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Any lingering hopes the London mayoral election might be a clean contest with no cheap jibes among opponents were dashed today as Boris Johnson launched an attack on his “tax-dodging” rival Ken Livingstone.

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Labour’s candidate, a critic of tax avoidance, has come under pressure in recent weeks after it emerged he had been paid, legally, through a company instead of being taxed at source.

The Mayor of London, standing again as the Conservative candidate, accused his predecessor of being a “hypocrite” as well as a “glove puppet” for trade unions as he launched his re-election campaign.

Addressing the Conservative Party spring forum, Mr Johnson said: “I’m afraid on May 3 I do see real risks for this city and this country.

“I see a risk that City Hall will be recaptured by a bunch of semi-reformed Trotskyist, car-hating, (Venezuelan President) Hugo Chavez-idolising, newt-fancying, tax-dodging, bank-bashing hypocrites and bendy bus fetishists.”

Mr Johnson also launched a defence of City workers, telling activists there were 600,000 employees who depended on the financial sector in London, many on “modest” incomes.

“It’s about time we stopped abusing them,” he said.

He told the packed hall he felt like a “man who has built half a bridge” and could see what needed to be done to complete his “modernisation” programme.

Setting out his election blueprint, he said: “I feel like a man who has built half a bridge, or half a cable car - a massive, privately sponsored cable car. I can see the other side. I can see what needs to be done.”

He unveiled his nine-point plan for re-election, which includes council tax freezes, job creation, putting more police on the beat and cutting Tube delays.

He also pledged to secure a better deal for London from No 10, something that has already seen the Mayor cross swords with Downing Street.

Earlier today, David Cameron urged party members to help get Mr Johnson re-elected.

The Prime Minister said: “He’s defended the economic interests of London at every turn - believe me, I know.

“He’s a brilliant Mayor of the best city on Earth so let’s make sure that Boris gets another term.

“And to anyone wondering about the best thing to say on the doorstep, I give you just two words Ken Livingstone.

“We cannot let that man back running our capital city again.”

It comes as Mr Livingstone, the former Labour mayor who is vying to take back the job, launched his Fare Deal soapbox pledging to cut fares by seven per cent by October 7.

A campaign spokesman said: “Ken’s Fare Deal fare cut is clearly shown to be the most popular policy in the election.

“As we enter the next phase of the campaign Ken will take his red soapbox with his Fare Deal message to town centres all over London, starting in the battleground of Havering.”

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