Ken Livingstone today launches an extraordinary appeal to Liberal Democrat voters to help him to defeat Boris Johnson in the London mayoral election.
The Mayor is directly targeting supporters of Lib Dem candidate Brian Paddick with a "Lib Dems for Ken" manifesto. The outcome of Thursday's vote is on a knife edge and could hang on the second-preference choices of tens of thousands of Lib Dems.
Mr Livingstone holds out the prospect of jobs for Mr Paddick and other Lib Dems if he wins a third term on 1 May. An open letter from the Labour candidate pleads: "My pitch is simple – I agree with about 90 per cent of Lib Dem policy and I want to involve Liberal Democrats in my mayoral administration. In contrast, Boris Johnson disagrees with many fundamental Lib Dem policies and has been highly disparaging of Lib Dems in the past, whom he referred to as having 'a characteristic human psychological deformity'.
"On most of the key issues my positions and those of the Liberal Democrat party have been the same," Mr Livingstone says, citing the war in Iraq, support for proportional representation and opposition to Tube privatisation, nuclear power and tuition fees as key policies he shared with the Lib Dems.
It is extremely rare for a candidate to launch a manifesto tailored solely to another party's supporters, but underlines how close the mayoral battle is. Polls suggest Mr Livingstone has the lead among voters in central London boroughs, but Mr Johnson has more support in the suburbs.
Mr Paddick refused to tell his voters to choose one candidate over the other for second preferences during the BBC's Question Time debate last Thursday.
But Mr Livingstone was warned he cannot count on the support of London's Jewish community when the Jewish Chronicle published a leader criticising his record. The Mayor claimed he had been the victim of smear campaigns over his welcoming of Islamic cleric Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi and his comparison of a Jewish journalist to a concentration camp guard.
"No one picked up the phone from the Jewish community to talk to me about it," he said of the al-Qaradawi visit. But the Jewish Chronicle said: "Today the incumbent, Ken Livingstone, portrays himself as something of a victim in his relationship with British Jewry. As political posturing, such a defensive 'poor misunderstood me' stance by the Mayor is calculated but unconvincing."
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