Ken Livingstone made a direct play for the gay vote last night as he toured Central London’s Soho area.
At times even the candidate seemed surprised at the warmth of his reception during the course of the 2 hour walkabout for which he was joined by MP Chris Bryant and Deputy Mayor Nicky Gavron.
Starting out from Comptons a legion of supporters and hacks types followed Livingstone into the Profile bar for free champagne and canapes.
Aware that some LGBT voters would want to support openly gay LibDem Mayoral candidate Brian Paddick Livingstone constantly explained the concept of the preferential vote system which, he said, meant there was “no such thing as a wasted vote” in the election and would allow Paddick’s backers to their important second vote to Livingstone.
Carefully avoiding attacking Paddick Livingstone told MayorWatch that he admired his rival for surviving in the Police force when it was a “far from progressive”
Despite the high rhetoric to come the moment of the night was undoubtedly the moment when a young homeless girl approached the Mayor. Her words were drowned out by the media pack who were desperate for a picture of the pair talking but framed by the bright lights and extravagance of Soho the girl struck a desperate image.
Whatever she said seemed to have a profound impact on Livingstone who held her hand and, as the crowd finally fell silent, could be heard promising that someone would “come back for her and find her”.
The seemingly ever-growing throng moved on The Loft and Retrobar before finishing at the Heaven nightclub where a crowd of supporters awaited their man. Bryant warned supporters against letting the Tories getting a foothold in London and cautioned that the support Livingstone had shown for Gay rights would not be shared by some other candidates.
In an impassioned speech Livingstone sought to contrast his long-term support for gay rights with the attitude of the Tories who he said had “come late” to the cause and had spent their time talking about “homosexualists” and passing Section 28.
He recalled the Commons debate on Section 28 when, he said, old Tories stood and protested against schools “teaching homosexuality”. Posing the apparently rhetorical question “what school do you know that promotes homosexuality?” he seemed surprised by the number of people calling out “Eton” and “the Tory ones”.
We were told that London was the template for the world to come – a vibrant, tolerant place where everyone lived side by side, respecting the rights of others and safe to live their own life in peace.
This was vintage Livingstone and the crowd loved it.