Everything you need to know about the London mayoral election in five minutes

By Oliver Hotham

The elections for London's mayor are drawing closer. And, just to make sure things don’t get too interesting, the candidates available are precisely the same as in 2008.

What exactly does the mayor of London do?

There's a lot of confusion about this. The official role of the mayor of London is to run the Greater London Authority, the administrative body of greater London. The mayor of London has control over a budget of roughly £14.6 billion and can influence areas such as policing, the environment, fire services, and others. Both Livingstone and Johnson have gradually expanded the position's powers and earned a significant role on the national political stage.

The candidates

Ken Livingstone (Labour)

Former mayor, sometime left-wing firebrand: He's getting on a bit but Thatcher's bête noir is hoping for one last lap.

Who is Ken Livingstone?

Livingstone began his political career as head of the Greater London Council. He became famous for his staunch opposition to Thatcherism and the government's economic policies. He was made London's first elected mayor in 2000, when he ran as an independent. He later rejoined Labour.

During his tenure he became a prominent left-wing voice in the country, becoming both loathed and loved for his socially liberal, anti-racist and environmental politics.

After eight years as mayor of London, Livingston lost to Boris Johnson. Livingstone is running again, he says, to "do everything I can to protect Londoners from the recession and the effects of the government's policies".

What are his policies?

His key campaign promise so far is "Ken's Fare Deal". He has promised to reduce fares on London transport by seven per cent or resign. Polls show most Londoners are sceptical of his ability to carry out the promise. He is also promising to reverse Boris Johnson's cuts of 1,700 police officers.

What did he accomplish as mayor?

His most famous policy was the introduction of the congestion charge, which introduced a new charge on certain vehicles driving into central London on weekdays. The policy was hailed by environmentalists as a first step to reducing congestion and pollution, but was deeply unpopular among motorists.

He massively improved transport links between the outer boroughs and the inner city and made night buses far more frequent. The introduction of the Oyster card protected many commuters from fare increases.

Livingstone also set up Britain's first same-sex marriage register, and officially apologised for London's role in the slave trade.

Why is he so controversial?

Livingstone has been accused of "cronyism", giving special favours to those in his inner circle, as well as for his connections to Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, a socialist with autocratic tendencies.

One of the biggest controversies during his tenure as mayor was his decision to invite cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi to London. Qaradawi is on the record as having said homosexuality should be punishable by death but he is valued in some quarters as a moderate voice challenging extremism.

In one example of his controversial outbursts, Livingstone accused a Jewish Evening Standard journalist of being "like a German war criminal" working for a newspaper whose parent company "supported fascism".

Recently he said the Conservative Party was "riddled" with closeted gay men.

Boris Johnson (Conservative)

Half mayor, half celebrity: the buffoon act is now generally considered a mask for a seriously ambitious and talented political player.

Who is Boris Johnson?

The former MP and editor of the Spectator is a favourite among Tory supporters, but he rose to national prominence through appearances on Have I Got News for You and his column in the Telegraph.

What are his policies?

Johnson ran the 2008 campaign on a platform of accountability, improving public transportation and cutting down on crime.

The campaign to re-elect Boris, BackBoris2012, is promising to increase police numbers and extend the Freedom Pass to all Londoners over 60 – claiming this will benefit one million people.

What has he accomplished as mayor?

As mayor, Boris banned the consumption of alcohol on the underground and created the Forensic Audit Panel, tasked with monitoring and investigating financial management in London's local government. He also introduced the 'Boris bikes' (although they were conceived in Livingstone's administration) and introduced a new generation of Routemaster buses.

Controversies?

Mr Johnson described Conservative leadership disputes as being like "Papua New Guinea-style orgies of cannibalism and chief-killing", and called his £250,000 a year salary for his Telegraph column as "chicken feed".

His tenure as mayor came under criticism mostly for transport policy. Fares rises startled many commuters, he failed in his bid to stop tube strikes and the cost of the new Routemaster prototype (£1.4 million each) saw them branded a "vanity project".

Brian Paddick (Liberal Democrat)

Softly-softly Brixton copper, phone-hacking campaigner, stony faced political operator.

Who is Brian Paddick?

Before he ran to be mayor in 2008, Brian Paddick was deputy assistant commissioner in London's Met Police Service. He was the most senior openly gay police officer in the country at the time.

Paddick became known for his liberal approach to the policing of soft drug use and his very public clash with police commissioner Sir Ian Blair's over the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes. He felt there was a lack of accountability in how the investigation of the case had been carried out.

What are his policies?

Paddick's 2012 campaign is focusing particularly on transport, proposing new measures to try to save the commuter money. They propose, among other things, a one-hour bus ticket and a part-time travel card.

Can he win?

Paddick was hampered by the profile of his two opponents last time round and there's nothing to stop that happening again. He won the most second preference votes of any other candidate in 2008 though, suggesting there was support for him but that voters assumed he couldn't win.

Paddick will be hampered in his ambitions by his party's unpopularity in the country for this year's contest and opinion polls predict him winning only six per cent of the vote against his opponents' average of 45%.

Jenny Jones (Green Party of England and Wales)

You don’t know who she is, but she's well on her way to take third place.

Who is Jenny Jones?

A prominent member of the London assembly since its creation, Jenny Jones was also deputy mayor of London for a year and held many other advisory roles under Ken Livingstone. The Green party is citing the influence she has had with both mayors.

What are her policies?

Jones is running a firmly left-wing campaign emphasising the standard of living and transport, promising the GLA will create thousands of new jobs and pledging to install a new low-emission zone in the centre of London.

The Jones campaign, like Livingstone's, promises to resist the influence of government cuts on Londoners.

Can she win?

Nope, but recent polls strongly suggest she could take third place.

Voting takes place on May 3rd.