Ken Livingstone, the religion of the Pope and the sanitary habits of bears in woods

The worst-kept secret in showbiz is out (again): Gary Glitter, sorry Ken Livingstone, has today formally launched his 2012 comeback tour.

This follows Ken’s earlier declarations that he is to seek Labour’s mayoral candidate nomination on 10 June 2008, 29 June 2008, 2 July 2008, 3 July 2008, 14 July 2008, 18 July 2008, 11 November 2008, 24 Feb 2009, 19 March 2009, 18 May 2009, 21 September 2009, 4 January 2010, 19 January 2010, and 12 May 2010.

Today’s event in Croydon (you get the overground train from Victoria, Ken), will, by my count, be at least the 15th time that Ken/Gary has announced his intention to stand for mayor at the next election, but that can’t stop the excitement! (Actually, perhaps it can: at the time of writing, even the main three Ken groupie blogs haven’t published anything on the launch. Even Ken’s own website, Progressive London, hasn’t….)

His platform appears something of a reprise of old favourites, but the big pitch is on bus fares. This is brave, given Ken’s own record on the subject. A single Osyter bus fare “has risen by a staggering one third” under Boris, stormed the candidate this morning. Staggering, indeed, Ken. Why, almost as staggering as the 42% increase in the Oyster bus single fare (from 70p to £1) which you introduced between 2005 and 2007 – with a 25 per cent hike in the off-peak fare in January 2007 alone.

Ken subsequently cut the single fare to 90p in a pre-election ploy, but then made a secret agreement with his transport chiefs to impose above-inflation fare rises after the election, while telling Londoners and the Assembly that he was going to freeze them.

The most interesting thing today was the list of supporters Ken published. It  only includes three of London’s 38 Labour MPs, two of its eight London Assembly members and four of its 17 Labour council leaders.

Perhaps Ken is rolling the names out gradually – but as far as I can see, today’s list contains only one more MP supporter, and two more council leaders, than the names published in a letter to the Guardian last week. The big-name signing he announced this morning was someone from one of the aforesaid groupie blogs.

Ken’s tally of three MPs is probably an understatement of his backing in the PLP, but not by much. And his lack of support among other Labour people who have been more successful at winning elections than him does suggest that there is considerable scope for a heavyweight challenge. Whether that will happen is still moot.

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, the accelerated timetable – with nominations closing in only three weeks’ time and the candidate selected in September – greatly favours Ken. As of last week, Labour sources tell me, three weighty potential rivals were considering running – but that doesn’t mean that they will, or that they’re ready to. We’ll know soon enough.

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