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Thursday, October 21, 1999 Published at 10:23 GMT 11:23 UK

UK Politics

Jackson fights on

Glenda Jackson gave up her ministerial job to run for mayor

Glenda Jackson has confounded speculation by announcing she is to stay in the race for Labour's nomination for London mayor.

But the only woman in the contest admitted she has little chance of winning.

Glenda Jackson MP: "I've been under no pressure to withdraw"
In a statement the former minister for London transport said it would be "inconceivable" to have just men standing for the party's nomination to such an important job.

The previous day broadcaster Trevor Phillips dropped out of the contest to become former health secretary Frank Dobson's running mate and candidate for deputy mayor.

[ image: Trevor Phillips: His quitting the race increased put pressure on Glenda Jackson to follow suit]
Trevor Phillips: His quitting the race increased put pressure on Glenda Jackson to follow suit
Ms Jackson's announcement on Thursday that she will fight on followed widespread media speculation that she would quit the race in order to allow Mr Dobson, Downing Street's preferred candidate, a straight run against left-winger Ken Livingstone.

The prospect of a rift between Ms Jackson's camp and Labour's Millbank headquarters was raised when her supporters delivered a blunt message to the party insiders: "Back off"

'Inconceivable' not to stand

Ms Jackson said: "Over the last week and especially the last 24 hours there has been an increasing amount of media speculation as to whether I will remain in or withdraw from the race for the Labour nomination for mayor of London.

"Despite a recent series of positive poll ratings I am realistic about my chances of securing the nomination under the selection system that has been proposed.

"However, I firmly believe that after everything the Labour Party has achieved for the political representation of women for a role as important as this, it would be inconceivable if there were not a single woman standing for the Labour Party selection."

Ill-feeling over briefing

[ image: Ken Livingstone: Opinion poll favourite]
Ken Livingstone: Opinion poll favourite
Sources close to Ms Jackson made clear her statement was intended to halt what they believe is briefing against her by staff at Labour's Millbank headquarters.

The sources said: "This is direct message to the party machine to back off.

"Glenda may not have been the most flamboyant minister and she may well not secure the nomination for mayor.

"But two good things she does have are guts and integrity and they are attributes that still have a place in today's Labour government."

Field narrows - plot thickens

Mr Phillips' decision to pull out of the race made him the second Labour contender to drop out and join Mr Dobson's team.

Planning Minister Nick Raynsford quit the contest last week after soon after Mr Dobson U-turned to join it.

[ image: Frank Dobson: Leadership favourite]
Frank Dobson: Leadership favourite
The withdrawals by Mr Phillips and Mr Raynsford, both Blair loyalists, cut the risk of splitting the anti-Livingstone vote in the party's candidate selection, to be conducted by an electoral college.

Labour officials meet on Thursday to decide the final timetable for the selection.

When Mr Phillips announced he was giving up his bid to be mayor he increased the pressure on Ms Jackson to follow his example by saying he was now backing "the only serious candidate left in the race" - Mr Dobson.

Labour's leadership is anxious to prevent Mr Livingstone, the veteran left-winger who is popular with party members and Londoners, from becoming the candidate.

But opinion polls indicate Mr Dobson has an uphill struggle to beat the former leader of the disbanded Greater London Council.

A poll for London's Evening Standard newspaper recently suggested Mr Livingstone had the backing of 50% of Labour supporters in the capital, with Ms Jackson next on 16% and Mr Dobson on 15%. Mr Phillips received the backing of 7% of those questioned.

In an article in this week's Spectator magazine Ken Livingstone points out the polls show "not only that Frank Dobson is trailing behind my candidacy, but also that at present he is behind Glenda Jackson too.

"This is a very unsatisfactory situation from the point of view of the Millbank Tendency, who ditched Glenda when they thought that she could not defeat me."

Whoever eventually wins the Labour nomination will enter the final round of the battle to become mayor with Conservative candidate Lord Archer and the Liberal Democrats' Susan Kramer.

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