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Ken Livingstone: The Only Politician to Ever Give Change?

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Former London Mayor Ken Livingstone appears to be very slightly ahead in the race to win the next Mayoral election on 3 May, according to which polls you believe, but he has started to take an enormous amount of flak recently - often self-inflicted.

The fallout over his recent interview in the New Statesman where he claimed that the Tory party is "riddled" with homosexuality gave his opponents plenty of ammunition to attack with.

However, as in any election campaign, the news cycle allows sentiment to swing both ways, with the London Irish community feeling outraged by comments the present Mayor, Boris Johnson, allegedly made about spending London Assembly money on St Patrick's day celebrations.

Personally I have no preference between these two figures. I used to be a Labour party member, but once I left the UK and moved to Brazil I let my membership go. And since being here I have had the opportunity to work with Boris Johnson and his team on some plans to share knowledge about public transport mapping between London and São Paulo. In my own personal experience he has always been helpful and available.

But then shouldn't city and local council elections be about more than just partisan sabre-rattling anyway? Most residents of London don't care if the Mayor is Labour or Conservative just so long as the Olympics work out well, the public transport gets improved, and the holes in the road are filled quickly.

So, although I have had a positive experience working with the current Mayor, I'd also like to share a story about Ken Livingstone that - in my opinion - gives a truer reflection of the former Mayor than the acerbic back-biting present within the current election campaign.

If you can remember the first Mayoral election, you will know that Ken was not chosen as the official Labour candidate. That honour went to Frank Dobson, who would have been a worthy candidate if all the popular Labour support had not already been behind Ken. Dobson effectively became Tony Blair's fall guy.

Ken quit the party in disgust and declared he would run as an independent candidate, but he explained in the media at that time that he had no personal wealth to use for running an election campaign without the usual party machine. Supporters were urged to send cash and I duly posted him a cheque for £50.

Ken won the election and was eventually welcomed back into the Labour fold and the rest is history, but later in 2000 I received a cheque in the post. It was for £9 and personally signed by Ken Livingstone with a note that explained it was my change, as he had not required all the funds sent in by supporters.

Ken might have a Marmite effect on many in the London electorate, but I've never heard of any politician giving change after an election so may the best man win in May - it's going to be a close one.