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Friday, October 15, 1999 Published at 12:23 GMT 13:23 UK

UK Politics

Livingstone 'clear favourite' for mayor - poll

Ken Livingstone: Three times the backing of Frank Dobson

Ken Livingstone has been given a boost in his campaign to become London mayor after a poll suggests he has the overwhelming backing of Labour supporters in the capital.

The poll commissioned by the Evening Standard hints that Mr Livingstone is the favourite of party supporters by a margin of more than 3-1 over his nearest rival.

The poll is the first to follow the entrance of the former health secretary Frank Dobson into the contest.

Mr Dobson left the cabinet and officially launched his campaign on Monday.

[ image: Frank Dobson at his campaign launch]
Frank Dobson at his campaign launch
The poll puts Mr Dobson third in the field of four - on just 15%.

Mr Livingstone received 50%, Glenda Jackson came second on 16%, while the broadcaster Trevor Phillips finished last on 7%.

Responding to the data, Mr Livingstone said: "This is the mother of all polls.

"I am now clearly the strongest candidate by far and the only Labour candidate who can blow Jeffrey Archer out of the water."

But a spokesman for Mr Dobson's campaign played down the results.

He said: "Ken and Glenda have been in the race for a lot longer than Frank and they have been gathering support for quite a considerable amount of time.

"In the next few weeks Frank will be making a series of vision statements and will be making a series of policy speeches.

"When his campaign gets up and running we expect he will gain ground. From 50%, Ken can only go down."

Labour leads over Archer

The survey also asked Londoners of all political persuasions how they would vote if either Mr Dobson or Mr Livingstone stood against Tory candidate Lord Archer in the contest next May.

It suggested Mr Livingstone would beat Lord Archer by 36%, but Mr Dobson leads the millionaire author by just eight percentage points.

The poll also hinted that 43% of voters would also back Mr Livingstone as an independent candidate, against 25% for Lord Archer, 23% for Mr Dobson as the official Labour candidate and 10% for Liberal Democrat candidate Susan Kramer.

Phillips staying in race

Responding to his poor showing in the polls a spokesman for Mr Phillips denied he was preparing to withdraw from the mayoral race.

He said: "This is about name recognition and Ken is the person most associated with the Labour Party.

"If Trevor or anybody else is selected as Labour's candidate, people will look at their policies and what they stand for and make their judgements on that."

Unions back ballot

The poll follows Labour's announcement that it will use a collegiate system to pick its candidate rather than a straight forward ballot of London party members.

The system is similar to that used in Labour's selection process for the Scottish and Welsh leadership and gives a third of the vote to MPs, a third to unions and a third to party members.

It had been thought this system would favour Mr Dobson but the possibility that Mr Livingstone may come through the selection process is growing as several major trade unions have announced that they will ballot their members rather than use block votes.

The GMB, Unison and the TGWU have all announced they are to ballot their members, as has the Co-Op party.

The Evening Standard's survey was conducted by ICM and polled 1,000 people.

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