London: Forthcoming elections to the post of London mayor is basically a contest between the 'Big 2' – incumbent Boris Johnson and Labour's Ken Livingstone – but an Indian-origin independent woman candidate is making waves with a positive campaign and high profile supporters.
Siobhan Benita, 40, is one of nine people who have declared their intention to contest the election on 3 May.
She recently resigned from a senior position in the Civil Service to contest the election.
Described as a "modern, credible alternative to Boris and Ken", Benita is the daughter of an Anglo-Indian mother and a Cornish father.
She joined the Civil Service in 1996 and worked in senior positions for over 15 years, working with ministers and top officials.
Among her supporters is Lord O'Donnell, the respected former head of the Civil Service who worked with prime ministers John Major, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, and stepped down as Cabinet Secretary last year.
Benita's campaign slogan is: 'Making London Even Better!'
Benita, who launched her campaign last night, says her aim is to create a "more creative, more inclusive, more forward-looking London".
Benita's website mentions her Indian background, and says: her mum came to London as a young girl in 1959.
It adds: "Siobhan embodies the very best of London - dynamic, tolerant and driven by compassion for others. Siobhan is a Londoner through and through.
"She was born and grew up in Merton and now lives with her husband and two daughters in New Malden, Kingston".
The full list of confirmed candidates for the mayoral election will be available on 30 March, but the cut and thrust of politics has already begun, with Conservative Johnson bidding for another term in office, while former Labour mayor Livingstone is seeking a return.
Making light of the charges and counter-charges traded by Johnson and Livingstone during the campaign, Benita says: "The big thing I want to stress is that an independent Mayor is better for London.
"During the campaign so far, it's like Ken and Boris have been playing poker".
Describing her as "someone who is very intelligent and has very strong views", O'Donnell said: "I think it's really important that we give Londoners a broader choice than just people who are funded and backed by party politics...
"I think she will add an interesting dimension to the race".
Benita, who studied English and German at University of Warwick, is described as a civil servant who devoted much time to improve diversity and, in particular, gender equality, in the workplace.
Updated Date: Feb 23, 2012 16:50 PM