Lord O'Donnell Slams 'Pathetic' Decision To Exclude Mayoral Candidate

The former head of the civil service has attacked the BBC and ITV for their "pathetic" decision to exclude independent candidates from their London Mayoral debates.

In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Lord O'Donnell said broadcasters were “ridiculously skewed towards the status quo” when deciding which politicians to allow on to their programming.

So far broadcasters have largely restricted debates to Tory Boris Johnson, Labour's Ken Livingstone, Lib Dem Brian Paddick and the Green's Jenny Jones.

Gus O'Donnell, known as 'GOD' during his time as cabinet secretary, said this denied the chance of other independent candidates to have their voices heard and would discourage non-party aligned people from standing in future elections such as a reformed House of Lords.

Currently places in debates based on the number of seats each party has in the London Assembly while during the general election ITV, Sky News and the BBC looked at polling data to allocate places for their leaders debates.

However the former top flight civil servant is not an independent observer, as he is an advisor to Siobhan Benita, the former civil servant who is standing as an independent candidate to be Mayor of London.

Lord O'Donnell said they should instead look at bookmakers odds. William Hill currently has Benita as third favourite to win behind Livingstone and Johnson.

Speaking to the Huffington Post UK recently, Benita said she believed her independence was one of her main attractions.

“The Mayor should be an independent Mayor. It should fit above party politics, and should be fighting for people and not for the parties and we ought to have that in a London Mayor," she said.

Benita is not the only candidate to have complained that she is being shut out of the debate. For some time bloggers and Ukip supporters have been getting increasingly annoyed at the lack of airtime given to their candidate, Lawrence Webb.

This, say some, is outrageous because Ukip regularly has a much higher opinion poll rating in national polls than the Greens.

And in a recent opinion poll the party overtook the Liberal Democrats nationally.

Supporters of the three main parties have also dismissed Benita's claim that she is not being given enough coverage in the press.

They point to a series of articles covering her campaign in, but not restricted to, the Guardian, the Independent, the BBC and on HuffPost.

A BBC spokesman said the relative amount of coverage given to political parties and candidates in all elections reflects levels of past and/or current electoral support.

“We would take account, for instance, of robust trends in opinion polls, in giving due weight to different candidates. Under our election guidelines all will receive at least a minimum level of coverage across our programmes," the spokesman said.