To an outsider, Thursday’s contest to elect the next mayor of London would appear to be a fight between two larger-than-life characters — known best by their first names — for control of the city’s famous red buses. Among a wide field of candidates, only these two men have any realistic chance of taking a starring role at this summer’s Olympic Games in London: Conservative Party incumbent Mayor Boris Johnson, 47, and his 66-year-old nemesis, Labour left-winger and former Mayor Ken Livingstone. Both men have devoted their energies to transport — and attacking each other viciously on the issue, as well as on their complex personal tax arrangements. With his distinctive nasal south London accent, Livingstone rose to fame in the early 1980s as leader of the Greater London Council. Livingstone — populist, socialist, environmentalist — was one of the few who stood up to Margaret Thatcher, the Conservative prime minister at the time, earning him the moniker “Red Ken.”
Two decades later, Labour PM Tony Blair recreated the long-dormant job of London mayor, but if he hoped a similar-minded centrist would win, the move backfired. Livingstone was a feisty Labour member of Parliament, but when his party picked a blander, less troublesome candidate for mayor, he stood as an independent and cruised to victory. In revenge, he was expelled from Labour, though he was later brought back into the fold.
One of his first, and most unpopular, acts was to scrap the much-loved but decrepit fleet of Routemaster double-decker buses, dating from the 1950s. He replaced them with the “bendy bus,” snake-like Mercedes vehicles that terrified road-users in the narrow streets. He also upgraded Underground trains and brought in a controversial congestion tax on motorists entering central London.
Full Article: London mayoral election: Battle of the buses – CNN.com.