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EDITIONS
Friday, 3 May, 2002, 11:56 GMT 12:56 UK
Apeing politicians
Stuart Drummond as H'Angus the monkey
Labour can't monkey with mayors

According to Downing Street, Tony Blair is still deeply committed to directly elected mayors.

Hartlepool's man in the monkey suit may have appeared to be putting two fingers up to the system, but the prime minister is happy that his election was all part of widening the democratic process.

"The people of Hartlepool have elected Mr Drummond - somebody who used a particular garb and packaging," said a spokesman with a near-straight face.

A bananas policy
"The prime minister believes absolutely that elected mayors are the right way forward," he said.

That appeared at odds with the view expressed by party chairman Charles Clarke who had suggested the whole system might have to be reconsidered.

It's a bit late in the day for that - the mayors have either been created already or are in the process of being created and, barring draconian government action, cannot be uncreated.

Recipe for disaster

Still, despite Downing Street's comments, it is thought the prime minister is less than enamoured of the creature he has created.

His disillusion is said to have started with the farce which was the London mayoral contest.

All his attempts to stop Ken Livingstone's bandwagon with an official Labour candidate - finally with poor old Frank Dobson - were, frankly, a joke.

So he probably realised than that mayoral elections were a recipe for disaster.

But even he probably could not have imagined the system would end up with a monkey being elected in Peter Mandelson's patch.

Ken Livingstone was bad enough - but a man in a monkey suit? Actually, that was probably an improvement in the prime minister's mind.

What both Mr Clarke and Mr Blair would have been more concerned about was then fact that that the Tories and the Liberal Democrats also won elections for mayors in other cities.

It is highly likely that, if they knew then what they know now, directly elected mayors would never have got off the ground.

As it is they are probably stuck with them.


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03 May 02 | UK Politics
03 May 02 | UK Politics
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