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banner Tuesday, 4 April, 2000, 13:42 GMT 14:42 UK
Livingstone promises 'gay marriages'
Ken Livingstone
Mr Livingstone has aimed to play down the remarks
Gay couples should be able to "register their relationship" in marriage-style ceremonies in London, independent mayoral candidate Ken Livingstone has said.

Mr Livingstone said the register office ceremonies, seen as the equivalent of a marriage service, would help to stop discrimination.

The Brent East MP subsequently tried to play down the remarks, saying the mayor would not have the power to introduce the ceremonies.

But he added: "It is the mayor's duty to stand up for all Londoners equally. London is a place people want to visit and return to because it is a vibrant and tolerant city."

Gay rights activist Peter Tatchell, who is standing for the new London assembly, welcomed Mr Livingstone's comments on gay couples' registering their relationships.

He said: "No other leading politician anywhere in the world can match Ken's unbroken, 100% support for gay rights. That's why I'm backing Ken for mayor."

But Mr Livingstone's Labour rival for London mayor, Frank Dobson, was quick to react to his comments, with a spokesman saying they indicated "a lurch back to the loony left".

Warning to businesses

He said: "No-one supports homophobia. Londoners' wages should be spent on jobs, crime and transport, and alongside tackling prejudice, that is what matters to Londoners."

Mr Livingstone has also repeated his promise to use the mayor's 3.5bn budget to attempt to end anti-gay discrimination.

He said he would tell businesses that he would not deal with companies which discriminate against gays and lesbians.

But Ruth Lea, of the Institute of Directors, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme she was concerned about Mr Livingstone's approach.

Police backing

She said: "I, like many people in this country, object to the repeal of Section 28 yet I wouldn't like to be thought of as homophobic.

"And if I were running a company in London and I felt that Ken was going to discriminate against me because of my views then I think I would be very concerned."

Meanwhile, Mr Livingstone's policies on crime have been backed by a former Metropolitan Police deputy commander.

John Alderson, also the former head of the Devon and Cornwall police, said "it would be all to the good" if a mayor came to power promoting the policies put forward by the MP.

Mr Alderson said London would be likely to see an improvement between the police and the community with Mr Livingstone as mayor.

'Open attitude'

His remarks come after Glen Smyth, head of London's Metropolitan Police Federation, attacked Mr Livingstone, saying the police force would not have confidence in him as mayor.

But in an interview with Red Pepper magazine, Mr Alderson said that the left-winger's approach while at the Greater London Council during the 1980s was in line with his own.

He said: "It will be quite likely given Ken Livingstone's open attitude to local government that he will play a bigger role in improving police-community relations rather than just leaving this task to the Home Office."

Mr Alderson, who also gave evidence to the Scarman report into the 1981 Brixton riots, said Mr Livingstone had tried at the GLC "to bring the day-to-day policing closer to the people".

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See also:

29 Mar 00 | UK Politics
Tube bond plan 'more expensive'
29 Mar 00 | UK Politics
Police chief attacks Livingstone
18 Jan 00 | UK Politics
'Direct action' row hits Livingstone
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