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London mayoral race kicks off at Limmud

    Ken Livingstone's running mate in this year's London elections has tried to reassure Jewish voters over the prospect of him becoming mayor again.

    Mindful of his run-ins with the Jewish community last time, Labour London Assembly member Valerie Shawcross - who would become his deputy mayor - promised that the next administration would be "different".

    Mr Livingstone caused widespread outrage over his welcome for Islamist cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi and his comparison of a Jewish journalist to a concentration-camp guard during his last tenure of City Hall.

    At an electoral debate at the Limmud conference, Ms Shawcross said that Mr Livingstone should have "apologised much more quickly" in the past.

    But she pointed out that, when he had first become mayor, he had been independent, with advisers who were not always from the Labour Party. "This time there will be a much clearer arrangement that this is a Labour administration," she said.

    But Conservative Assembly member Andrew Boff said that Mr Livingstone seemed "to have a longstanding problem with Israel… and he can't keep his mouth shut about it".

    The LibDem candidate for mayor, Brian Paddick, stressed that one of the prime responsibilities of the position was to "ensure social cohesion" in the capital. "You should avoid at all costs getting embroiled in divisive issues of foreign policy which have no bearing on your role as mayor," he said.

    "There is enough division in the capital as it is, without saying the sort of things that politicians sometimes say that create further division."

    Also taking part was the Green candidate for Barnet and Camden, A M Poppy.

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