LONDON Mayoral candidate Ken Livingstone broke down with emotion at the prospect of losing to Boris Johnson today as he launched his manifesto for the elections.
The veteran Labour candidate, who was defeated by Mr Johnson in 2008, said he would carry the “guilt” of failure at next month’s elections “to my grave”.
Mr Livingstone is currently six points behind Mr Johnson in the latest opinion polls and the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, admits that he remains “the underdog” in the contest.
Mr Livingstone, 66, was overcome while watching his own party election broadcast, after meeting voters at the official launch of his manifesto at a college in Greenwich, east London.
The short video showed clips of “ordinary Londoners” urging Mr Livingstone to win so he could cut underground and bus fares and reinstate the education maintenance allowance for college students.
It was at the end of the broadcast, when small groups of voters were shown calling “Come on Ken, London needs you”, that the former Mayor was seen to wipe away tears.
Mr Miliband, who was watching alongside, placed his hand on Mr Livingstone’s back to comfort him.
Mr Livingstone explained to The Daily Telegraph why he found the broadcast so moving.
“It’s because if I lose, that’s fine, I’ll go back to doing my radio programme,” he said. “But I lose the opportunity to help millions of ordinary Londoners for whom every day is now a terrible struggle.
“I grew up in that post-War Britain where parents had to count every penny, everything had to be used, it was a real struggle, and we are back in that world.
“The Tory mayor has no understanding of what it’s like to be an ordinary person struggling to put a hot meal on the table every night of the week.
“If I fail to do that, it’s a guilt I carry to my grave. I want the chance to make life better for ordinary Londoners.”
Mr Livingstone promised that if he wins power on May 3 he will resign on October 7 this year if he has not cut transport fares by 7pc by that date. His other policies included a new energy co-op for heating to help families reduce heating bills and more help with childcare costs.
However, an opinion poll last night for the London Evening Standard newspaper, LBC radio and London Tonight television, put Mr Johnson on 53pc and Mr Livingstone on 47pc.
Mr Miliband, who comforted Mr Livingstone with what he described as a “pat on the back”, said the party’s election broadcast was “very powerful”.
“I think Ken has always been the underdog in this campaign,” Mr Miliband said. “I actually think he has fought his way back into this race because of the power of his ideas. He is going to fight to the finish.”
The bad-tempered mayoral contest has been overshadowed by Mr Livingstone and Mr Johnson trading allegations of tax avoidance, which resulted in the candidates publishing their income and tax returns last week.
Mr Miliband said he would be happy to publish his own tax returns and would consider whether the rest of his shadow Cabinet should also disclose their personal arrangements.