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Saturday, November 13, 1999 Published at 11:41 GMT

UK Politics

Labour 'to let Livingstone run'

Ken Livingstone: Wants a fair contest

Labour's leadership will not block Ken Livingstone from the shortlist of London's mayoral candidates facing selection next week, according to reports.

Speculation is mounting that Prime Minister Tony Blair has decided it would be too damaging to exclude the Brent East MP from the contest at this late stage.

It would allow the MP to present himself as a martyr, resurrect charges of "control freakery" and split the party, newspapers have suggested.

However The Times quotes a number of Labour sources who say several party heavyweights are trying to convince the party not to back Mr Livingstone.

And, as an insurance policy, the party will bind him to its policy by imposing a manifesto on him if he does succeed in beating the other leading candidates, Frank Dobson and Glenda Jackson.

[ image: Frank Dobson: Backed by Labour leadership]
Frank Dobson: Backed by Labour leadership
The party source told the paper: "Livingstone's support is being constantly overestimated in the polls and the press. He will be beaten."

However, an official Labour party spokesman said: "The selection board will meet on Tuesday to decide who goes forward to the electoral college."

He said any reports in advance of that were "pure speculation".

Mr Livingstone said the reports did not surprise him. "I know there have been some Labour MPs and some party officials saying I should be dropped but these people never spoke for the prime minister."

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, he added: "There isn't a great deal that divides us. As soon as Frank or Glenda come up with a good idea about policing or unemployment I promptly steal it and they do the reverse to me."

He said the only real issue that dividing them is "whether or not we should go ahead with transferring a big chunk of the Tube to Railtrack and breaking up the rest of it".

[ image: Glenda Jackson insists Labour must have a woman candidate]
Glenda Jackson insists Labour must have a woman candidate
The reports come after it was announced that all four nominated candidates have made it through to the next stage of the Labour party's mayoral selection procedure.

Mr Dobson, Ms Jackson and Islington businessman Ken Baldry will all join Mr Livingstone to face the selection board.

After an interview the selection board will draw up a shortlist of names of those applicants who will go to the party's electoral college of MPs, trade unionists and members.

The winner will face Conservative candidate Lord Archer and Liberal Democrat candidate Susan Kramer next May.

Away from the capital, one would-be mayor has promised to cool things off by running nude around New York's Times Square.

But Frank Maloney, manager for British boxer Lennox Lewis, will only carry out his threat if Lewis loses Saturday's fight against Evander Holyfield and Scotland beat England in the Euro 2000 play-off. The mayoral hopeful said he would also donate $100,000 to a US charity.

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