All eyes on London as Livingstone fights for mayoral post

All eyes will be on maverick London Mayor Ken Livingstone this week who is facing the first serious challenge to his controversial 8-year-rule of the British capital in local elections Thursday, the dpa reported.

The 62-year-old Labour mayor has been nicknamed "little Hitler" by his critics on account of his alleged "dictatorial" use of power over issues such as the introduction of the congestion charge and the abolition of the much-loved open-platform Routemaster buses.

But his supporters say the mayor has transformed the city's transport system and enhanced London's reputation for multi-ethnic diversity and its appeal to business investors.

In elections on May 1, Livingstone will be seeking a third term, that would extend his mayoral role into 2012 - the year London is hosting the Olympic Games.

But, for the first time since he was elected in 2000, and then again four years later, Livingstone is facing a serious challenge for the job from the Conservatives.

Boris Johnson, a journalist and Conservative member of parliament (MP), with a reputation for eccentricity, is in a neck-and-neck race with the veteran mayor.

With opinion polls predicting a knife-edge fight between the two men, whose colourful personalities are as different as their backgrounds and political platforms, the mayoral elections have assumed national importance.

Furthermore, the London poll coincides with local council elections in large parts of England and Wales Thursday.

A defeat for Livingstone in London would be interpreted as a serious blow to the ruling Labour Party of Prime Minister Gordon Brown, which is trailing behind the Conservatives by a record 18 percentage points, according to latest polls.

For the Conservatives, the takeover of London's City Hall would be the first electoral proof that the "modernized" Tory party led by David Cameron has reached voters beyond its traditionally rural support base.

Labour fears that defeat for Livingstone could add momentum to Cameron's push to unseat Brown at the next general election in Britain, due in 2009 or 2010.

Livingstone, who as "red Ken" was shunned by the reformed New Labour Party of Tony Blair, and for a while excluded for his left-wing views, returned to the Labour fold at the peak of his popularity in early 2004.

Since then, Labour leaders, from Blair to Brown have - albeit reluctantly - thrown their public weight behind Livingstone.

"I used not to like him, but he has done an excellent job," said Alistair Campbell, Blair's former right-hand man, confirming that both he and Blair had acted as advisers for the Livingstone campaign.

Meanwhile Johnson, a former editor of the Spectator magazine, is backed by the rightwing tabloid newspaper group Associated Newspapers, and by Rupert Murdoch's Sun.

"Jester Boris eyes Ken's crown with the help of some powerful friends," ran a headline in the Guardian.

The Liberals, Britain's third political party, have chosen Brian Paddick, an openly gay 49-year-old ex police chief as their candidate.

For Londoners, the choice between such strong personalities cannot be easy.

Opinion polls back the expectation that the election will tell a tale of two cities, with Livingstone strong in the central boroughs while Johnson's appeal is stronger in the "forgotten" outlying areas.

London, a culturally vibrant and ethnically diverse city, has changed greatly under Livingstone's rule, as green issues have come to the fore and drivers have reluctantly accepted the inner city congestion charge which is now being copied by other European cities.

Critics accuse Livingstone of having extended the unpopular charge zone against the voters' will and of having failed to improve the ailing Tube network, of which he is a regular user.

Meanwhile Johnson, a Johnson, a keen cyclist, has made much of Livingstone's admission that he does not know how to ride a bike.

There have also been allegations of corruption and "cronyism" against Livingstone's administration, culminating in criticism of an allegedly overblown travel budget and his close personal friendship with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Residents of London's more affluent boroughs face a sharp hike of the daily congestion charge to 25 pounds (50 dollars) for 4x4 "gas guzzling" vehicles from October.

Apart from transport, youth crime, housing and immigration are among key election issues.

While Johnson has slipped up with a number of allegedly racist gaffes. Livingstone has put the promotion of multi-culturalism at the heart of his campaign.

A vote for Johnson would be a "step back in time," Livingstone's camp has been telling voters. But the Conservatives maintain that London is ready for change - and for a mayor who knows how to ride a bike.

Iran reveals COVID-19 data for February 27
Iran reveals COVID-19 data for February 27
Medical personnel in east Iran receiving injection
Medical personnel in east Iran receiving injection
Iran reveals COVID-19 data for February 25
Iran reveals COVID-19 data for February 25
Loading Bars
5.5-magnitude quake hits 81 km SW of Islay (Matarani), Peru
Iranian Minister unveils ports' infrastructure dev't plans
Turkey confirms 9,193 new COVID-19 cases, 2,693,164 in total
S&P Global affirms Georgia’s sovereign credit rating at ‘BB’
Razi COVID-19 vaccine to begin clinical trial: Minister
5 died after accident in northeast China chemical fiber plant
US regulator approves Johnson&Johnson coronavirus vaccine
Kazakhstan twofold decreases exports to Norway amid COVID-19
Iraq reports 3,543 new COVID-19 cases, 692,241 in total
5.3-magnitude quake hits 3 km SW of Point MacKenzie, Alaska
Qatar reports 460 new COVID-19 cases, 163,197 in total
Weekly review of highlights in Azerbaijani financial market
UK records another 7,434 coronavirus cases, 290 deaths
It is necessary to end deployment of Armenian armed forces on territory of Azerbaijan - Foreign Ministry
WHO reports over 420,000 new daily cases of COVID-19
Istanbul’s major Galataport project to go live in April
0.03% of pupils and 0.1% of school staff in Georgia confirmed with Covid-19 this week
Iran's Energy Exchange announces products to be on sale on February 28
Uzbekistan's largest share in formation of GDP falls on Tashkent
Azerbaijan's revenues from tea, coffee exports double in Jan.2021
Cargo movements in Iran's Khalij-e-Fars port increase
China conditionally approves one-shot recombinant COVID-19 vaccine
Stock gains power Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway to higher profit
More than 165,000 apply for Turkey’s most popular scholarship
Georgian Railway resumes passenger transfers
Kazakhstan reports value increase in all types of deposits
New road put into operation in Iran's Golestan Province
Azerbaijan sets up working subgroups to prepare 2021-2025 Development Strategy
Bahar Azadi gold coin price falling in Iran
Azerbaijan reports 172 more COVID-19 recoveries
Azerbaijan's Ministry of Finance to put up medium-term bonds for auction
Azerbaijan's banking sector ends January 2021 with profit
Foundation of several manufacturing enterprises laid in Iran's Qazvin Province
Uzbek-Korean JV to buy spare parts for metal detector via tender
USAID to promote start-up dev’t in Turkmenistan
President Aliyev: Any attempt to violate implementation of November 10th declaration will be very harmful for Armenia (VIDEO)
Iran reveals COVID-19 data for February 27
Bosnian TV channel visits liberated Azerbaijani Aghdam, reminds of Khojaly genocide
Azerbaijani police officers find ordnances left by Armenians in Khojavand (PHOTO)
Long-term energy demand impact of COVID-19 is modest
President Aliyev to Iranian reporter: Your question is a kind of an accusation (VIDEO)
New Zealand's largest city Auckland back to lockdown after COVID-19 case
Iran pins hopes on Swiss financial channel to purchase COVID-19 vaccines
Foreign journalists visit village where two-year-old Azerbaijani girl was killed by Armenians
Volume of cargo loaded, unloaded in Iran’s Chabahar port revealed
Weekly review of Azerbaijan's oil and gas sector
Eni Turkmenistan Ltd opens tender for catering, housekeeping services
Kazakhstan boosts imports of Switzerland-made products
Uzbek ministry, German Society for International Cooperation sign agreement
Uzbekistan, China expand mutual trade despite COVID-19
Georgia reports 373 new cases of coronavirus on Feb.27
Buy/sell operations at Iran Mercantile Exchange soar
Weekly review of Azerbaijani precious metals market
Baku Metro continues preparatory work for commissioning of new 'November' 8 station
Iran's exports to Russia increase
Uzbek-Korean JV to buy spare parts for pumps via tender
Kazakh airlines eye to launch several flights on Turkestan-Istanbul route
UNDP in Turkmenistan opens tender for services on seismic work
Volume of electricity generated by renewable energy power plants in Iran announced
Researcher talks monuments on ancient Azerbaijani lands vandalized by Armenians (PHOTO)
Uzbekistan reveals COVID-19 data for Feb. 27
Azerbaijan's MoD shares footage from Gubadly's Afandilar village (PHOTO/VIDEO)
Iranian currency rates for February 27
Remittances from Azerbaijan to Georgia show highest growth rate
Belarus considering possibility of supplying agricultural machinery to Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan’s Turkmenbashi Oil Refinery exceeds plan for kerosene production
Azerbaijani oil prices published
Kazakhstan's uranium mining company opens tender to acquire electro-technical materials
Issuance of construction permissions in Georgia down
Philippines extends partial coronavirus curbs in capital until end-March
Weekly review of Azerbaijani currency market
Kazakh gas supply company to attract equipment installation services via tender
Turkey's tourism industry puts hopes on safety measures for new season
Azerbaijani marketing platform plans to become regional player
Argentine health minister tests positive for COVID-19
Czech gov't declares new state of emergency over coronavirus
U.S. FDA advisors recommend approving Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use
Increase in malware attacks makes cybersecurity more relevant than ever - Kaspersky Lab in Azerbaijan
South Korea vaccinates 18,000 to start ambitious COVID-19 campaign
US may announce new sanctions on Russia within weeks - White House press secretary
Founder of Indian Jet Airways eyes opening airline in Uzbekistan’s Namangan region
Saudi Arabia rejects U.S. intelligence report on Khashoggi's killing: statement
Israel registers 2,738 new COVID-19 cases, 769,971 in total
U.S. announces 'Khashoggi ban' for 76 Saudi individuals
Number of COVID-2019 cases across globe up by over 427,000 in past day
Slovenia confirms first case of coronavirus variant identified in S. Africa
UN Security Council adopts resolution on vaccination
UK records another 8,523 coronavirus cases, 345 deaths
Kazakhstan shows interest in supplies of Belarusian sugar, its manufacturing technology
Turkey reports 9,205 new COVID-19 cases, 2,683,971 in total
Iran, Russia emphasize need to coop. in agricultural sector
When will Georgia receive its first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine?
House poised to approve Biden's $1.9T coronavirus relief bill in Friday vote
Canada approves use of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine
Azerbaijan discloses volume of liabilities of banks in Jan. 2021 accounting for deposits
Azerbaijan imposes restrictions on import of poultry meat from Estonian county
Amount of financial support of Kazakh manufacturing sector by Baiterek holding increases
Attracting FDI can help Georgia to boost exports of high-value food products - OECD
European Council extends mandate of special representative for South Caucasus
Kuwait reports 1,022 new COVID-19 cases, 189,046 in total
All news