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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 August 2006, 18:18 GMT 19:18 UK
Ferrari will not be Tories' mayor
Nick Ferrari
Mr Ferrari says the Tories have "botched" the contest
Outspoken radio presenter Nick Ferrari has accused the Conservatives of blowing their chance to get a big name to be their London mayoral candidate.

Mr Ferrari was speaking as he decided not join the race to be the Tory candidate, saying it would mean giving up his job on LBC radio.

He criticised the Tories for trying to select a candidate 18 months ahead of the mayoral elections.

He says he will decide next year whether to stand as an independent.

'Turned down'

The Conservatives are using a new X-Factor style process to choose their mayoral candidate, with non-party members able to stand.

But critics have said the race has failed to attract well-known figures, with nominations due to close on Friday.

Michael Portillo and Seb Coe are both reported to have turned down the idea of standing and previous candidate Steve Norris is so far undecided.

Instead, think tank boss Nicholas Boles is seen as the frontrunner.

The other declared candidates include London Assembly Member Richard Barnes, former parliamentary candidate James Cleverly, former Norris running mate Victoria Borwick, and former government adviser Warwick Lightfoot.

'Listeners first'

Mr Ferrari and LBC asked Ofcom for guidance on whether he could be the Tory candidate and continue his breakfast show.

While the regulator had talks with LBC, it was up to the radio station to decide for itself whether it could keep to the rules on impartiality and balance.

The radio presenter told the BBC News website he was not going ahead with his ambition to be the Tory candidate.

"I was hoping we would have a last minute change of heart. It will make it impossible to carry on doing the show," he said.

Mr Ferrari said for all the talk of "balance" in the broadcasting rules, in reality he could run into trouble every time he called for more police officers or talked about scrapping the congestion charge.

"My first loyalty has to be to my listeners," he said.

'Too soon'

He said he would look again at the idea in 12 months time as the situation might be different if he was an independent candidate campaigning for a much shorter period of time.

"The Conservative Party has got this wrong," he said. "They have got a bunch of people who are not even names in their own households.

"They have botched it. They have gone 12 months too soon."

Mr Ferrari said he had a conversation with Conservative headquarters to see if there was any movement in the timetable and was told there was not.

The Conservatives are not revealing how many people are vying to becoming their candidate until nominations close.

Asked about Mr Ferrari's criticisms, a party spokeswoman said the decision had been made to close nominations this week.

The US-style primary contest could not be compared to other ways candidates were chosen, she said.

"That is Nick Ferrari's decision if he doesn't want to stand," she added.




SEE ALSO
Londoners get say on Tory hopeful
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Livingstone wins mayoral contest
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Profile: Ken Livingstone
09 May 03 |  UK Politics



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