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Wednesday, November 17, 1999 Published at 16:58 GMT

UK Politics

Livingstone condemns interview leaks

Barred or not? Ken Livingstone outside Labour's Millbank headquarters

Ken Livingstone has criticised the disclosure of excerpts of his interview with the selection panel that will shortlist Labour's candidates for mayor of London.

The BBC's Tim Franks: "This man is causing Labour no end of problems"
Mr Livingstone is preparing to reappear before the panel on Thursday after it failed to reach a decision after hour-long interviews with all four of Labour's mayoral candidates.

The main point of contention is whether Mr Livingstone would support a manifesto which included plans for the partial privatisation of London Underground, a policy he opposes.

BBC News has been given what Labour officials describe as transcripts from the former GLC leader's interview with the 12-strong selection board.

[ image: Proposals for the Tube are the main point of contention]
Proposals for the Tube are the main point of contention
In the excerpts, a panel member asks Mr Livingstone: "At the end of the day, the Labour will put its manifesto to the people. Will you accept that manifesto?"

According to the transcript, Mr Livingstone answers: "If I couldn't accept the manifesto, I would stand down as a candidate."

Labour officials say that position would be intolerable as they could be faced with the situation of suddenly having no candidate prior to May's election.

Responding to the leak, Mr Livingstone said: "I am amazed and appalled because I wasn't told the meeting was being tape-recorded.

"I make a simple challenge now to the people who are leaking those titbits: Let everybody see the full transcript, the whole thing from start to finish, not selectively, half a sentence here, half a question there.

"I think the public will be genuinely shocked at some of the aggressive questioning that I was subjected to."

John Prescott: Any Labour candidate has to sign up to the manifesto
Labour has refused to confirm the extracts were accurate, saying: "There is no transcript."

Earlier, Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott signalled the left-wing MP was likely to be barred from the contest to select Labour's candidate, furthering speculation Mr Livingstone could run for mayor as an independent.

Mr Prescott said anyone who failed to sign up to the whole of Labour's manifesto could not run for mayor on a Labour ticket.

"Anybody who doesn't sign up to the manifesto and wants to be the Labour candidate to my mind can't be the Labour candidate," he said.

[ image: John Prescott: Candidates cannot pick and choose policy]
John Prescott: Candidates cannot pick and choose policy
Mr Prescott continued: "We can't have candidates who come along and pick and choose which parts of the manifesto they want."

Mr Livingstone is still confident of making the shortlist of candidates although he has insisted he will not back down on his view that privatising London's Underground was wrong and expensive.

Seeking to dampen the speculation that if blocked, Mr Livingstone - who has been out-polling all other contenders for the mayoralty - would seek to go it alone, he said: "I am not going to leave the Labour Party, nor run as an independent."

Mr Livingstone faces competition from former ministers Frank Dobson and Glenda Jackson and businessman Ken Baldry to become Labour's mayoral candidate.

The names that eventually appear on Labour's shortlist of candidates will be put to the party'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 victor will then face Conservative candidate Lord Archer, Liberal Democrat Susan Kramer and Green Party candidate Darren Johnson at next May's poll.

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