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Hear what Jeffrey Archer has to say about Labour's selection process
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Ken Livingstone: "We should keep the tube within the public sector"
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Thursday, 18 November, 1999, 16:23 GMT
Livingstone scrapes through

Ken Livingstone: Sticking to his opposition to Labour tube plans
Ken Livingstone has succeeded in making it on to the shortlist of potential Labour candidates for London mayor after days of confusion.

The chair of the party's mayoral selection panel, Clive Soley MP, announced that Mr Livingstone had made it to the shortlist, which will be put to an electoral college to select the candidate which will fight next May's election.

Former ministers Frank Dobson and Glenda Jackson have also made the shortlist but businessman Ken Baldry will not go through to the next round.

Mr Livingstone said he was "delighted" by the decision to allow him to stand.

Ken Livingstone: Confusion was a "simple mistake"
He said: "I have been saying for a year that Tony Blair made it quite clear that they were not going to rig the election.

"Now we have got to listen to Labour Party members - who do they want, what do they want in the manifesto? - and then the whole party has got to unite behind whoever is the candidate."

Mr Livingstone described the recent confusion over whether or not he would be allowed to stand as "a simple mistake".

The main point of contention had been whether Mr Livingstone was prepared to co-operate with Labour's policy of partial privatisation of London Underground if he ran as the party's candidate for mayor.

Party sources claimed Mr Livingstone had suggested he would stand down if a Labour manifesto insisted on that policy.

Announcing the selection, Mr Soley said: "It has been a long process but we needed to be absolutely clear about the willingness of the candidates to stand on the party's programmes, policies and the London manifesto.

"All candidates have accepted that they have no veto over parts of the manifesto which is currently being drawn up. Nor can they insist on policies being included."

The former leader of the GLC had originally been interviewed on Tuesday, along with the other candidates, but he alone had been recalled for further questioning .

Mr Soley, who is also chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party, said: "During today's second interview with Ken Livingstone, Mr Livingstone was asked two specific questions.

"He was asked: Will you support Labour's manifesto for London as a whole, which will be agreed by the National Executive Committee?

"He was also asked: Will you further confirm that you will not withdraw as a candidate if there are parts of the manifesto with which you disagree?

"Mr Livingstone replied 'yes' to both questions. He did not qualify those answers in any way."

Frank Dobson: Also on shortlist
Although Mr Livingstone has said he would accept Labour's manifesto, he maintains his opposition to the party's policy for partial privatisation of London Underground.

He said: "I wasn't asked to give any undertaking about Railtrack or public-private partnership.

"I gave a clear commitment I would accept the manifesto and even if I had reservations about it, I would campaign as mayor on that manifesto."

BBC News Online has learned that much of Thursday's four-hour meeting was taken up with the panel applying pressure on Mr Livingstone to back the Labour's mayoral manifesto and Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott's plans for partial-privatisation of London Underground.

It is understood that Mr Livingstone refused to offer such assurances, agreeing only to support the as-yet non-existent manifesto and not to withdraw as a candidate should he disagree with it.

The Brent East MP has therefore reserved his right to argue against government policy on the tube during the next stage of the selection contest. He argued after the meeting it would the Labour election would in effect be a referendum on the policy.

Earlier the prime minister's official spokesman said whichever candidate won the party's nomination the prime minister would campaign on their behalf.

Tony Blair himself warned about the danger of going back to extremist policies of the past.

Former health secretary Mr Dobson, who threatened to quit the contest if Mr Livingstone did not make the shortlist, said he was as "pleased as punch" his rival was allowed to stand.

Mr Dobson, who is the prime minister's preferred candidate, said: "I did everything I possibly could to make sure he got onto that ballot paper and now I hope I will be able to beat him fair and square."

The MP for Holborn and St Pancras denied Mr Livingstone was beating him in polls, saying "we're running just about level pegging".

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See also:

18 Nov 99 | UK Politics
Watching the Ken circus
17 Nov 99 | UK Politics
Labour under fire over Livingstone
17 Nov 99 | UK Politics
CV: Ken 'Red Ken' Livingstone
06 Nov 99 | UK Politics
Dobson on the defensive
27 Oct 99 | UK Politics
Blair backs Dobson for mayor
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