Coe no-go: Tories draw blank in mayoral hunt

The Conservative party's hunt for a successor to Boris Johnson drew another blank yesterday after their first choice ruled himself out of a run for mayor.

The former Olympian and one-time Tory MP Sebastian Coe, told ITV news that his political career had come to an end.

"I see my political career on the front line as being over," he said.

"I will always be physically inquisitive and occasionally active but I really have no ambitions to do anything of that nature."

Asked if Boris Johnson could persuade him to run he replied: "Sadly, not even Boris."

The news came as another potential Tory mayoral candidate told he was throwing his weight behind the campaign to get Zac Goldsmith to run instead.

Bloomberg executive and Transport for London board member Michael Liebriech said that Goldsmith would be an "exceptional candidate".

"Zac really transcends party lines and that's a rare thing. I think he would gather a lot of cross-party support and I would love to help him do it."

Asked about the currently declared Tory candidates, Ivan Massow and Stephen Greenhalgh, Liebreich said he "[remains] to be convinced" that they have what it takes to unite Londoners.

"We need a bridge-builder." he said.

Goldsmith already has Boris Johnson's support. However, he has told friends that he would prefer to wait until 2020 before making a bid.

One factor affecting his decision is the possibility of the Conservatives backing the expansion of Heathrow after the general election.

He has told friends this would make it very difficult for him to stand on a Conservative ticket.

Liebreich said that if Goldsmith did decline to stand, then he would seriously consider "throwing my hat into the ring" after the general election instead.

Currently declared Tory candidate Ivan Massow's campaign for the job has received a lot of coverage in recent weeks. However some of his policies, such as a plan to train Londoners to be a reserve strike-busting force, and a plan to build a super-prison in the Thames Estuary have raised eyebrows among Tory colleagues.

Last week he was forced to withdraw his plan to turn City Hall into a homeless shelter after he belatedly discovered that the terms of the lease meant it would not be possible.

The hunt for a "celebrity" candidate continues in Tory circles with names like Karren Brady and even Jeremy Paxman still being talked about. However none have yet publicly declared an interest.

In the meantime, Labour's selection process has been brought forward and will now begin straight after the general election.

Frontrunner Tessa Jowell has been steadily building support for her bid not least from the Evening Standard which published a glowing interview with her earlier this month.

Jowell's supporters remain quietly confident but now believe that Diane Abbott could be her main contender for the job.

Shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan has also been working hard behind the scenes to gather support.

Khan's opponents expect him to use his position as the man in charge of Labour's London campaign to secure significant support from both the unions and Labour councillors.

A new poll out for the Evening Sandard today shows Khan's support has increased significantly in the past month, and he is now in second place behind Jowell.

David Lammy's campaign has also caused controversy this week after criticising his party for trying to "out-Ukip Ukip" on immigration in their election material.