The Racing Card

The Bet - Who will be mayor of London?

Ken Livingstone 1-3
Frank Dobson 2-1
Steven Norris 10-1
Susan Kramer 100-1

(Source William Hill)

The "ego" has landed. At last we have a real book on the next mayor of London, and Ken Livingstone has been immediately installed as odds-on favourite. The media and the Tories have now got what they wanted, and the instant reaction of both shows us what we can expect as a result of Livingstone's decision. The Tory candidate Steven Norris was ecstatic that Labour was split, even though most Labour MPs haven't considered Livingstone as Labour for years.

Livingstone's announcement has not shortened the Tories' odds of winning, as Norris has seen his odds lengthen from 13-2 to 10-1, probably worth an outside bet. Dobbo has seen his odds change considerably from 4-9 odds-on favourite to 2-1 second favourite. The Liberals, whose candidate has been stuck on 100-1 for months, must be regretting their decision not to run a more high-profile candidate.

When Tony Blair offered Livingstone a job in government, Ken refused, preferring instead to concentrate on his obsession with becoming mayor. The idea that he will be devastated at being expelled from the party is laughable. He famously said that Gordon Brown should be sacked for presiding over a recession that never materialised, and Millbank has a dossier on all of Livingstone's words. This will not be like a normal election because it is about personalities - the dirt will fly, and most of it in Livingstone's direction. Dobbo was quite happy to brand Livingstone a liar - something that no party leader would do at a general election. Worse will follow. I still have my money on Dobbo at 9-2. By the time Livingstone's record has been properly exposed, these will seem to be very generous odds indeed.

This article first appeared in the 13 March 2000 issue of the New Statesman, Ken, the great conductor