LONDON — The candidates battling to become London's mayor made their pitches for the gay vote on Saturday, with less than a month to go to the election.
The May 3 poll will decide who is in charge of the British capital for the London 2012 Olympics, which run from July 27 to August 12.
Polls show that the current mayor, Boris Johnson, is in a tight race with his predecessor Ken Livingstone, who served the first two four-year terms since the post was created in 2000.
Johnson, 47, is from Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative Party, while Livingstone, 66, is standing for the opposition Labour Party.
The pair debated gay issues Saturday with Liberal Democrat candidate Brian Paddick, formerly Britain's top openly gay police officer, and Green candidate Jenny Jones.
"It's really impressive that all of the main mayoral candidates wanted to engage lesbian, gay and bisexual Londoners -- something that would have been unthinkable 15 or 20 years ago," said Ben Summerskill, the chief executive of Stonewall, the gay rights charity which hosted the hustings.
"What was particularly interesting was that many of the people in the audience were completely undecided about how they were going to vote, so clearly no one should take London's 350,000 gay voters for granted."
This week, Johnson banned a Christian group's advert from appearing on London's iconic red buses which bore the slogan: "Not gay! Post-gay, ex-gay and proud. Get over it!".
That Anglican Mainstream ad, which was due to run from Monday, was in response to a Stonewall advert on London's buses which read: "Some people are gay. Get over it".
Seven people are standing in the mayoral race, including an independent former civil servant and a candidate each from the British National Party and the United Kingdom Independence Party.
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Photo AFP, Carl Court