Mayoral race kicks off with jobs and fares

BORIS Johnson has taken an eight-point lead in the battle to be Mayor of London, according to a YouGov poll issued to mark the start of the official campaign.

Johnson’s campaign has pulled ahead of the competition in recent weeks and the latest polling gives him 49 per cent of first preference votes, against 41 per cent for Labour’s Ken Livingstone and five per cent for Brian Paddick of the Lib Dems.

When voters were asked which of the leading two candidates they would prefer, Boris leads Ken by 54 per cent to 46 per cent.

Johnson spent the day in the suburb of Bexley, pledging to create 200,000 jobs over the next four-year mayoral term, mainly as a result of a £3bn central government investment in housing.

However his campaign team were attacked for “abuse of public resources” by Labour after transferring the official Mayor of London Twitter account – complete with a valuable audience of 253,000 followers – into Johnson’s name, apparently with the intention of using it for campaign purposes.

Meanwhile Ken Livingstone focused on his pledge to reduce the price of public transport by seven per cent, claiming “Londoners want a Mayor who will cut the fares and make them better off”.

However George Osborne is set to use tomorrow’s Budget to announce funding packages for the capital, partly aimed at proving to voters that Johnson is the best candidate to lobby for funds from his Conservative colleagues in government.

The Treasury will provide £15m to be allocated to improve cycling blackspots in London and will fund super-fast broadband across the city.

In addition the planning process for two new East London river crossings will be significantly speeded up.