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Monday, 6 March, 2000, 14:47 GMT
Losing control. Panorama. Your comments
Below are your comments received for "Losing Control. February 28 2000

More info

Well done Panorama for putting a well-timed missile into those who try to control what people want. I am 100% behind Ken for Mayor. As a child, it was spelt out to me that AN OATH MADE UNDER DURESS IS NOT AN OATH. In other words, Ken would NOT be breaking his word if he stands, because we all know that if he had not given those commitments, the Millbank machine would have stopped him from running. One more thing _ if Ken doesn't run, I will vote for whoever keeps Frank Dobson out, even if that means voting Tory: I never thought I'd say that.
C. Kennan

It is perhaps ironic that Ken Livingstone has to decide whether to stand as an independent candidate for Mayor in the very week that Labour celebrates its centenary. Whilst it is obvious that Ken has suffered badly at the hands of the electoral college it would be damaging and foolhardy for him to turn his back on what the Labour party has achieved in the past hundred years. The Labour party is a broad church but its principal, if not sole aim must be winning elections so it can put its progressive policies in action rather than being a forum for egos. The electoral defeats of the 1980's demonstrated how internal party splits damage the Labour Party and led to eighteen years of a Conservative Government which resulted in untold damage to the country and to London. If Ken stands as an independent candidate for Mayor he would forfeit any goodwill he had previously built up in the party and would do harm to the very party he has supported all his life.
Jason Thomas Williams

The issue here is not whether Ken Livingstone should run as an independent candidate for London Mayor. It is the fact that the government has lost our confidence as the government for the people. If the government wishes to restore public confidence, Tony Blair should invite Labour Party members to the ballot box again to re-elect their candidate for the London Mayor, this time one member one vote.
Junichi Imura

I've been a Labour Party member for some 18 years. I'm also a member of the MSF union and was one of the six individuals who took the Labour Party to Court to try and get the vote back for London MSF members in the Electoral College (EC). Unfortunately, we lost the case. However, I believe that when the Labour Party NEC came up with the rules for the EC it was done to stop Ken from being elected. The whole thing has been a total stitch up to ensure that Dobson got elected. I will never work or vote to get Dobson elected as the London Mayor. I urge Ken to stand as an independent candidate.
Ian Rez
Kingsbury, London

Congratulations on your programme!...and well done to Ken Livingstone for taking a stand for Democracy! As a former Labour Councillor in Walsall, we suffered from the "control freak" even before he became the Prime Minister. Because of a gaffe made publicly by Frank Dobson at the time when questioned about Dave Church and the Labour Group, Dave and 2 other councillors were suspended from the Party to manipulate the replacement of a "safe" right -winger.Following this the Chairs of all the main Committees, including myself, were expelled when we refused to vote for the "safe" puppet leader.We then went on to form the Democratic Labour Party and are aligned to the Socialist Alliance.It was pointless staying in the Labour Party with Tony Blair as leader. I HOPE KEN TAKES THE SAME VIEW. Even if Ken stays there, he will be targeted all the time by Blair--and will be unlikely to be allowed to be re-nominated for his Constituency seat in the future. As a Democrat and a Socialist, Ken can hold his head high and leave the now tainted Party which we once all loved and worked for.
Peter Smith D.L.P

There was nothing new in the programme. Investigative journalism my foot. Just a trite repetition of what we already knew. When news is repeated, it becomes propaganda. This is what it was: a forty-five minute political broadcast on behalf of someone who is not even a candidate. What a fine job you did! Every opportunity to show our hero in a favourable light was taken, every point disadvantageous to him was ignored. What about the fact that he has practically no support in the House of Commons, that his own Brent party take a different line, that a substantial minority of individual members voted for Dobson? And what a nauseating performance by Livingstone in his interview. We saw an exquisitely placed sincerity. Everyone seemed to be at fault but himself: the government, the prime minister, the NEC, many of the unions...later, the Prince of Wales made an appearance. I am surprised he escaped a share of the blame. Livingstone is yesterday's man. He is just as much a product of the Thatcher years as Thatcher herself: if he had not existed then, the Conservative government would have found it necessary to invent someone like him. Your programme was misconceived and dangerous. You devoted time to a lightweight. He enjoyed every minute of it. I did not.
Ian Shearman

What everyone seems to be missing in the whole of this devolution debate is - democracy is asking the people what they want not telling them what they must have - Not one single politician has asked the people of England what they want. They have never been consulted and yet they are the majority population of these islands - That is why the people of England are becoming so resentful of the posturing of Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish politicians and those running for London Mayor. They are all ripping off the English taxpayer. A proper Parliament for England is the only sensible solution. Wales, Scotland, N.Ireland are allowed their government but England is deemed expendable by politicians. N.Slater Campaign for an English Parliament (01284 830909)
Norman Slater

Congratulations to Panorama for following up with more insights into the London Mayor debacle. Especially interesting was the footage of a bad tempered Tony Blair asserting that Ken Livingstone's canditure for Mayor was only being endorsed by a rag-bag of Tory newspapers and a bunch of Trots. Oh really?...I imagine that not only will a large proportion of London voting public find that insulting, it probably ranks alongside the biggest mis-judgement of reserve support since Custer took on the entire Indian nation at Little Big Horn. I do hope Ken decides to run for mayor, and makes a little history of his own.
Paul Blount

As a member of Brent North Labour party I am appalled at the manner and the treatment of ken Livingstone. I went to see him speak a couple of months ago, he was eloquent and clearly committed to the cause of fighting for the people of London. I have been incandescent with rage since the announcement of the ballot. I would love to have Ken as mayor, but I don't think he should stand as an independent. As the programme showed people in Wales voted for the candidate who was most likely to beat labour. I will not vote for Dobson,I am now faced with the prospect of voting tory for the first time in my life???
Martin Murray

Those respondents who don't think the programme was relevant to them are completely missing the point. This is about a fundamental process which is affecting us all, devolving the power of knowledge and information to 'the people'. The very device we are using to write this is a symptom of that process not a cause. Leaders are no longer entitled to our respect by reason of their position.They have to earn it by true representation of what people want. This is affecting the professions in a big way and it is beginning to impact on government. Tony Blair reminds me of Gorbachev. He believed in devolution but he cannot cope with the consequences of it. People clearly want someone to listen to them, not to tell them what he thinks they ought to want.I think the next few years will see a shakeout with only those politicians who can cope with this radical power shift surviving .I think Ken Livingstone is one of those .Tony Blair it increasingly appears, is not.
Ian Macilwain

Whenever throughout history someone has come along with the 'voice of the people' they are ridiculed, defamed, isolated and even permanently silenced to make the public believe that they were not the right way to go. Let's not have history repeating and lets give a voice to the 'little people'. After all, if all nurses, teachers, secretaries and office juniors, train/bus drivers, firefighters cleaners etc stopped working for the day, London would have heart failure and collapse.
Rosalind Da Costa

40 minutes is obviously not long enough to cover all the details of Labour's failure to let go in Scotland and Wales, especially as "Losing Control" was more about Ken Livingstone than devolution, but two points should be added. Both underline Labour's failure to understand devolution. Firstly, Alun Michael's imposition as leader of Labour in Wales was a re-run. Ron Davies beat Rhodri Morgan (again!) in the first of these biased contests. When Davies fell, it was only natural that Morgan (and probably most of Wales Labour) should feel that the succession should fall to him. The fact that it did not strengthened the later resentment. Secondly, the voting system in Wales is not strictly proportional. Unlike the Scottish set-up, which from the start was designed to produce proportionality in terms of party, the Welsh system favours the dominant party. There are not enough list seats to make up for the distortions of the FPTP seats. Labour's failure to achieve a majority in Wales is therefore all the more remarkable.
Frank Little

I joined the party in 1983, the same year as Tony Blair. I have no desire to go back to the bad old days of division and strife, Hatton and co. have no place in my labour party. BUT I do have reservations about the direction the party is taking. Milbank Towers is occupied by people with no regard for the party member, if asked to name one attribute of its inhabitants "arrogant" would spring to mind. I have been active at every level of the party yet am left feeling an outsider. Unfortunately its people like me who walk the streets and deliver the leaflets. We are the ones who face the voter yet are not valued enough to be allowed to have a direct say in the formulation of party policy (Which will change anyway if the Daily Mail objects). Last year I stood as a councillor and was subject, along with comrades, to an unfair and biased selection procedure. The one thought during that time was that the national party did not know what was going on and would stop it if it did. After the London debacle we now know that the "bad guys" were reflecting the national party and that we were oddballs. John Prescott says we are keeping up with membership losses, but the new members are generally not active, and where are our young members. Where is the rallying cry that sustains members through thick and thin? A banner bright that states "Insert your wish here" is not sufficient to fulfill that need. Tony Blair is a good Prime Minister I would not swoop him for anyone but he must carry the party with him, otherwise at the next election he might find himself in command of a hollow vessel.
Anthony Bonner

Where is the rallying cry that sustains members through thick and thin? A banner bright that states "Insert your wish here" is not sufficient to fulfill that need. Tony Blair is a good Prime Minister I would not swoop him for anyone but he must carry the party with him, otherwise at the next election he might find himself in command of a hollow vessel

Anthony Bonner, Middlesborough

Congratulations on a well balanced documentary. A Party which is controlled by the few and which does not allow for debate undermines the whole principle of a democracy. It is not just an issue because of devolution, it is a serious question as to how political parties should conduct themselves in the future and clarifying the role of the rank and file members if there is one? If they do not have any say then we will be moving rapidly towards American style politics governed by money, vested interests and power. It was unfortunate that you did not focus on the European elections or the election of NEC members. In both instances long standing loyal party members were savaged with negative publicity campaigns emanating from the Centre. Christine Oddy the West Midlands MEP for example was deselected to make way for Blairites and after the official election details for NEC members were circulated another official looking document sponsored by whom one does not know was circulated which stated quite strongly that members should vote for certain candidates over others inferring they were trouble makers.
Bret Willers

So far as I can judge, the only thing of note that came out of this programme was Livingstone's admission that he would be seen as "untrustworthy, an opportunist and a liar" if he broke his word and left the Party. Assuming that Ken is true to his word, I am saddened that he saw fit to grant this interview - he's certainly been around long enough to know how it would be mis-used by the Party's opponents. That aside, I am dismayed that Panorama (with its proud tradition of serious investigative journalism) has succumbed to joining in the rather tired and tedious prattle about 'control freaks' and 'spin doctors' that continually litters much of the press. I can understand why the Tory press prefer peddling this bilge to reporting how this extremely popular Labour government is delivering its manifesto commitments, but I expect the BBC to take a more balanced view.
Paul Sceeny
Brackley (although I work in London)

I believe Tony Blair is behaving just as dictatorial as Margaret Thatcher. He is fixing so much he will fix himself out of government if he is not careful.. I stayed up all night like most people, proud to see him and his party win in 1997, he will be lucky if I vote for him in the next General Election.

I hope, but strongly doubt, that the New Labour party machine will listen to the lessons in your excellent program.
Richard Butt

Does it not strike anyone else as odd that, whilst wrestling with his conscience about breaking his word, Ken is using every media opportunity available for what amounts to campaigning purposes. There maybe some valid points to be made on the subject but doesn't Panorama feel even slightly duped?

Mr.Blair is being blamed for all ills, when I believe it comes down to spin doctors and his communications personnel airing their personal views colouring his judgement

Joe Ellis, Northampton
Having watched the programme on Mr.Livingstone, I believe he would be a rather foolish man to stand in Opposition for London Mayor. I am Conservative at heart but the indications from your programme are that there would be very little to gain and all to lose due to the differing types of voting Quangos in control within the Labour Party. It seems to be a horses for courses choice when the voting matters. Mr.Blair is being blamed for all ills, when I believe it comes down to spin doctors and his communications personnel airing their personal views colouring his judgement.
Joe Ellis

At the time of the last election I was 17 so I was too young to vote - but so appalled by the Tory Party was I that I decided to join the Labour Party and campaign for them - the theory being that if I could convince others to vote for them then that was like me voting instead. Now, less than 3 years later I am embarrassed and ashamed to have done so. I cannot believe that the party I have loved for as long as I can remember can treat it's members and the public in such a shabby and disgusting manner. Ken - the simple truth is you must stand. Like Martin Bell in Tatton in 1997 we need a man who can be seen as whiter than white who can beat the political parties. Tony Blair cannot be allowed to get away with his lies, a) the electoral college is not the same as the one that got him elected as you rightly point out; b) during the 1980s Ken Livingstone was the most popular and most effective Labour politician in this country - so popular and effective that the only way Maggie Thatcher could fight back was to abolish the GLC - so this rubbish about Labour being unelectable in the 1980s because of people like Ken is simply not true; c) Blair said anyone who supports Ken is either a Trot or a mad liberal - Tony I am neither, I support most of what 'new' Labour does, recognising the market economy, capitalism, Europe and the role of business is superb, I even support you in Tuition Fees and I'm a bloody student, BUT not at the expense of democracy - Blair's arrogance in this matter is downright offensive and shameful; d) I agree with previous writers that very soon Tony Blair will be as unpopular and irritating as Thatcher was, and one day he'll become a liability to his party. I can't wait!!!

Blair said anyone who supports Ken is either a Trot or a mad liberal - Tony I am neither, I support most of what 'new' Labour does, recognising the market economy, capitalism, Europe and the role of business is superb, I even support you in Tuition Fees and I'm a bloody student, BUT not at the expense of democracy - Blair's arrogance in this matter is downright offensive and shameful.

Graham Trace, Leeds
Tony, I'm not going to vote for you EVER I fully intend to publicly offer Ken my support if he stands - so I challenge the boys in Millbank to kick me out of the party - my membership number is A925442 and I'm in the Wrekin CLP - Peter Bradley is my MP. Good luck Ken. Do it for democracy.
Graham Trace

Ken should feel no qualms about an apparent about turn of his signing up to the original agenda. I believe he thought he could fight the malaise of New Labour from inside by signing up. But the fraudulent electoral college system beat him. He has now got to accept that and now fight as a true old (real) Labour as an independent. His true followers will back him. I am not, actually a Labour supporter myself, but am a supporter of any politician who is principled, honest, and who puts the causes he/she fights for above their own political ambition. New Labour needs to be taught a lesson on the limitations of control freakery and there is no better person who is better placed than Ken to do this. The bonus is that both the labour PARTY and LONDON will be the richer for it.

I am not, actually a Labour supporter myself, but am a supporter of any politician who is principled, honest, and who puts the causes he/she fights for above their own political ambition. New Labour needs to be taught a lesson on the limitations of control freakery

Jim Bogusz, Bolsover
New Labour is now well past its half term and we are at a watershed. At its 100 anniversary, the Labour Party needs a reappraisal of what it really stands for ¿ democracy, one man one vote, and justice for everyone. Ken can do that. He may be rejected by New Labour and I can think of no, higher accolade than that. He would not want to find himself as a puppet of Millbank Tower. Ken¿s values are of the quality to which no party can lay claim and as a result he will always be assured of massive support. Go for it Ken
Jim Bogusz

Interesting program, but what puzzles me is that if Ken stands he will perhaps get elected on the back of a large number of simple anti-government Tory votes. I don't see how he could keep those votes for very long given that he also has to satisfy all those who voted Labour in 1997 in the hope that Tony Blair was a secret socialist, and who are disappointed to discover that he was telling the truth all along. One other point - every single government from now on will try to control the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly and the Mayoralties. If a government didn't try to do that, you'd know immediately that all power had been drained from those bodies and that they'd become irrelevant. That's when you should worry. Moral outrage at the normal process of politics could be considered naive.

Every single government from now on will try to control the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly and the Mayoralties. If a government didn't try to do that, you'd know immediately that all power had been drained from those bodies and that they'd become irrelevant.

Charlie, Bristol
This showed exactly how corrupt the Labour party machine has become. Tony Blair's blacklist of leftist candidates seems to exclude people who have traditionally been at the heart of Labour politics in this country. The sellout to Murdoch and the Tory press is complete, and Blair has transformed a Labour government into a "free enterprise" party, which is not at all relevant to the wishes of core Labour voters. It is true that Labour has managed to do some things, such as the minimum wage, higher NHS spending, and so on, which would be unimaginable for any Tory government to do. But then again, even the Tories, second only in Europe to the Freedom Party in terms of weirdness, would not decree for purely dogmatic reasons that a fully valid candidate of theirs was "verboten", (if you knew what was good for you). Both sides have in their own way proved themselves as bad as each other. In short, blacklisting worked against Labour in Wales, in London, and possibly, if he tries it in Scotland, it will rebound there. Devolution is about democracy- let's try some!
Edward Fasciato
St. Andrews

To claim that democracy exists in the UK is like saying that it exists in Russia. Where is the promised Freedom of Information Bill that we were led to expect in the run-up to the General Election? Why are UK voting forms numbered so that voting preferences are traceable to specific individuals? Why are census forms kept for 100 years when the information they contain is supposedly only required for statistical purposes? Why was the Government so keen to impose a key escrow requirement on private use of encryption? One is tempted to consider a conspiracy of control. The attempts by Government to impose its puppets on the Welsh and London electorates are part of this conspiracy. True democracy gives power to the people. The sham that we have ensures that it remains with a select few.
Ron Isaacs
New Malden

Congratulations on an excellent program. I'd like to see more about the 'control freakery' of New Labour being exposed. As a campaigner against IR35, I have become increasingly disillusioned about the governments control of MPs. MPs have strict instructions to toe the party line. This effectively means they are representing the interests of the government to their constituents, when in a true democracy it should be them representing constituents to the government. I'd welcome a Panorama investigation into the circumstances surrounding IR35.
Kevin Peacock

Congratulations on a superb programme that graphically exposes the utterly reprehensible way in which the Millbank control freaks have flagrantly abused our democratic system - Ken should stand not just for himself and Londoners, but also for the wider interests of British democracy - it is absolutely imperative that Blair and his misguided advisers are given such a bloody nose that this kind of despicable manipulation is never countenanced again.
Michael Moon

Roy Hattersley stated that there was a danger that Ken Livingstone will become a rallying point for peoples' dissatisfaction with New Labour. What he and Tony Blair fail to appreciate is that Ken has always been a symbol for Londoners wanting to express their long-held anger at the closure of the GLC. Tony Blair made a serious error of judgement in publicly condemning Ken Livingstone. I am personally very disappointed that I may not have the opportunity to vote for Ken, but I would respect his decision if he decides he wants to stay in the Labour Party. Under no circumstances will I vote for Frank Dobson.
Rosalind Hewitt

Livingstone fought fares but Blair doesn't fight fair! Ken please stand up for Londoners.
Simon Grimston

Just want to register as one of the seriously disillusioned. I would vote for Livingstone if he were to run, if not, then I still won't vote for Dobson.
Malia Dewse

Livingstone must run as an Independent. Blair said, on your excellent programme, that Ken's only supporters were a 'handful of Trots'. He will come to realise , on May 4th , the arrogant error of his words.
Jenny Baynes

Brilliant! Blair must have been squirming at number 10 or wherever he was watching, even Alistair Campbell cannot spin him out of this self inflicted mess. How much more sensible it would have been to have had a fair one man one vote election and then back Ken Livingstone when he won the nomination as he would have done. As a former member of the Labour Party and Traditionalist I hope Ken stands and if this lets the Tory Norris win then it would be Phoney Tony's just desserts.
Steve Foley

When will Millbank learn the lesson that it cannot stitch up a deal with a few union leaders and get whoever they want into office as representatives of the Party. The party members will want their say, having accepted OMOV, or they will desert the party in droves which is just what is happening. How does it feel to be the Party's assassin Millbank?
Ed Coker

The essence of devolution is that executive and legislative power is ceded by the centre to the regions. The devolved assemblies and their 'first ministers' or 'mayors' must therefore, in a crucial sense, be representative of and popular with, the regional electorates whose votes they canvass, and in whose name they propose to govern. This is the simple, commonsense logic that the control freaks in the Millbank Tower and the political illiterates at Number 10 have simply failed to grasp. They imagine that it is politically expedient to grant the regions - Wales, Scotland and London so far - devolved government, but still to continue in the same old Machiavellian fashion to place their cronies in charge of the local administrations. Ordinary people, however, are not so politically manipulated. They instinctively know who they want to represent them in their regions and cities, and they will always reject any Quislings who are cynically imposed from the centre.
Ben James

I seem to remember when Ken Livingstone ran the GLC the Underground improved & the fares reduced until Mrs. Thatcher overruled him & restored the more expensive inferior version. You have my support Ken, whether as a Labour or any other type of candidate so do stand.
John Whillans

The answer to Ken's dilemma is simple: get an independent candidate to stand on a "Livingstone for Labour" ticket. His or her manifesto would be, if elected, to resign and cause another election to be held, and to continue to do so until Labour's candidate is chosen democratically by members and affiliated trade unionists London.
Richard Porter
Maidenhead, Berks.

Brilliant programme - real Panorama stuff! Blair can't now pretend he was elected under the same rules as London mayor. Thanks for making this clear.
Peter and Lilian Trueman
Fishbourne I.W.

As a long standing Labour supporter born in the West of Scotland it is painful to watch the Party writhe in agony over the difficulties with the Leader and his dictatorial style. The principle of 'One member, one vote!' must rule the day, and if that means that the standards of Keir Hardie must be re-introduced, then so be it.
J. Breen

After supporting Labour all my adult life, due to the openly defiant rigging against Ken Livingstone, I would now rather vote for a baboon's backside than ever vote Labour again. Albeit not a supporter of Ken Livingstone, nevertheless I hope that he stands to let Blair know that he is simply A member of the Labour Party and not THE Labour Party.
T. Dougall
High Halden, Kent.

I would now rather vote for a baboon's backside than ever vote Labour again. Albeit not a supporter of Ken Livingstone, nevertheless I hope that he stands to let Blair know that he is simply A member of the Labour Party and not THE Labour Party.

T Dougall, High Halden

There is a broad range of opinions in the labour party, from the left wing to the middle. We are starting to see that new labour and old labour cannot work together. The trouble is we do not trust new labour. In other countries, when governments suppress opposition, as Downing Street is beginning to, we call them dictatorships.
Anna Radford

Having failed to maintain control over areas which have been given devolution, Blair (wanting to be re-elected) will probably try to stop further devolution and adopt a damage limitation policy in the already devolved areas. In the non-elected non- democratic government of the EU,however, isn't this experience of UK break-up likely to create an imperative (to a parliament that can't be voted out) to disallow any devolution whatsoever of economic, legal, welfare, foreign and any other policy powers from the centre? Will Blair admit this and sell it to the country do you think?
Barry D

Please allow me, as a former Branch and Constituency Chairman of the Labour Party, to state my views on the direction in which the Labour Party has moved and continues to move under Tony Blair's leadership and under Millbank control. Not only has "New Labour" become, in economic terms, little different from the left wing of the Conservative Party or, in other respects, from the Liberal Democrats, abandoning its traditional heartland supporters in an effort to attract the upwardly mobile, but, ironically, it has also forsaken the democratic "one member, one vote" principle which Tony Blair and his supporters so strongly urged on the party and returned to the sanctioning of the undemocratic union block vote and the arguably more undemocratic prominence in party elections given to MPs and MEPs who had to be Millbank loyalists in order to be chosen as candidates. The defeat of this "effort" in Falkirk West in the elections to the Scottish Parliament and, eventually, in Wales, where the members' choice was beaten by the Blair stooge via the undemocratic methods mentioned in the last paragraph has, unfortunately, not produced a return to real support for devolution, for letting local people decide. The choice of Labour's London mayoral candidate has made matters much, much worse for Tony Blair and the Labour administration in Millbank. Just as Denis Canavan and Rhodri Morgan, the popular choice among the Labour members will be victorious, whether bearing the party label or not, and Ken Livingstone will be elected. In terms of democracy within the party, it should not matter at all who is Millbank's or Blair's favourite candidate. What needs to matter is who the members' favoured candidate is. And if that person, Ken Livingstone, cannot win democratically because of crooked political manipulation, he must win from outwith the Labour Party at the ballot box, in the Canavan tradition. Let real democracy triumph! 

For many people, like myself and my friends, Ken Livingstone represents what we believed and have argued for since Thatcher. It's like he's the voice of a generation in London. We voted for Labour in the last election -- some reluctantly -- hoping for a fairer and juster society, but also one able to deal responsibly in terms of the economy. Most of us feel disappointed with New Labour. I doubt we vote for them again. Ken really is our last chance. I hope he stands as an independent. We do not represent a looney fringe. We represent the hopes and aspirations of those who believe in a more egalitarian and forward looking world. People prepared to give something up to achieve a better world for our children and yours. It's about creating a climate in which real choice exists in London for all, and Ken is the only one keyed in to that. In the days of the GLC, he proved it. Fares Fairer.
Ashley Chapman

It saddens me to say it, but I think that we are now seeing the beginning of the end of this Labour government that came to power with such massive popular support that it had the opportunity to make radical and far sighted changes. That golden opportunity is being squandered and the Labour government is, after three short years, losing more and more of its supporters as it descends into cronyism of which the debacle over the London Mayor is one example. I predict that Tony Blair will, in time, become as unpopular as Margaret Thatcher became at the end of her term of office. Patrick Nairne
Patrick Nairne

Tony Blair is suffering from the same problem which has beset all leaders who only surround themselves with 'yes' people. When there is a problem, they are incapable of being able to give adequate advice because they have only reached their position through patronage and therefore have no independent ability to make well judged criticism. All dissent is kept out of the frame. It has happened in local parties like the Party in Lewisham where non-Blairite councillors will join Livingstone if he stands as an independent, for example. Creativity has been stifled by a narrow minded clique. Livingstone is supported either way, who can blame him given the way he has been treated. The Blair leadership failed to understand that they were not dealing with a left-wing propagandist, but someone who is remembered for what he managed to do with the GLC. Forget ideology, no one votes for that, bar a few on the left. His appeal is much wider. Ask any businessmen whose workforce got to work on time in the 80's why they support Livingstone. Blair might think that he can spin stories about the 80's, but his spin doctors cannot shift history. It's a bit too powerful for the most control freak minded leader ...
Ray Sirotkin

How's this for a slogan - "LIVINGSTONE FOR MAYOR - GO TELL TONY BLAIR"
Dawn Power

The idea of devolution and giving more power to a handful of "super" mayors dotted around the country in major cities scares the life out of me. To give politicians more power is just asking to create more Derek Hatton's. Ken Livingstone is a well meaning and, I believe, a principled man not like most of Tony Blair's yes men, but he isn't practical. The system itself is corrupt and unless we change the basic principles, we cannot hope to change anything. In the end we just chase our tails and achieve nothing.
Chris Durrans

Good programme. 1) I very much liked the parallels between GLA and the Scottish and Welsh assemblies, offering Ken the 2 routes of running as an independent now and alienating himself from the labour party or waiting for Frank to foul up (or be fouled), and come in as the saviour. 2) I think there is a lot more mileage in the way our beloved prime minister is being economical with the truth over these 'electoral colleges' and 1 man 1 vote. 3) I lived in London in the run up to the abolition of the GLC and I thought it was the conservatives that did it, because of the implementation of radical socialist ideas like cheap public transport, that they were afraid might work...... So I found Tony Blair's attacks on the GLC for 'Gesture politics' difficult to understand.
Richard White

As a daily commuter to the capital I feel I have a stake in this election. I note that I'm not the first correspondent from the village of Adderbury tonight. I endorse the views of my predecessor - but feel honour bound to point out that he is a Tory councillor! That doesn't (on this occasion!) invalidate his views. As a Scot I know what a spanking Labour (and their Liberal poodles) are going to take for the mess they've made of the student fees issue. Londoners have the chance to show Blair and his cabal that the country has had enough control freakery. Entreat Ken to run - and make sure you vote for him!
Anne Harvey
Adderbury, North Oxfordshire

It took 18 years of misery under Margaret Thatcher for the Labour party to become disciplined enough to beat the Conservatives. After less than 3 years, in which a number of significant advances have been made (maximum working week, minimum wage, gun control, reform of House of Lords, etc), they seem to be in danger of forgetting the hard lessons they had to learn. Blair creates a more democratic UK through devolution and is then criticised for seeking to ensure that his favoured candidates are elected - isn't that the job of a party leader? And isn't the 'messiness' a sign that democracy is working? One thing is certain: under 'Cuddly Ken', Labour would be unelectable nationwide. He is a master populist but his record in the eighties would destroy him (rightly).
David Johns

Blair creates a more democratic UK through devolution and is then criticised for seeking to ensure that his favoured candidates are elected - isn't that the job of a party leader? And isn't the 'messiness' a sign that democracy is working? One thing is certain: under 'Cuddly Ken', Labour would be unelectable nationwide

David Johns, Colchester

Go for it Ken, the London people need you, the poor, the homeless, the sick the struggling fee paying students. I am just a mother with our future children, - but without you fighting for the people we are lost. You are brave and have courage and will use your power for the good. God bless we will all pray you make the right decision its up to you. You were born to be mayor! You have the support of the young and the old together everywhere in the U.K. let alone London. London needs you.
Marta Sevar

What is happening to our Labour Party? Devolution must be right for Scotland and Wales, but to see that Liverpool (and others to follow) will seek devolution from Westminster is frightening and wrong. Please can our Labour Party stop this eternal defragmentation within its ranks, so that the Tories have no doubt of their defeat at the next General Election
Peter Joyce
Hay on Wye

I am a member of the Labour Party, formerly on the General Committee of my constituency Party. What was so awful for London members was that we had to be part of this disgraceful ballot-rigging to vote for Ken. at all. We had no choice if we wanted Ken. A party which would rather use 1000 illicit votes of a retired MEP than respect the votes of its own members does not deserve Ken's honesty or indeed our commitment.
Moya St. Leger

Devolution of Scotland & Wales, elected Lord Mayors may sound grand - but everyone involved will be doing it for a considerable salary (plus expenses) - not to mention real estate and infrastructure. Who is going to pay for it all? It would be much more beneficial if the money was given to the NHS, police, armed forces or education than to enlarge the ever increasing circle of politicians that seem to influence our lives.
B. Knapp
Tavistock, Devon

I very much enjoyed the programme tonight but I would like to see a senior member of the government justify why the electoral college system was changed from that which was used for the election of Tony Blair, allowing the Unions to cast their vote without balloting their members (as was pointed out in tonight's Panorama). I noticed that on the Channel 4 News programme on Sunday, the interviewer failed to press the point when John Prescott claimed that it was the same system. If the government want to claim that the electoral system was not "fixed" to produce the outcome it wanted, it must give a satisfactory explanation for this discrepancy. I would also be interested to know why the ballot of MPs was not secret, a right which is surely a tenet of democracy.
Jem Connor

Why did you not challenge John Reid when he said that Labour in the 1980s was unelectable because of Ken Livingstone? In fact Ken Livingstone and the Labour-run GLC were MORE popular than the Labour Party nationally in the 1980s. This lie is much worse than the one you did expose about the electoral college set-up. It is now accepted as facts (1) that the left ran the LP in the 1980s and (2) that the left cost the LP power. The truth is actually quite different. It makes me angry that the media either don't know or don't care about what really happened in the 1980s.
Dorothy Macedo

If Ken stands as an independent he will have to start a new political career by publicly breaking his word. How can he offer himself now other than an opportunist, a joker, an unreliable man? Blair, Campbell et al seem to have conspired with Ken to make Norris now the most likely winner.
Kevin O'Sullivan

Firstly, I would like to express my annoyance at hearing Scotland, both advertently and inadvertently, referred to as a "region". Scotland is not a region; it is a country in its own right, albeit part of Britain still, and it has a much stronger claim to "some sort of devolution" than Liverpool! Secondly, why doesn't the BBC keep coverage of the London mayoral campaigns/election where it belongs - on London TV? I don't speak for anybody else, but I for one am sick and tired of hearing about it. I am a Glaswegian; how will it affect me? I am not being narrow, simply getting bored! The majority of the UK population doesn't live in London anyway!
Victoria Arnold

Your progamme has just proved to everyone that Tony Blair is a manipulator par excellence, He thinks he is corrected in all matters and by his fine acting he so far has carried all before him,but his own self preservation will catch him out if it has not done so now.
Allan Wagman
Pinner Middlessex

Thank goodness for programmes like Panorama which present the facts and allows the viewer to make up their own mind. The programme concerning the Labour Party's scandalous behaviour towards Ken Livingstone and the election for Mayor of London was excellent. I have voted for Labour all of my adult life but this is now a party that does not play fair and which changes the rules to suit. Therefore I am no longer a labour supporter
Angela Baird

In light of the recent fiasco to elect Labour's mayoral candidate, I have posted my membership card back to Tony Blair. I first joined the Labour Party in 1981 and this was not a decision I took lightly. We were promised "one member one vote" to elect our candidate, yet what we got was a ballot-rigging farce. The electoral college system is both unfair and undemocratic, and Frank Dobson's narrow victory as party poodle is a hollow one indeed. This is not a question of sour grapes because my preferred candidate did not win, it is a refusal to be walked over by Millbank. I hope Ken Livingstone will stand up for London and Londoners, and go it alone as an independent candidate. He will certainly get my vote, and with it a vote for the preservation of democracy.
Jacky Kitching

Margaret Thatcher destroyed industry in this country and Tony Blair will be recorded in history as destroying democracy. I find him as irritating as I did Margaret Thatcher and reach for the television control when he comes on. When will he learn to talk to the public instead of at them in that preacher like manner. The rigged vote in Wales was appalling and undermined our intelligence.

It's a lot of nonsense that you hear about Ken not having complained about the system of voting and thus that he should abide by the vote. Ken has been very vocal in his criticism of the electoral college from the start and so had he not been in the running even under this system then we would not be having this debate now and the people would not get the mayor they want. Furthermore, this last week in politics has exposed to an even greater degree the lies that the Labour government is willing to put out. An excellent programme tonight!
South London

I have never voted Labour, or any socialist ticket. I would vote for Ken Livingstone, not because of who he is, or his party, but because, whether or not I agree with what he says, I will defend his fundamental right to say it. The whole Labour nomination process has been a stitch up by Millbank, and the stench of Rat hovers over London. Mr Livingstone, stand, I'll back you, and so will my Wife. (her decision)
Nick Crady
Eltham, London

Whether Livingstone decides to run or not no longer matters because the Blair performance throughout this whole sorry affair has demonstrated what sort of a man we have as our Prime Minister. How can he continue to say that his own election and that of his deputy were run on identical lines to the London mayoral election? He knows this is not true. We know it is not true. Surely he must know that we know it is not true. When votes are cast at the next election the public will remember this whole disgraceful affair.
Arnold Taylor

Having listened to the likes of Derek Hatton and Ken Livingstone, it a big worry to think that there are people out there that would vote for them. It was because of Derek and Ken that Margaret Thatcher became so popular. Liverpool rate payers are still footing the bill for Mr Hatton's policies. They pay the one of the biggest community charges in the country. It was Derek Hatton and others in local government up here that wanted to abolish having a Mayor they saw it as elitism and that it should be stamped. Now we have the spectre of Mr Hatton actually wanting to be a Mayor and thinking that he would some how now save Liverpool from whatever he thinks is wrong with it. Liverpool is recovering from those days by hard work from a lot of people, and anyone like Derek or Ken getting their hands on the reins of power can only reverse the gains that local people have made.

I am appalled by the "rape" of democracy as practiced in the manipulation of the London Mayoral elections and other issues mentioned in your programme. Although I am a traditional conservative voter, I will certainly vote for Ken Livingstone if he chooses to stand. Such a pity that the Tories do not really provide a credible alternative to the present government. Between the lot of them - what a bloody shower.
Les King

I'm not sure if Ken Livingstone will get to read this, as I know he is probably rather busy right now. But Ken - if you do get this passed on to you, please RUN. The people who can remember you as GLC leader will not forget the good things you did for this place, regardless of who runs Westminster. So do it and win.
Andy Brown

Having watched your programme my only real comment is why does an issue like this which is only relevant to people living in London be covered by a national programme like your and the national news. Surely this subject should only be covered on London's equivalent to "Look North". Life does go on outside the ring of the M25.
Martin Boast
When the mayor election comes I will be voting for Ken Livingstone. If he is not on the ballot, I will add his name and this will spoil my paper. I think he is the only candidate who cares about London. Under ken we'll become passengers rather than customers on the tube.
Kryss Katsiavriades

Ken Livingstone MUST stand. He is the Londoners' real choice, and anything that puts two fingers up to control-freak Blair can only be to the good. I'm an ex-Labour member who resigned my membership precisely because of Downing Street and Millbank trying to control everything, and no longer representing real Labour voters and members.
Alex Scott

Hi, Go for it Ken. Listen to the people, the greatest politicians listen to the people, feel the mood. New York, NY. Shows the way, the potential is great. What I have always admired in Ken is what I believe most people see. He answers from within, I might not agree with him, in fact I disagree mostly, but you he means what he says DO IT KEN ... Cheers, Ian.
Ian Wheeler
Ferring, West Sussex

Go for it Ken! For the sake of those who believe in democracy

Ken MUST run!
Not London

Go on Ken .... go for it. Blair has utter contempt for deomcracy and for his own Party members. It is time to teach him a lesson. You can do it and London people will back you.
Keith R Mitchell
Adderbury, North Oxon

I'm not a labour voter but if Ken sticks two fingers up at Tony Blair I'll vote for him

Being a member of the Labour Party in Liverpool I can clearly see both sides of this argument. On the one hand the leadership feels that they must remain in control to prevent history repeating itself. And on the other the members - more correctly the more left wing members - feel that they need to get 'their' candidates in to preserve the 'old' Labour party. Although I think there is room for the leadership to let go a little more than they have been doing, I don't think that what they are doing is essentially wrong. Let no one forget the scenes we saw again tonight of the '85 Labour conference and the effect of Militant had on the city of Liverpool. If Labour returns to domination from the left wing again there will only be one outcome. Another 20 years in opposition watching another Tory government have its way with the country.
Ian Britton

Further to Pam Wilkinson's comment, the male voice choir booming in the background over a misty image of hillside terraces is such a cliche when the subject is Wales. You can do better. And go for it Ken. I noticed Frank Dobson's appearance in the Guardian's "My Media" section. What paper do you read? The Evening Standard, of course. Magazines? Time Out. It's so bloody transparent, reinventing him as affable Mr London. I was in London in the 80s and the GLC, under Livingstone, brought modern politics in, albeit kicking and screaming. Support for gay equality, women's rights, multicultural issues - all common political currency now (thank god), but howled down in the 80s. Seeing Blair diss all that as "gesture politics" fair turned my stomach. Londoners - and we in the other big, diverse cities - need people who understand what makes them tick. I say it again - go for it Ken. And can we have a mayor in Brum too, please?
Mike Parker

What a great programme tonight. I voted for 'New Labour' in '97, for the first time in my voting life changing political party. After 3 years and the apparent increasing control form the centre, especially over the election of a London Mayor I am now determined not to make the same mistake again. I believe that the fiascos over the leader of the Welsh Assembly leader and various policies in the Scottish Parliament, are now showing 'New' Labours real colours. I expect there are many like me who voted 'New' Labour, for the first time, in '97 will not do so again. For me now there is the problem, in so much that none of the three main political parties offer anything of vision or interest and, for the first time in my voting life I may not vote in the next general election

The 20th century was the century of the Conservatives. Devolution gives the Labour Government a great opportunity with devolution and proportional representation to make the 2lst century the century of a broad left alliance. But to make this work the government and Tony Blair in particular has to understand that devolved Government means just that, it is devolved to the regions and London cannot expect to both devolve and keep centralised control. If the government were to backtrack now on devolution and pr for the whole election system, it would be a tragedy. We cannot have pr in the Regions and not at Westminster. Ken Livingstone should stand as Mayor of London as it is the democratic wish of the people of London and not only Labour Party members to have him as their Mayor. In a democracy the people have the right to make their choices. They may sometimes make wrong choices but they still have the democratic right to make them. Frank Dobson hasn't any hope of winning the London Mayoral election. The people will react as they did in Wales.
V Crews

The chicanery, duplicity and breathtaking hypocrisy of this government beggar belief. Not only do they deserve to completely lose control - in London, Wales, Scotland and gradually everywhere else - they seem incapable of recognising this: that following on the arrogance of latter Tory governance, they risk being the architects of anarchy.
Andrew Goodman

The real truth is, we did not want the Welsh Assembly in Wales. But, we've got it, and we'll do our best to make it work. As for England, the Labour party machine has a lot to learn. Spin should stop, and Blair should be left to do the job that he is very capable to fulfil, without spin-doctors intervention. If Ken stands, I hope he wins. It would make a point; but how good it would be for London, I don't know.

What in this programme was new apart from the Ken Livingstone interview? The criticisms of the Millbank machine and Labour's devolution policy have been explored ad nauseam on numerous other BBC programmes. This was a dreary and far from even-handed trawl through very old waters.
Peter Nedza

I was infuriated by your lazy, anti-government broadcast tonight. You have accepted the agenda offered by the sensationalist press and couldn't resist the chance of an "exclusive" interview. How unsurprising that Ken was given such a soft ride through this. We are really to accept that the man who gained the GLC job by skulduggery is so concerned with due process - please! Yes there are problems with devolution, but do your job properly and report them correctly - tuition fees is not the same as Alun Michael! The biggest problem for Labour would be allowing "activists" to dictate - which is what happened in the 1979-85 period and what drove many sensible people away. Millbank is what won for Labour over the "hopeless" Tories in 1997. Panorama - you should be ashamed of yourselves.

I would like to point out that Donald Dewar was chosen by Tony Blair to be our "Leader". As far as I know he was completely unelected in Scotland. No-one makes the point that, as a Labour stronghold, why do we have that coalition between Labour and the Lib Dems? Incidentally, many Scots, as a result of the coalition feel disenfranchised. Luckily I decided that Labour under Tony Blair was just a pale (now full-blown) imitation of the Conservative Party and voted elsewhere. I only know one person I meet regularly who actually has any time for Tony Blair at all here. I do wonder if any of the pollsters ever poll Scotland or Wales. Tony Blair is seriously disliked here and, as far as I know, always has been. Unfortunately, he happens to be the Labour Party leader and their seriously loyal voters can't vote for any other Party - though some may now vote SNP as being rather more socialist in outlook and policy.
Susan Scott

Tony Blair's assertion that he and John Prescott were elected by the same "electoral college" that was used to elect Frank Dobson have shown him up as a cynical and manipulative operator. New Labour cannot have devolution on its own terms - as Wales and Scotland have proved, Labour will be forced to accept devolution on the people's terms. Any hope that Millbank may have of exercising a benevolent despotism over the devolved regions and cities is a fool's paradise. If they persist in their folly, Ken Livingstone will inherit the Rhodri Morgan role and the party will get royally spanked come May 4.
Alex Donne

Any hope that Millbank may have of exercising a benevolent despotism over the devolved regions and cities is a fool's paradise. If they persist in their folly, Ken Livingstone will inherit the Rhodri Morgan role and the party will get royally spanked come May 4.

Alex Donne, London

Ken Livingston will now undoubtedly run as the London "Beacon of Democracy". We do not trust or like politicians much at the best of times but Blair attempting to "fix" this election will have a major backlash, Ken WILL win, massively and I am a Conservative voter.
Leslie Smith

I now feel ashamed and embarrassed having voted Labour in the last general election. The unholy war currently launched by the party machine against any dissidents within the party ranks makes a mockery of democracy. I have no love lost for Mr Livingstone but feel obliged to support him in the face of such gross display of unfair play.
M Mansour

I now feel ashamed and embarrassed having voted Labour in the last general election. The unholy war currently launched by the party machine against any dissidents within the party ranks makes a mockery of democracy. I have no love lost for Mr Livingstone but feel obliged to support him in the face of such gross display of unfair play.

M Mansour, Stocksfield

As a university student in Southampton, I think it is appalling that the Labour party is prepared to allow such vast differences in the treatment of students in Scotland and England, when they were voted in by students and other voters in both countries. Are they going to allow there to be a South West assembly for people like me (I'm from Plymouth), then allow those of us from the south west at university to skip paying fees just because some of our political affairs are dealt with by that assembly? I doubt it very much. I think that the Labour Party policy makers need to think harder about the consequences of their actions before they introduce any more radical reforms.
Rebecca Smith

I have never been a big supporter of Mr Ken Livingstone, however I have seen the results of Millbanks intervention in the leadership battle of the Welsh Assembly. At the end of the day the people of Wales have got the leader that they wanted and I therfore urge Mr Livingstone not to back down and to give the people of London the right to make their own choice.
B Gough
Llandrindod Wells

Although I am not a London resident, I feel that the people of London do need the opportunity to show their views therefore I feel that Ken should stand as an independant. If this is a so called democratic society, people have a right to choose, not be dictated by the powers at be. Both in Wales and Scotland it has been shown that little people can win.Ken is a man of the people with his heart set on the support and welfare of London, What more could you ask!!!!
Esther Wardle

I think there comes a time, even for a largely popular leader/Prime Minister, when the right thing to do is to admit that mistakes have been made, and express a willingness to learn the lesson. Whilst the media do have immense influence and some will crucify anyone who makes a mistake, I think (and hope) that the majority of thinking people will respect a leader who has done their best as they saw it but maybe got it wrong. We (Britain) do NOT have to be THE best, have the best Millennium symbol (!!!), the best systems, etc., etc.,. What we surely should be doing is the best we can in the situation in which we find ourselves. Let's learn the lesson.
Jenny Fielder
East Grinstead

My wife Theresa and I think that this will be Tony Blair's downfall. With this stitch up of Ken's candidacy of mayor he has confirmed our misgivings about the treatment of the protesters against the visit of the Chinese. The man is a megalomaniac who cannot abide any dissent. We are outraged at the treatment of Ken. If Ken does not stand we will, vote for the Liberals with Malcolm McClaren as our second choice. Regards David & Terry Stone
David Stone

Like thousands of other Londoners I am a committed Labour supporter and have been for the last thirty years, and I want Ken Livingstone as Mayor of London. If he is forced to stand as an independent candidate I will back him to the hilt. I have been amazed and disgusted at the way Tony Blair has tried to rubbish this man. Whatever Blair thinks about Ken he should now shut up and bow to the wishes of labour voters.If the Party splits the fault will lie totally with Blair and his Millbank chums.
Jean Reynard

Roy Hattersley said the best thing tonight about Millbank - Not answerable to the Prime Minister but to the Labour Party. Frank Dobson will not be the London Mayor. If Ken stands he could win but the whole thing should not be controlled by the major political parties. It should be the individual and what they can offer and achieve for London. Ken has the most to offer by way of enthusiasm but businesses could prefer Norris. In the end it will be personalities that count.
S Ridgewell

Livingstone is playing a very clever game. He is acting as though his sacred bond with the party is being undermined, a reserve position he held from the outset. However his politicking is as nothing when compared to the utter disgrace that passes for democracy in the Labour party today. Blair is still betting that his cheap imitation of Thatcher will continue to impress middle England. Democracy is taking a kicking under Blair, Livingstone should stand and will win.
Declan Doyle

I am not of the same political view point as Ken Livingstone but I am a great believer in democracy. Blair/Millbank are perverting this valuable right which we have in Britain and if the people of London want Ken then so be it! If we were to go down the Blair route then we will end up like a lot of crony African States and be ruled in an autocratic fashion. This is Britain NOT Nigeria or the Philippines under Marcos!!
Richard Ignatowicz

The Welsh and Scots have been given their assembly and parliament respectively. England is being run for the South East from a South East experience (interest rates, investment-national lottery money, service industry v industry, housing boom etc. etc.) Labour courts and shows concern for the South East's Chattering classes' issues. The North (East and West) is being neglected. The promise of regional assemblies has been forgotten. Ignore us at your peril Tony
Paul Kowalski

I think Ken should stand as an independent. He would get my vote

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