Five London mayor 2012 favourites
On May 3, 2012, Londoners will head to the polls and vote for the capital’s next mayor. Recumbent mayor Boris Johnson has had his ups and downs, but can he be dethroned?
5. Siobhan Benita, independent 200/1 (Ladbrokes)
If we’re honest, the mayoral race is normally a two-horse race. It’ll be a miracle if independent candidate Benita gets anywhere near City Hall. That said she could prove to be a popular choice as she has promised to freeze fares if she makes it into office. The former Whitehall worker is no politician though and her “safe, clean and vibrant” vision for the capital isn’t exactly revolutionary.
4. Jenny Jones, Green Party 200/1 (Paddy Power); 100/1 (Ladbrokes)
Jones’ political stock has been rising over the last few years and she’s put herself about in the media which can’t harm her chances. Her main ideas centre around the economy and “making the City work for London”.
Fighting talk about getting tough on bankers and creating jobs is bound to win friends in an election year but there seems little real substance to her lightweight manifesto (which she promises will be beefed up this spring – better late than never). Can her other pledge about improving animal welfare strike a chord with the voters and bring her to power? I doubt it.
3. Brian Paddick, Liberal Democrats 80/1 (Coral); 50/1 (Sporting Bet)
Paddick is certainly no stranger to most Londoners. The openly gay and oft outspoken Lib Dem wants to make London safer; hardly surprising when you’re a former Met Deputy Assistant Commissioner. But last year’s riots have got many people in the big smoke anxious about hoodies and knife crime and gangs. He could be onto a winner.
However, he finished a country mile behind Boris and Ken in 2008, grabbing just 9.63% of the vote.
2. Boris Johnson, Conservative 8/13 fav (Coral); 1/2 fav (Sky Bet)
Johnson needs little introduction because he’s been running London for the last four years. Many say he’s done a good job in difficult circumstances; he’s kept taxes in check and will always go down as the mayor who successfully managed the Olympic dream. Equally, many say he doesn’t always keep his promises; just look at rising transport fares and his well-spun claims about crime rates.
The polls show this year’s race with Red Ken is closer than ever. With the Evening Standard on his side and a high turnout in south east London, Johnson could scrape another term. But it certainly won’t be a walk in the Royal Park.
1. Ken Livingstone, Labour 6/4 (Bet365); 11/8 (888 Sport)
Red Ken is not your typical politician who strives for votes by being warm, friendly and affable. He probably doesn’t like shaking people’s hands much. In fact, many could see his aloofness as detrimental to his mayoral campaign. But the man has experience at playing Mayor and resided in City Hall before Boris showed up. There are signs that London is tiring of Boris and Ken is ready to pounce.
Livingstone has promised to cut transport fares and his own salary if he gets in. Where he finds the money is anybody’s guess but it could be vote winner.
Five Tour de France 2012 favourites
A positive clenbuterol test means drug cheat Alberto Contador is banned from this year’s Tour de France. With the best in the world out of the way, who else might be in the running for the yellow jersey when the Tour rolls to a stop on July 22?
5. Andy Schleck, 26, Leopard Trek 7/2 (Paddy Power); 3/1 (Ladbrokes)
Following Contador’s ban, The Luxembourger is now 2010 Tour de France champion. He finished second in 2009 and 2011 and there is no way you can rule such pedigree out. His team has the quality and experience to help him win and he’s allegedly been working dead hard on his time trialling technique.
BUT: Whoever designed this year’s route won’t be on Andy Schleck’s Christmas card list. It couldn’t have been worse for the younger of the Schleck brothers. Stingy on mountain top finishes and filled with time trial miles it’s unlikely Andy will top the podium. No matter how strong your team, time trialling is a truly solo effort.
4. Levi Leipheimer, 38, Omega Pharma-Quickstep 100/1 (Stan James); 40/1 (Blue Square)
Seasoned pro Leipheimer has started this year like a steam train. The American won the Tour de San Luis last month, punishing Contador and Nibali in the process. He also won the Tour De Suisse last year thanks to an incredible time trial. There is no doubt this year’s Tour suits Leipheimer and he’s no stranger to success in France - apart from last year, he’s never finished outside the top 15 and was 3rd in 2007.
BUT: Leipheimer is not getting any younger and, compared to Team Sky and Leopard Trek, he may not be able to call on such a deep pool of talented teammates. There’s also no certainty he’ll lead the team. He’ll be fighting with sprinter Tom Boonen and other GC contender Tony Martin for water bottles and domestiques.
3. Bradley Wiggins, 31, Team Sky 6/1 (Stan James); 4/1 (Sporting Bet)
Team Sky’s roster is packed with a glittering array of talent and many big names, including Froome and Boasson Hagen, will be pitched into battle with the sole purpose of helping Wiggins. Surely it was only Lady Luck’s absence and a broken collarbone that stopped an in-form Wiggins from challenging last year. One of the best around a time trial course, too.
BUT: It remains to be seen how Team Sky can keep all of its well paid and ambitious talent happy. Wiggins’ countryman Cavendish will surely want a piece of the pie when it comes to stage wins. Quite how the men in black can stretch to a yellow and green Jersey is a puzzle that needs solving before the Grand Depart. It’s a shame Olympic-obsessed Geraint Thomas is missing, he would have been an important part of Wiggins’ campaign.
2. Cadel Evans, 34, BMC Racing 15/8 fav (Coral); 6/4 fav (William Hill)
If bulldogs became men in a lab experiment gone wrong, they would make Evans their king. Last year’s champion is just about the best all rounder about at the moment. The Australian is like a dog with a bone in the mountains as Andy Schleck will testify after last year’s brutal ascent of the Galibier. He can time trial like a demon too; Tony Martin only beat him by seven seconds in last year’s penultimate stage. A Tour record of 26 victories and 64 podiums speaks for itself.
BUT: Evans is certainly a shrewd operator but his team, which is seriously lacking in star quality, needs to be at its absolute best to help him this summer. A star striker needs good service after all. Having a Belgian super cyclist in the form of Gilbert knocking around helps but BMC hardly has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to climbing domestiques. He’ll need a bit of luck if he has to go it alone.
1. Tony Martin, 26, Omega Pharma-Quickstep 80/1 (Boyle Sports); 50/1 (Ladbrokes)
Martin can inflict serious damage on his older rivals thanks to a time-trial heavy route. He’s not too bad in the hilly stuff either and the lack of Alp-top finishes can only help his cause. If Evans wasn’t riding, Martin would surely walk away with yellow without breaking a sweat. The world time trial champion can definitely make the podium and, with the help of Leipheimer, Chavanel and co, will probably see 2012 as his best chance yet of winning the planet’s greatest stage race.
BUT: The German has already stated Olympic time trial glory is his ultimate goal this year. That could compromise his Tour GC challenge. Plus, he’s not an out-and-out climber and could find his rivals putting irreversible time into him in the mountains. He needs to splash out on a padlock and chain and lock himself to Evans’ back wheel this summer. Otherwise his challenge could be doomed before the final time trial.