Charlie Whelan says . . .

Don't believe it - "Banks is a cheeky chappie"

Nothing will please Ken Livingstone more than having his former mate Tony Banks referred to in the media as a "cheeky chappie". Livingstone will be worried that, for the first time, someone with a real chance of beating him has decided to challenge him for the post of Mayor of London.

Anyone who saw the former sports minister on Breakfast with Frost will know that he is actually a very serious man with all the right credentials to beat Livingstone. First, he has to win the Labour nomination, which, given the opposition declared so far, should be easy. Apart from anything else, who has heard of most of the candidates? A bloke from the huge Amicus-AEEU union, desperate to get out before he's sacked by the new general secretary, is so unknown that BBC News reported he wasn't even a household name in his own home.

Banks will be the Labour candidate, and, once Londoners see how the road poll tax works, surely Livingstone is beatable. However, the ex-minister must stop calling it a congestion charge. It's as unfair to the poor and as pernicious as Margaret Thatcher's poll tax.

The great advantage that Banks will have over other Livingstone opponents is that his attacks ring true: he knows what a treacherous man Livingstone is, having worked closely with him.

Tony Banks deeply respects loyalty, something the Mayor of London has never bothered about. And, unlike

Livingstone, he is in touch with Londoners.

Every time I've had the pleasure of his company at Chelsea, it is obvious from the reaction of fans from all teams that he has the respect of the punters. Guess who I'll be backing for mayor?

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