- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 27, 2008

PARIS (Agence France-Presse) — Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe went to London yesterday to campaign for his ally and fellow left-winger Ken Livingstone ahead of this week’s knife-edge mayoral elections.

Mr. Livingstone, the incumbent from the ruling Labor Party, is beginning to nose ahead of his main rival Boris Johnson of the main opposition Conservative Party after several weeks of neck-and-neck polling.

Mr. Delanoe, seen as a rising star of the French left and fresh from re-election last month, conducted a walkabout and met with members of London’s French community alongside Mr. Livingstone.

Some 300,000 French people live in London, where the total population is over 7 million. All European Union citizens are eligible to vote in Thursday’s election.

“I am here because Ken asked me and I like him a lot,” Mr. Delanoe told reporters, adding that Mr. Livingstone was “a good mayor of London and a man with whom I have a personal friendship.”

Both mayors have pursued green transport policies, promoting cycling and public transport and discouraging the use of cars.

Mr. Livingstone said he intended to emulate some of Mr. Delanoe’s policies, including setting up a cheap bike-sharking network based on Paris’ successful “Velib” program.

He also wants to turn part of the banks of the River Thames into a beach area by 2010, two years ahead of the London Olympics, copying Mr. Delanoe’s highly successful “Paris Plage” that gives Parisians a monthlong beach experience on the River Seine during summers.

Mr. Livingstone has annoyed U.S. diplomats in London by forcing them to pay a “car tax” for driving in the city. Mr. Delanoe earlier this month caused a mild embarrassment for the French government by granting the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, and a Chinese dissident honorary citizenships just as France was trying to end tensions with China over protests against the Beijing Olympics.

Recent polls have put Mr. Livingstone and Mr. Johnson in a dead heat, but an Ipsos/MORI survey released Friday said the veteran socialist — once known as “Red Ken” — was six points ahead of his maverick rival.

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