LibDems pick ex-policeman Paddick for London mayor

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LONDON, Nov 13 (Reuters) Former police chief Brian Paddick entered the London mayoral race today after he was selected as the Liberal Democrat candidate in a party ballot.

Paddick was the highest ranking openly gay officer in the Metropolitan Police before he retired in May, and was dubbed ''commander crackpot'' by his critics for his softly-softly approach to cannabis.

In what is shaping up to be one of the most colourful mayoral campaigns in recent times, Paddick will take on flamboyant Conservative MP Boris Johnson and twice-elected incumbent Ken Livingstone for the mayoral post on May 1, 2008.

Johnson is viewed as a right-leaning eccentric, who is often spotted riding his bike around London's streets.

Livingstone has attracted controversy for his anti-establishment views and his meetings with Cuban leader Fidel Castro and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Paddick said his campaign would focus on a better life for Londoners.

''Less crime, better transport, cleaner air and fewer Londoners living in poverty are all crucial in making sure that London remains one of the most exciting cities in the world,'' he said.

''I strongly believe that the position of mayor can be a powerful source for good. During the coming months I will be explaining to people throughout London why the time has come for a change.'' Acting leader of the Liberal Democrats, Vince Cable, said: ''London is one of the greatest cities in the world and in Brian Paddick Londoners finally have the serious candidate they deserve.'' REUTERS SKB RAI1508

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