Ken Livingstone retires from politics

Ken Livingstone has bowed out of electoral politics after more than four decades, as he announced that his unsuccessful fourth race for London Mayor was his last election.

Exactly four years ago, Boris Johnson dramatically brought to an end his eight-year reign at City Hall.

But a seasoned campaigner, famous for defying the odds, he proved unable to win even when they were stacked in his favour - neither his personal nor political magic seemed to work on Londoners.

His defeat by the wafer-thin margin of 48.5% to 51.5% to Mr Johnson prompted an immediate announcement of his decision not to stand again.

"This is my last election," he told fellow-candidates and supporters at City Hall. "Forty-one years ago almost to the day, I won my first election on a manifesto promising to build good council housing and introduce a free bus pass for pensioners.

"Now I've lived long enough to get one myself. I didn't think I necessarily would at the time.

"And since then, I've won 11 more elections and lost three. But the one I most regret losing is this. This is the defeat I most regret, because these are the worst times for 80 years, and Londoners needed a mayor to get them through this very difficult period by cutting fares, by cutting energy prices and putting people back to work building good council homes.

"I am sincerely sorry to those Londoners who desperately wanted us to win that I failed to do that and they will continue to bear the pain of this recession without any help from here in City Hall."

In Mr Livingstone's heyday he was the left-wing thorn in the side of the Tories - Margaret Thatcher resorted to legislation to remove him in 1986. Tony Blair's government was also determined to exclude him that he ended up running as an Independent for Mayor and winning.

As he contemplates defeat, Mr Livingstone said he will be a spectator rather than a key participant for the London Olympics he helped secure.