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banner Tuesday, 9 October, 2001, 16:00 GMT 17:00 UK
Livingstone urges Tories to 'roast' Labour
London Mayor Ken Livingstone has stepped into the lion's den with an appearance on the Conservative Party conference fringe where he called on Tories to help him "roast" former colleagues in the Labour Party.

The unprecedented appeal, from the man seen by many Tories as a pre-eminent example of the 1980s "loony-left", is part of his ongoing struggle against government public-private partnership (PPP) plans for the Tube.

We should start to turn the heat up on these Labour MPs

Ken Livingstone
Speaking at Tuesday's Greater London Assembly fringe meeting in Blackpool, he urged the Conservatives to table a Commons motion calling for the PPP to be scrapped - echoing the call he made at last month's Liberal Democrat conference.

"You should roast these Labour MPs who are betraying their constituents by not being prepared to vote down the PPP on the underground," he declared.

Those same MPs were colleagues of Mr Livingstone until his expulsion from the party - for running against the official Labour mayoral candidate - and his subsequent decision to stand down from the Commons at the last election.

Despite his famous clashes with ex-Tory prime minister Margaret Thatcher, and her successful abolition of the Greater London Council he led, party activists at the meeting received him with warm applause.

He went on to paint a devastating picture of the state of London Underground.

'Abysmal' management

After years of chronic under-investment, reliability and punctuality figures were the worst ever, Mr Livingstone said.

The management ethos, which trickled down to all levels of staff, was "absolutely abysmal".

The director of finance had just resigned to work in the private sector while the director of human resources took retirement "immediately after awarding all the train drivers jobs for life".

"Now even I didn't think you'd ever get away with that," Mr Livingstone joked.

The only thing that focuses the mind of a politician is the thought of the loss of seats

Ken Livingstone
But he went on to deliver particularly harsh criticism of LU managing director Derek Smith, who the mayor said was now working part-time since taking up a two-day-a-week post at the Hammersmith Hospital Trust.

Yet the government's remedy for this "nightmare" situation was a "bad deal" for Londoners.

It would deliver only 55% of the money in the PPP contracts directly to modernisation programmes.

And the PPP could even collapse altogether, Mr Livingstone predicted, meaning the government had wasted the five years since it came to power.

'Put MPs on the spot'

Believing many of Labour's London MPs are privately opposed to the PPP but feel obliged to back it in public, Mr Livingstone suggested they be exposed.

"I really think it's time Conservative opposition put down a motion for debate on an opposition day in parliament simply calling for this scheme to be scrapped and the whole system to be transferred to (transport commissioner) Bob Kiley so he get on with managing it.

"I tell you the benefit to all of you in doing that: it will put every single Labour MP with a London electorate on the spot and you won't half be able to exploit that at the borough council elections next year.

"The only thing that focuses the mind of a politician is the thought of the loss of seats."

In his new 'big tent' style Mr Livingstone has already taken his message to the Lib Dem and Labour conferences and has pledged to make the same trip every year.

Visits to the Trades Union Congress and Confederation of British Industry conferences are also now in his diary.

See also:

19 Sep 01 | Business
Metronet lines up second tube deal
04 Sep 01 | ppp
Tube row set to carry on
26 Sep 01 | Liberal Democrats
Livingstone hails Lib Dem chance
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