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The BBC's John Pienaar
"All the parties agreed who to blame - Ken Livingston"
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banner Tuesday, 2 May, 2000, 15:42 GMT 16:42 UK
Livingstone attacked on 'direct action'

Tony Banks and Jack Straw join Labour's Frank Dobson
With two days left to polling day, rival London mayor candidates have sought to link frontrunner Ken Livingstone's support for direct action to Monday's violence in the capital.

Labour's Frank Dobson accused Mr Livingstone of encouraging the violence.

Direct action is not violence

Ken Livingstone, Sky News, January 2000
"Yesterday rioters who believe in direct action smashed up property, put working people in fear of their lives, assaulted the police and defiled the Cenotaph," he said.

"If Ken Livingstone were mayor, the police and Londoners would not be sure whose side he would be on."

"That is because they know what he has said. The rioters know what he has said and they cannot have failed to have been encouraged to think that he was really with them."

But Mr Livingstone dismissed the row and condemned the rioters as "mindless thugs".

Confusion over 'direct action'

Mr Dobson was speaking at a news conference where he was flanked by Home Secretary Jack Straw and former sports minister Tony Banks, who worked with Mr Livingstone when he leader of the Greater London Council.

I've always been in favour of direct action. One of my fondest memories was chasing the inspector of the Archway Road enquiry out onto the roof at Central Hall

Ken Livingstone, The Face, February 2000
Mr Straw said: "I believe that Ken Livingstone has shown he can't be trusted with London's future."

Asked if none of the protests he had ever taken part in amounted to "direct action", Mr Straw - a former CND activist and one-time leader of the National Union of Students - insisted they did not.

There was "all the difference" between CND protests of the kind he had supported and "'direct action', which is code for the kind of violence we saw yesterday," he said.

But Mr Banks, asked if he equated support for "direct action" with encouraging violence, acknowledged they were not necessarily the same thing. When asked how he would define the term he said: "It depends entirely what you mean."

Mr Banks also expressed bafflement at Mr Livingstone's lead in the opinion polls, saying: "I can't understand what is going on in this campaign to be honest."

'Wake-up call'

Conservative candidate Steve Norris accused Mr Livingstone of having increased the likelihood of violence at Monday's anti-capitalist protest.

"It isn't enough to talk the language of direct action all year and then utter words of condemnation after the event," said Mr Norris, who as a director of the Road Haulage Association backed a truckers' protest which brought central London to standstill last year.

"Ken's remarks and attitude over the last year actually contributed to the likelihood of violence yesterday," he said.

Monday's Mayday protest was against capitalism
Liberal Democrat candidate Susan Kramer said that the violence was "yet another wake-up call to London".

"Ken has made it clear he supports direct action and yesterday he got direct action."

"If you have the kind of leadership Ken offers, in a way you have given a nod to this, to say this is a city where anarchy can get a warm reception."

Livingstone praises police tone

Mr Livingstone himself condemned Monday's violence and issued a statement praising the police for their handling of the day's events.

"The police action concentrated on isolating the small minority of determined wreckers and thugs intent on violence and damage to property from any peaceful protesters," he said.

"Throughout the four days [of demonstrations] the police thereby set the tone that London both upholds the right to peacefully demonstrate and that it will clamp down with the full force of the law on those who threaten mayhem in the capital.

"This is precisely the tone that should be set for policing in London."

Resignation brushed off

Earlier in the day, the independent candidate brushed aside the resignation of one of his campaign workers, saying: "I've never heard of him."

The Brent East MP said the first he had known of Mark Goddard having worked on his campaign was when he read his name in Tuesday's newspapers.

In an article for the Times Mr Goddard, who said he had worked for the Livingstone campaign for six weeks as personnel manager, wrote: "Of late I've grown worried he could become a danger to London."

Mr Livingstone, during a visit to the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions to urge more cash for the capital, said: "I am not commenting on someone whose name I had never heard of until I read the newspapers this morning."

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See also:

01 May 00 | London Mayor
On the stump: Ken Livingstone
30 Apr 00 | London Mayor
Dobson book exposť denied
27 Apr 00 | London Mayor
Voting starts as poll buoys Livingstone
25 Apr 00 | London Mayor
'Don't punt on fun candidate' - Dobson
24 Apr 00 | London Mayor
Ken 'unbeatable' say bookies
17 Apr 00 | London Mayor
Livingstone unveils mayor manifesto
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