Ken Livingstone's description, at the official launch of his London mayoral campaign on Wednesday, of directly elected mayors as a "a bit alien" is not a new departure.
The Morning Star shared his original opposition to this US-style practice, preferring a more inclusive approach whereby councillors of the largest party choose their candidate to run the show.
However, when former prime minister and admirer of all things transatlantic Tony Blair pushed through the London mayor idea, it was essential that Livingstone threw his hat in the ring.
Londoners were given a lesson in new Labour control-freakery then, as every bureaucratic ploy was used to prevent Livingstone's selection as Labour candidate in 2000.
Despite being expelled from Labour, he was heavily supported by trade unionists and individual party members, winning a crushing victory as an independent over the Downing Street-led party machine.
Fighting New Labour efforts to trim his influence, such as Gordon Brown's insistence that the Underground be part-privatised before the mayor was given responsibility for Transport for London, Livingstone made a substantial difference to the lives of working people and the poor most dependent on public transport.
He stood up to the roads lobby by insisting on a central London congestion zone on social and environmental grounds, where private vehicles would be levied to provide funds to further improve public transport.
Had Labour in Parliament drawn appropriate lessons from the failure of its leadership's obdurate efforts to steamroller alternative views in the party by instituting a change of political direction and personnel, it might have prevented Livingstone's replacement by Boris Johnson four years ago as Labour's tarnished reputation hung like an albatross round his neck.
Johnson is precisely the kind of right-wing populist who, with substantial media backing, benefits from the directly elected mayoral position by cultivating a slightly off-the-wall persona to convey an image of individuality and cover up an exceedingly right-wing agenda.
He delights in personalised knockabout politics in preference to debating key policy differences and potential benefits for the most hard-pressed Londoners.
In contrast, Livingstone is concentrating on the bread-and-butter issues such as public transport fares reductions and restoration of the education maintenance allowance to help 16 to 19-year-olds continue studying.
He is also intent on cutting "rip-off energy prices" by creating an energy co-operative and tackling private home-letting exploitation through a non-profit lettings agency.
Livingstone has pledged to have no outside distraction from his priority of the mayor's job, while Johnson insists that he will continue to moonlight as a Telegraph columnist, being paid £250,000 a year. He has demonstrated his utter lack of empathy with poorer Londoners by describing the salary as "chickenfeed."
Labour's candidate has been at the sharp end of politics for four decades and has never shrunk from being controversial.
He has said some things best left unsaid and ruffled feathers best left unruffled, but his commitment to improving life for Londoners, especially the least well off, is beyond dispute.
A victory for him as mayor in May would be both a step forward for London residents and a rallying call for everyone wanting to see the end of the conservative coalition government.
Personal quibbles about minor aspects or historical differences must be set aside for the greater good. It has to be Livingstone on May 3.
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