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Tuesday, November 16, 1999 Published at 22:42 GMT

UK Politics

Livingstone faces further vetting

Ken Livingstone: The voters like him, but Labour's leadership doesn't

Left-wing MP Ken Livingstone has been asked to reappear before the selection panel which is vetting Labour's candidates for London mayor, to clarify his policy on London Underground.

The BBC's John Piennar reports on the race to run the capital
Mr Livingstone appeared on Tuesday before the 13-strong selection panel which will decide which of Labour's candidates are suitable to stand in next May's election.

Former ministers Frank Dobson and Glenda Jackson, along with businessmen Ken Baldry, also faced the interview panel at Labour's Millbank Tower headquarters and a decision had been expected the same day.

[ image:  ]
But on Tuesday evening it was announced that the panel had adjourned without making a decision and had invited Mr Livingstone to reappear before it on Thursday to clarify some points.

Clive Soley, chair of the parliamentary Labour Party, said that during the panel's deliberations it had become apparent there were some aspects they needed to clarify, including Mr Livingstone's opposition ot the government's proposals for partial privatisation of the Tube.

Mr Soley said it was the board's responsibility to ensure all shortlisted candidates were committed to Labour's policies and programmes.

He said: "However, on the answers given, we could not be sufficiently assured on the commitment that Ken Livingstone has given us on his willingness to commit himself to the policies of the Labour Party and to stand on the party's manifesto.

[ image: Frank Dobson: Downing Street's preferred candidate]
Frank Dobson: Downing Street's preferred candidate
"It became apparent during the London selection board's deliberations, after the candidates had left, that there were aspects of Mr Livingstone's answers which required clarification.

"In particular we need to clarify whether or not he would stand down and leave us without a candidate if the manifesto was not to his liking."

Mr Livingstone responded to news of the delay in the decision making by saying: "I've seen popes elected by cardinals in a shorter time than this."

He added: "We should be grown-up enough to allow London Labour Party members and MPs to decide which candidate has got the best policy on modernising the Tube, and not try to pre-empt that by barring myself."

He said the first 20 minutes of his interview had been taken up debating future funding of London transport, and they had not come to any agreement.

[ image: Glenda Jackson: Also running for Labour's nomination]
Glenda Jackson: Also running for Labour's nomination
The chief focus on Labour's mayoral contest has been on whether the Brent East MP - who has been out-polling the other contenders among Labour supporters and London voters - would be allowed to go forward to the next stage of the selection battle.

The Labour leadership is anxious to avoid the former Greater London Council leader, an outspoken critic of government policy in the past, winning the party's mayoral nomination.

Nick Raynsford, Mr Dobson's campaign manager, said: "Frank Dobson has repeatedly made it clear that he wants Ken Livingstone on the ballot paper."

Ms Jackson said she was distressed at the length of time the announcement was taking.

She said: "We were interviewed by extremely experienced, dedicated members of the Labour Party. I can't believe that this kind of delay impacts well on this party, and I would hope someone will take a grip on this.

The shortlisted names will be put to Labour's three-way electoral college of London party members, affiliated trade unions in the capital, and elected representatives - the city's MPs, MEPs and Greater London Assembly candidates.

The eventual victor of Labour's selection contest will face Conservative candidate Lord Archer and Liberal Democrat Susan Kramer in next year's election.

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