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Tuesday, October 12, 1999 Published at 12:51 GMT 13:51 UK

UK Politics

Dobson unveils his vision for London

Frank Dobson has left the cabinet to join the race for London mayor

The former health secretary Frank Dobson has formally started his campaign to become the first directly-elected mayor of London.

Cabinet reshuffle
Mr Dobson, a late entrant into the race to govern the capital, resigned his cabinet post as health secretary in order to contest the Labour nomination.

At his campaign launch, he said he was glad to be taking a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to tackle London's problems on transport, crime, homelessness and drugs.

The MP for Holborn and St Pancras announced he was entering the race "not as a celebrity, but as somebody who can get the job done".

Frank Dobson: "The reason I'm standing is because I understand the problems first hand"
Turning to one of the key themes of the campaign - the future of the Tube, private or public - Mr Dobson said: "No changes will be made which would not ensure it is a safe system."

He said: "The Tube and the Tube system has been starved of investment and that the government is determined to change that."

Mr Dobson then rubbished the Conservative candidate for mayor, Lord Archer, saying he was "a joke candidate".

He added: "He's been a joke all his life and I don't think he's going to change now."

Labour unveils selection process

Ken Livingstone: "I urge the Labour Party to widen the people who will vote"
Labour's National Executive Committee on Tuesday opted for an electoral college system to pick its candidate for mayor.

Following the precedent set in Scotland and Wales, the Labour candidate for mayor will be selected by a body made up of one third trade unions, one third MPs, Euro-MPs and candidates for the Greater London Authority and one third ordinary London Labour members.

The BBC's Rory MacLean: "Labour must hoping its selection process will provide firm support for its contender"
The move is being interpreted as part of the unofficial "Stop Ken" campaign being waged inside the party.

While the former GLC leader is likely to be allowed to stand for the party's nomination, both the union votes and those of MPs can be steered towards Mr Dobson.

The BBC's Guto Harri: "Dobson will point to his experience in cabinet as proof he's the best candidate to turn things round"
For his part, Mr Dobson said he was happy to take on the MP for Brent East - seen by many as the strongest candidate alongside the former health secretary - should he be allowed to stand.

Within the party Mr Dobson's other rivals for mayor include Glenda Jackson and Trevor Phillips. The Liberal Democrat's candidate is Susan Kramer.

One man who had often been touted as a likely runner for the Labour nomination, former sports minister Tony Banks, was present at the campaign launch to give Mr Dobson his backing.

Tony Banks: Frank Dobson is the ideal candidate
The MP for West Ham said had Mr Dobson was the "ideal candidate" and had already proved himself a "friend of London".

Mr Banks told BBC News Online that Mr Dobson was "a politically significant big hitter".

He said: "This is necessary because the mayor will have to work with government, but not be seen as being some kind of political patsy."

Mr Dobson, who is thought to have the backing of the prime minister, received a boost to his campaign on Monday when minister Nick Raynsford dropped out of the race to become Mr Dobson's campaign manager.

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