From Met to Mayor: Brian Paddck’s capital battle

SO far the race to become the next Mayor of London has been nothing short of a farcical scrap. Two heavyweight personalities have slugged it out with the aim of hitting each other out of the headlines

SO far the race to become the next Mayor of London has been nothing short of a farcical scrap.

Two heavyweight personalities have slugged it out with the aim of hitting each other out of the headlines.

But in the background of this theatrical fight, the Lib Dems have been billing their candidate, Brian Paddick, as the reliable man in the middle who will bang Boris and Ken's heads together and win the battle for London.

Best known as the Met's first openly gay commissioner, Mr Paddick is not used to being referred to as the straight man, but that is what his campaign is trying to sell.

In a visit to the Ham&High offices last week he explained his plan for the capital, which includes cutting crime by 20 per cent in his first term. If he fails he has promised not to run again.

He says: "I spent 30 years working for the Metropolitan Police and crime is the number one issue for Londoners.

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"I asked Boris 'what experience do you have?' His response was 'if people had to have experience to go into politics we wouldn't have had the likes of Tony Blair', which I thought was an interesting point from a Conservative.

"I joke that he's the MP of Henley on Thames and I am the resident of Vauxhall on Thames.

"More and more I think this campaign will move away from personalities to policies and people will realise I am the person to vote for."

Mr Paddick comes across as down to earth and happily speaks to people at the office.

But he still has flashes of the policeman - possessing a glare that makes you think you've done something wrong, whether you have or not.

It was working for the Met that persuaded him to run for mayor.

"The reason I joined the police was because I wanted to make a positive difference to London," he explains.

"I had a fall out with the Commissioner and left before I really wanted, but I gave up the police, I didn't give up wanting to make that difference. This isn't the start of a political career. I think the Mayor of London is a unique office and I have no political ambition beyond it.

"I'm only interested in London. I was London born and bred and I have spent all my life here. I don't own a car, and my only form of transport is my Oyster card - so I have a vested interest in trying to sort out public transport.

"I know the housing situation because I've had failed relationships, which meant I had to find rented accommodation.

"I have professional experience but also real life experience of London. I have selfish reasons in wanting to sort this out because I live and breathe it every day."

His 30-year police career started in 1976 and his final post was Deputy Assistant Commissioner with territorial policing for all 32 of London's boroughs from 2005. But getting elected will be an even tougher job.

In the 2004 election Lib Dem candidate Simon Hughes won just 14.8 per cent of the first preference vote - just half of what the second placed Tories took home (28.2 per cent, while Ken took 35.7).

His task is particularly tough at the moment given the strength of Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone's campaigns.

This week it was revealed that Mr Livingstone is hiring the masterminds behind the Cadbury's gorilla advert to run his publicity campaign.

Mr Johnson's profile is also a force to be reckoned with and he has hired tough Australian strategist Lynton Crosby.

Mr Paddick says: "My biggest obstacle is that I need to get better known. My experience with Londoners is that if they know me they like me, so I need to make myself known more. The vast majority of Londoners are saying they are not going to bother to vote or haven't made up their minds yet so there is everything to play for."

And it seems it's not only the Lib Dems who realised the strength of having Mr Paddick in their corner - he says he was approached by the Tories too.

His party choice may have put him at a natural disadvantage in the voting stakes but it's his distance from main party politics which he hopes will clinch him the win.

Brian Paddick - the facts:

1958 - Brian Paddick was born in Balham, South London, in 1958.

1981 - He served as a frontline officer during the Brixton riots.

2002 - He fulfills his ambition by becoming borough commander for Lambeth and sparks controversy by ordering officers not to arrest or charge people carrying small amounts of cannabis, but to confiscate it and hand out warnings.

2003 - He is made Deputy Assistant Commissioner for the Met and is the force's most senior openly gay officer.

o Mr Paddick is opposed to the Iraq war, nuclear power and ID cards: "Not one of the 29 young people murdered in London in the last 12 months would have been saved if there were ID cards," he told the Ham&High.

o He also opposes the idea of closing police stations such as Hampstead. He said: "This Government, and I have to say this police authority, is forgetting that we are talking about people here and these buildings are symbolic."

o He thinks parking regulations should be implemented with "common sense" and traffic wardens should use "discretion".