Ken Livingstone tips Sadiq Khan to be next London mayor

Sadiq Khan will emerge as Labour's London mayoral candidate, former mayor Ken Livingstone predicted last night.

Speaking to Politics.co.uk, Livingstone said that Labour's shadow justice secretary would win the selection if he chooses to stand in May.

"My guess would be Sadiq Khan [will win] if he wants to go for it," he said, adding: "If he's not in the cabinet."

Livingstone's prediction goes against a series of polls which give former Olympics minister Tessa Jowell a clear lead.

The most recent YouGov poll for the Evening Standard, found Jowell has the support of 34% of Labour supporters to just 19% for Khan. She also remains the clear bookies favourite to emerge as both Labour's candidate and the next mayor.

However, as leader of Labour's London campaign and a close ally of Ed Miliband, Khan has significantly better access to Labour's election 'machine' than any of his rivals.

Livingstone was speaking during a panel discussion at the Centre for London think tank. Responding to a suggestion from the Conservative's former mayoral candidate Steve Norris, that Khan risks losing his Tooting seat this May, Livingstone suggested that Khan had a "great machine" which would deliver for him.

"Sadiq's got a great machine down there," he said with a wry smile. When Norris suggested Khan risked taking the seat for granted, Ken laughed: "Oh Sadiq doesn't take it for granted."

Livingstone has previously refused to get involved in the campaign to succeed him as Labour's candidate. However, he offered only lukewarm support for Khan's rivals, when pressed by Politics.co.uk last night.

"None of them need to be stopped because they will be a disaster," he said.

Khan has not yet declared his intention to stand for the mayoralty but is widely expected to announce his bid once the general election is over. He will be joined by Jowell, David Lammy, Diane Abbott and Christian Wolmar. London MP Gareth Thomas, is also thought to be considering a bid. Labour's selection process will begin in the immediate aftermath of the general election and is expected to conclude at the end of July.