Wednesday, November 17, 1999 Published at 06:16 GMT
Labour under fire over Livingstone
Ken Livingstone before his selection panel interview
The Labour Party is facing criticism after left-wing MP Ken Livingstone was asked to reappear before its selection panel for London mayoral candidates.
But despite Prime Minister Tony Blair clearing his diary to ensure he could give a reaction to a decision, the meeting ended on Tuesday evening without reaching a decision on a shortlist. A further meeting will be held on Thursday.
The decision was immediately attacked by Glenda Jackson, one of Mr Livingstone's rivals for selection, as "inconceivable".
Speaking on BBC Two's Newsnight, she said: "I am a member of this party, I'm committed to this party and I'm concerned with the damage that I believe is being inflicted on this party because this situation needs someone to get a grip on it and for a decision to be taken.
"We're supposed to be fighting the mayoral election next May - are we going to be in a position where we won't even have selected our own candidate?"
Mr Livingstone said: "I've seen popes elected by cardinals in a shorter time than this."
However, speaking on Newsnight, Mr Livingstone ruled out standing as an independent if he was not selected.
Former ministers Frank Dobson and Ms Jackson, along with businessman Ken Baldry, also faced the interview panel at Labour's Millbank Tower headquarters. A decision had been expected the same day.
Clive Soley, chair of the parliamentary Labour Party, said it was the board's responsibility to ensure all shortlisted candidates were committed to Labour's policies and programmes.
"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."
Shaun Woodward, the shadow minister for London, said it was "a reflection of the contempt with which Labour holds the whole mayoral election process".
Liberal Democrat mayoral candidate Susan Kramer said the "incompetence" of Labour's selection process should disqualify the party from the elections.
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.
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 Ms Kramer and Conservative candidate Lord Archer in next year's election.
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