to have a mayor on a turnout of 18.1 per cent, with 17,344 voting Yes. The front-runner is the former Labour MP for Eccles, Ian Stewart, who beat Salford council leader John Merry to the nomination in the party stronghold. But Guy Lodge, of the Institute for Public Policy Research, believes low levels of voter engagement should not overshadow the benefits of city mayors. "Once in place they would change the nature of the democratic contest. They would provoke interest in local politics in a way that traditional local authority elections have failed to do," he said.

Liverpool City Council opted not to offer a referendum but to move straight to the mayoral vote. Labour council leader Joe Anderson is favourite to win. In Doncaster, by contrast, voters will be asked if they would prefer to ditch the mayoral experiment, potentially unseating the controversial incumbent, English Democrat Peter Davies, who has been in office since 2009.

Elsewhere there are those who doubt the claim that power will flow downwards. Bill Martin, a former Lord Mayor of Bristol, is leading the No vote campaign there. "What is an elected mayor going to achieve? What are they going to deliver for us? We are told there will be no extra powers and no extra resources. It is a con," he said.

Jonathan Brown

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform Engineer - VMware / SAN / Tier3 DC

£45000 - £55000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform En...

Recruitment Genius: Purchasing Assistant

£10000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger Assistant

£17000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Ashdown Group: Automated Tester / Test Analyst - .Net / SQL - Cheshire

£32000 per annum + pension, healthcare & 23 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A gro...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot