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banner Monday, 1 October, 2001, 16:38 GMT 17:38 UK
Livingstone out on the fringe
New Labour may not be ready to leap into bed with Ken Livingstone.

But the London Mayor - who defected from Labour to form a party of one when he ran for the capital's top job - cannot help but pop up on the conference fringe.

Appearing alongside Toby Harris, the chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority and deputy London Mayor Nicky Gavron, Mr Livingstone showed that although he may not be a Number 10 favourite, he still commands support among the rank-and-file.

Lord Harris said that the fringe meeting - organised by the Greater London Authority - was "an historic first step" in terms of relations between New Labour and the mayor.

He said that Labour members in the GLA were engaged in a "policy of cohabitation" with Mr Livingstone.

Almost before the mayor had time to utter "I didn't know you cared Toby," Lord Harris added that this was cohabitation based on the "French presidential model rather than in the DSS sense".

He went on to insist that what mattered to people about public services was not so much the 'public' as the services themselves.

At this point there was the sound of loud of applause - only it came from another room.

Blunkett for PM?

That was Home Secretary David Blunkett launching his campaign to become prime minister, joshed Lord Harris.

Mr Livingstone, sporting CND sticker, rose to call for more powers for his office and the right to raise money through bonds - a practice that was commonplace across Europe and the United States.

He attacked the handling of the Tube, and suggested that improvements he had forced through on London's buses showed that the government should hand over the Underground into his and Transport Commissioner Bob Kiley's control forthwith.

On the subject of Mr Kiley, the American he recruited to run the Tube, he said that when he was brought in there had been opposition from one person on the committee responsible.

"Confidentiality prevents me from revealing it was Steven Norris," he said.

Mr Norris was, of course, the Tory candidate in the mayoral election.

Inevitably the mayor was quizzed on whether his appearance in Brighton signalled a thawing of relations between him and the party he left behind.

Stand alone Livingstone

"I shall be standing for re-election. What the Labour Party does is entirely a matter for them," he said.

Ms Gavron lamented the lack of power available to the London Mayor as compared to his New York counterpart.

She had praise for the way Mayor Rudolph Guiliani had responded to the tragic events in the wake of the attack on the World Trade Center.

She said that although Mr Livingstone might respond in an equally appropriate manner to such a disaster there were limits on what he could command.

The Labour government had to learn to trust regional and devolved authorities, she argued.

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