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Page last updated at 10:27 GMT, Sunday, 4 May 2008 11:27 UK

London Mayor's profile

Paola Buonadonna
By Paola Buonadonna
The Politics Show

The eyes of the nation may well be on Boris Johnson this week, as the new Mayor sharpens his pencils and arranges the family photos on his desk at City Hall.

Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson will get his feet under the Mayoral desk

But is the rest of the world taking any notice?

One of the most famous Mayor in the world is Rudolph Giuliani; thanks to New York's iconic appeal people across the word got to hear about his 'zero tolerance' stance on crime.

Even after he had stepped down, millions saw him on television incessantly in the aftermath of 9/11.

Such was Giuliani's exposure that he did persuaded himself, wrongly as it turns out, that he could take the White House.

But could Ken now run for president, (or, more controversially, be England's manager)? And will Boris ever be a household name in Palm Springs, Calcutta or Lima?

I asked a very unscientific sample of international contacts, all long-time London residents, who came up with interesting, often conflicting insights¿

Alessio Altichieri, London correspondent for many years for Italy's most prestigious daily, Corriere Della Sera, remembers interviewing Ken Livingstone early on in his first campaign and finding him "very funny and very irreverent".

His interview, in which "Mr Livingstone criticised everybody", was reprised by several British newspapers.

Altichieri added: "Rudolph Giuliani became famous as Mayor of New York, because of the platform that job gave him.

"In London's case it's the opposite. Livingstone's unique character 'made' the job what it is and gave it the profile that it has.

"Johnson is actually very similar to Livingstone in this respect: they're not great administrators, neither of them, both have the personality to give the city of London a huge boost."

Next I caught up with Dr Karen Smith, an American-born lecturer in European Affairs at the London School of Economics, after she got back from a visit to New York. "The mayoral race has been widely covered over there," she told me.

"Both the New York Times and the New Yorker have run profiles of the two main candidates. The city has been looking closely at London's congestion charge and Livingstone profile is extremely high because of that but also because of the successful Olympic bid and then, the next day, the London bombings.

"I'd say the profile you have is a mixture between the personality and drive of the person doing it, but also the platform offered by the job itself."

Others I spoke to agreed that whoever speaks for London is going to have the attention of a world audience, in no small part because London itself is a miniature world stage.

"London is so much more international than New York or Paris," said Stephane Rambosson, a French investment banker who works in the City.

"Just the 400.00 French residents make it the sixth biggest French city. You have thousands of Americans and now Eastern Europeans. Running London is a very big job and is definitely a full time job.

"How will Boris fit in the role? Well, he is young, he is ambitious and he will want to use the job as a platform for higher office. But first he has to actually do the job and do it well."

Brian O'Connell, London Editor of the Irish TV and radio network RTE had a very different view, one which might offer some comfort to the outgoing Mayor.

"Ken Livingstone has had a high profile in Ireland for years, "he said," because he was one of the few MPs who were interested in Northern Ireland before it became fashionable and one of the first to say that we needed to talk to Sinn Fein.

"He is the only British politician apart from Blair and Brown that the average Irish person could name and this is the only reason there was so much coverage of the 2000 and 2004 mayoral elections.

"Now Ken's gone the profile of the London Mayor will fade as far as Ireland is concerned, although I suppose it all depends on what Boris gets up to at the time of the Olympics."

The Politics Show, with Jon Sopel on Sunday 04 May 2008 at 12:00 GMT on BBC One.

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