Lib-Dem unknown in Mayor race

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SHE MAY not have the instant name-recognition of Ken, Jeff or Glenda, but Susan Kramer does have a very, very nice cat. What is more, the feline friend of the newly selected Liberal Democrat candidate for mayor of London is called, appropriately enough, Dick Whittington.

With a spin-doctoring prowess that would make Peter Mandelson blush, the black and white cat was christened a few weeks ago as its owner fought for the party's mayoral candidacy. So far, Dick has proved lucky for Mrs Kramer, a 49-year-old consultant on private finance projects for road and rail schemes in Europe who yesterday beat off four rivals in a ballot of 10,000 London party members.

While Labour dithers about whether or not to kill off Ken Livingstone, and the Tories ponder on Lord Archer's illuminating comments on Afro-Caribbean dress and diet sense, Mrs Kramer has a head start in the mayoral race.

As she was congratulated by the new party leader, Charles Kennedy, at the Royal National Theatre on the South Bank in London yesterday, she admitted the other candidates had higher profiles, but denied that she had no chance of winning. "The Labour Party is very disunited: if they choose Ken Livingstone, we get half the Labour vote, if they don't choose Ken Livingstone, we get the other half. The Tories are equally disunited," she said.

Mrs Kramer said it was "disgraceful" that Labour was trying to sell of parts of the Underground system and pledged to set up a transport trust that would issue bonds to raise the billions of pounds needed to get London moving.

"The fact that both the private sector and the public are worried about it proves we need a new approach," she said. "The voters are looking for someone who is going to provide a solution to London's problems - buses, trains, Tubes. My background in business and finance is the means of doing that, of achieving those solutions."

The mother-of-two, who drives an unleaded Renault Scenic, said she was prepared to impose road pricing to fund improvements in public transport. Mrs Kramer also pledged to promote more community banks to regenerate deprived areas and would order a crackdown on crime. And she made a unique pledge.

"I will win this election by speaking directly to the people of London and consulting Londoners on the issues that matter to them," she said. "So from now until election day, I will walk every high street in London. All Londoners are invited. No one will need an appointment, just join us on the walk. We will walk all the way to the mayor's office."

Sadly, it is unlikely that Dick Whittington will be padding the pavements with her. He is only 14 weeks old.