Who will you vote for?

We asked a selection of well-known Londoners and <em>NS </em>contributors to share their preferences

Andreas Whittam Smith
President, British Board of Film Censors
Voting for: Dobson

I scored the candidates against three tests. How radical would each of them be on transport? Would they understand the need to rehabilitate the Metropolitan Police? Of which one could I be most proud as my representative? I allotted a maximum score of five and the result was . . . Dobson 12, Kramer 10, Norris and Livingstone 9 each. QED.

Peter Tatchell
Gay activist
Voting for: Ken Livingstone (and Peter Tatchell for the assembly)

A Livingstone and Tatchell victory would be Tony Blair's worst nightmare, demonstrating that there is a credible, radical alternative to the suffocating authoritarianism, mediocrity and conservatism of new Labour. By fracturing the dominance of the big parties, our success as independents would open up the political system to greater diversity and pluralism - to the benefit of everyone.

Nick Cohen
Voting for: Livingstone

Because the public health of a democracy cannot be maintained unless ballot-riggers are punished (it's the only language they understand).

Darcus Howe
Columnist and broadcaster
Voting for: Ken

Ken is the only candidate who gives a sense of a constituency called London. Ken has the vision to elevate London from the capital of England to the capital of the world. He could unite people who have been in spiritual and emotional contact with London for centuries from all parts of the globe.

Fay Weldon
Voting for: If I vote at all, as a natural subversive, I will vote for Ken Livingstone

Brenda Maddox
Voting for: Susan Kramer

Damn this questionnaire. I had planned quietly to sink into the voting booth and make my mark for the irresistible Ken. Forced to come out in the open, I find I cannot. I shall vote, as I did in the general election, for the Liberal Democrat. Livingstone is too unreliable for my first choice. That said, I shall be delighted when he wins - to mock the undemocratic, controlling Blair government, to show that a layer of local government is necessary to be, whatever else, independent of central government . . . We will have a mayor who looks and sounds like London and who rides on the London Underground. Could do worse.

Alan Plater
Voting for: Ken Livingstone

Frank's a bunny
Steve's a goat
At least Ken's funny
Might as well vote.

Ziauddin Sardar
Voting for: Frank Dobson

My religious tendencies are stronger than my natural inclinations to support independent outsiders. As a perennial dissenter, I have a natural, if somewhat uncritical, sympathy for Ken Livingstone. But a man who can earn an undeclared £158,000 in 18 months through his journalism and speeches is no outsider. Frank Dobson is following the Sunna, the sacred example, of the Prophet Muhammad. His beard is not just unruly, but also a reflection of piety. As any Kalashnikov-waving mullah will testify, his is a full regulation Islamic beard. So I will be voting for the beard.

Geoff Martin
Unison London convenor
Voting for: Ken Livingstone

Ken is clearly the candidate most likely to stand up and fight for London's public services and the staff who provide them. This will be the first time in 20 years as a Labour Party member that I won't be voting for the official Labour candidate, but I have no doubt that Ken will be back in the fold before too long.

D J Taylor
Author and critic
Voting for: Ken Livingstone

I joined the Labour Party back in the early 1980s student days. I shall be voting for Ken Livingstone - of whose tenure at the GLC I heartily disapproved - simply as a protest against the anti-democratic stitch-up attempted by the leadership. Even the unprepossessing Steve Norris - who will be getting my second preference - looks a better bet than the spavined nag sponsored by the Millbank stable.

Robert Chesshyre
Author and journalist
Voting for: Ken Livingstone

I lived abroad when King Ken ruled the roost at County Hall, returning the very night of his farewell fireworks extravaganza on the banks of the Thames. Sadly, I therefore missed the days of bread and circuses, cheap tube fares and blood-on-the-carpet fisticuffs with central government. I now want my chance to experience the political mayhem promised by Livingstone restored to power. The Mr Tony/Ali Campbell combo versus the gadfly across the water should make a great spectator sport.

Paul Routledge
Chief political commentator, the Mirror
Voting for: Frank Dobson

Because I have voted Labour since 1966. And if I publicly support Ken Livingstone, the Millbank thought police will come round and trample on my onion patch, kill my chickens and do unspeakable things to my rhubarb, which is just coming through.

Ian Jack
Editor, Granta
Voting for: Don't know yet

Who was it that decided London needed a celebrity mayor rather than (or as well as) the simple restoration of a city-wide elected administration? T Blair? A bad decision, given the uninspiring list of candidates it has thrown up. In the end I'll vote for the candidate who is most committed to social (ie, affordable) housing and to making public transport work, which probably means Ken Livingstone or Susan Kramer. Ken's insouciance re his extra-parliamentary income hasn't endeared him to me. Nor does the support of Chris Evans.

Andrew Billen
Voting for: Oh, Livingstone, I suppose

At least he knows that if he screws up with the tube, he'll not get a second term - which will matter to his ego. For Dobson it would probably be a merciful release. But no more than the Labour Party did I appreciate being lied to about Ken's plans in defeat. He suggested to me that a life mucking out the Elephant House at London Zoo might be his alternative life of public service.

David Nicholson-Lord

I'm strongly tempted to vote for Ken Livingstone for the sole purpose of registering a protest against the shameful centralist manipulations and gerrymandering of new Labour, but I'll almost certainly end up voting Green. This is because the survival of London as a habitable city depends on its environmental quality - clean air, traffic restraint, controls on litter and waste, decent public transport, lots of trees, parks and green spaces - and the Green Party is now the only party guaranteed to address these issues . . . It will be a wasted vote, but most votes are.

Natasha Walter
Voting for: Won't Vote

What do we expect the mayor to achieve? We have a Prime Minister who cannot tolerate dissent and a government that sets precise targets for every ward of every hospital and every class at every school in the country. What hasn't been admitted in this electoral campaign is that the mayor will not have any real power, and no means to challenge the decisions of central government. This is a fake election, fought by individuals who are excited simply by the idea of being able to strut around with a grand title attached to their name. I don't believe that any one of them, Ken or Frank or Steven or Susan, will have the power or will to make a difference to the ordinary people in this city.

Charles Shaar Murray
Voting for: Ken Livingstone

London deserves a mayor who will promote policies that meet the needs of Londoners, rather than one who will simply attempt to sell them the policies on which the government has already decided; one who will do more than talk the anti-racist talk while walking the anti-refugee walk; one who will fight, rather than endorse, fig-leafed privatisation in health, transport and education; one who sees London as a place where people live, work and play, rather than simply a field of opportunities for big business. That's why I support not just Livingstone, but the London Socialist Alliance slate.

Chris Morris
Queer activist and editor of Outcast
Voting for: Ken Livingstone

Because he cleverly united "the lefties" of the Eighties and the Tories who bashed them, without compromising one iota in the process. If he can unite as disparate camps as these, he is the ideal man to confront the complicated challenges that will face the mayor of a cosmopolitan city. He is also the candidate who has the most consistently opposed racism, homophobia and petty prejudices, both now that it is a vote-winner and in the past when it led to him being condemned as an extremist.

Beryl Bainbridge
Voting for: Ken Livingstone

Because I went on the bus the other day and still haven't recovered, and believe that Ken will sort out London transport. Also, he has immense energy.

Richard Gott
Voting for: Ken Livingstone

As the woman in the L'Oreal advertisement would say, "he's worth it", and also because he represents an attractive alternative to the unsavoury gang of war criminals currently running the Labour Party and the government.

Joe Haines
Former chief press secretary to Harold Wilson
Voting for: Frank Dobson

This election isn't about Labour's selection process. Livingstone was always going to run, whatever the system that defeated him. This is about whether we return to the days of perpetual opposition. Kinnock rid Labour of the Militant Tendency, but the death-wish tendency, Margaret Thatcher's best ally, is as active and activist as ever, and Livingstone is its candidate.

David Aaronovitch
Voting for: Dobbo

Because Dobbo is an honourable man, because I want Trevor Phillips as deputy mayor, because in a year's time it'll all seem such a laugh. I confess that, for a moment there, I was seduced into thinking Ken might be all right (after all, everyone else wants him). And then he reminds us that he thought that IRA members were freedom- fighters, and he wanted the removal of the most successful Labour Chancellor ever. So, in a contest between boring and silly, I pick boring.

John Monks
General Secretary, TUC
Voting for: Frank Dobson

Frank has been a staunch friend of trade unionism and the TUC. He was particularly helpful behind the scenes in the talks on the Employment Relations Act. He would be an excellent team-playing mayor, who would get things done without too much fuss and attention-seeking.

Jonathan Coe
Writer and critic
Voting for: Ken Livingstone

He has proven commitment to London, I'm nostalgic for the days of the GLC, and it would be nice to see someone from the old left in power again. Perhaps more importantly, the other candidates will lose because - like all Londoners - I couldn't bear this city to be run by somebody with no charisma.

Hunter Davies
Author and columnist
Voting for: No one

I am against a mayor for London. Waste of time, money, buildings, bureaucracy. Yes, I know, in a democracy I should abide by the will of the majority, but bugger democracy. Neither Ken nor Millbank cares about it, so why should I?

Sally Hibbin
Film producer
Voting for: Ken Livingstone

I am voting for Ken because I am getting angry at the Labour hierarchy trying to rewrite my own memories. The GLC, under Ken, gave London a cohesion and vitality as a city and a truly memorable period when bus fares were affordable to everyone. But to me, this election is no longer about personality, it is about democracy and the right for Londoners - whether they are Labour Party members or not - to get the mayor they obviously want.

Paul Wallace
Voting for: Ken Livingstone

London, like Gotham City, needs its Joker.

David Marks
Designer of the London Eye
Voting for: Undisclosed

He will develop clear policies to tackle the important social exclusion agenda of education, homelessness and community regeneration. He will develop urban and transportation policies consistent with the promotion of civic pride, accessibility and business responsibility in the community.

Geoffrey Bindman
Human rights lawyer
Voting for: Frank Dobson

I was deputy to Frank Dobson when he was leader of Camden Council in the 1980s, so I have observed his qualities at close quarters. If you can lead Camden and the NHS without damaging either, you have to be highly competent: he is humane, decent, humorous and above all committed to those he represents more than to his own notoriety. Ken's charisma is only skin-deep and in every other mayoral quality Frank is far ahead of him.

Imran Khan
Writer and broadcaster
Voting for: Ken Livingstone

In a situation where the London mayor needs money to make real change, Livingstone has the backing of ordinary Londoners and can use that to put pressure on the government. Kramer would spend it on an army of snoopers. Norris has no influence and won't remain faithful to his promises and Dobson is Blair's man and will not do anything to rock the boat, so it makes sense to vote Ken. Finally, in the bickering that will follow the election, at least Ken is value for money in a soap opera that will run and run . . .

Claire Rayner

I will be voting for a spoiled ballot paper. I am sick and disillusioned; the only comfort will be to write across my ballot paper "Dick Whittington's cat" or some such. I had hoped we would get a mayor who was the real McCoy - a non-party political individual with no ideological axes to grind, no battered baggage brought from previous activities, someone with lots of energy and a real love for London with all her messy glory. Sadly no such person is standing for election, more's the pity.

Alain de Botton
Author and critic
Voting for: Frank Dobson

I met Ken Livingstone at a lunch hosted by the NS in January and found him dangerous, unconvincing, uncharming and untrustworthy. Geoffrey Robinson asked him calmly to explain why he disagreed with the government's plans for the tube; and Livingstone was completely unable to put forward a rational-sounding case for his beliefs. He simply cut short the conversation by saying in his irritating high-pitched whine: "Well Geoffrey, the fact of the matter is that the voters of London agree with me and not with you." Dobson may be uncharismatic - but at least he can make a rational case for what he believes in. Livingstone's image as a non-political friendly bloke is also a con - he's an artful manipulator. If the voters of London could all have lunch with him, his popularity would collapse instantly.

Phillip Knightley
Author and journalist
Voting for: Ken Livingstone

I met him once and liked him. I think he'll do a good job and implement radical transport policies for London.

Carmen Callil
Voting for: Not voting

a) Nothing would get me to vote for Ken Livingstone. I am just as suspicious of left-wing populist egomaniacs as right-wing ones and Thatcher was enough for me. b) He will win. c) Dobson hopelessly wrong choice for London. d) Find it difficult to vote Tory. e) Fed up.

Father Michael Seed
Franciscan Friar
Voting for: Won't say

I will vote for the person who will take the most risks, even to the detriment of himself: someone willing to listen and learn the most, even if it means offending his party. The principal issues are the homeless and racism. I am not looking for a saint or a little kitten, but for someone courageous.

Michael Glover
Critic and poet

The clouds were racing on the day he died
It was a portent, surely, from on high . . .
And there he hung, pinioned to that mighty wheel,
Once thought to have been built for th' Commonweal . . .
The brutes came on, wave upon wave they came,
All close-packed, Model Blairites, chanting his loathed name.
The first to step up, Campbell, flashed his dirk,
And spoke of infamy baser than common dirt.
A second, Dobbo, fleshy, brazen, rude,
Yanked at his beard. "Have you such manly proof?"
And then the lightning came, great forks of it . . .
His lips were cracked, and yet he chose to speak
His skin was flayed, and yet the blood still eked . . .
"My Londoners," he said, "pledge me your word
That you will not forget all that we shared.
Remember me henceforth. I am your Ken . . ."
Ten thousand Barbies chorused their laments.

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