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Saturday, 20 November, 1999, 23:20 GMT
Labour: Tory sleaze returns
Lord Archer has admitted making 'serious errors'

Lord Archer's decision to pull out of the mayoral race was a timely announcement for Labour.

In recent days, headlines have been dominated by its own struggle to choose a Labour mayoral candidate.

A Labour Party spokesman said: "It was the week when sleaze returned to haunt the Tory Party.

Norris: Now Tory frontrunner
"The Jeffrey Archer case shows how important it is for political parties to strictly vet the candidates they put before the electorate."

Labour candidate Glenda Jackson said she was "shocked and flabbergasted" at the news of Lord Archer's withdrawal from the contest.

"I just hope it will still be possible for everyone to maintain a clean campaign," she said.

Ms Jackson said she now expected Steven Norris to stand as the Tory candidate.

"In Steven Norris the Tories would have genuinely formidable character," Ms Jackson added.

'Tory bruiser'

Her Labour mayoral rival Ken Livingstone also agreed that former transport minister Mr Norris was now the Tory frontrunner.

He said: "The most likely outcome of this is that the Tories will stand a political bruiser like Steven Norris rather than Archer.

"My overwhelming lead in the polls is too big a hurdle for Norris to overcome and I will fight Norris's plans for the wholesale privatisation of the Tube head on.

Dobson: Blair's favourite
"Norris's attachment to the roads lobby means that he refuses to use the congestion charge. He will not be able to raise the money the Mayor needs to get conductors on the buses and expand the capacity of the public transport system.

"Unlike Archer, Norris will enjoy united support from the Tory press and the Tory party's machine.

"Labour activists will now expect the formidable attack skills of Labour's Millbank HQ to be deployed against Norris."

Frank Dobson, the former Health Secretary and Labour leadership favourite for the party's mayoral nomination, Labour's choice of candidate was even more crucial.

"Labour will now clearly face a more formidable candidate than Jeffrey Archer," he said.

"Even more than before, that means Labour needs to choose a serious candidate for a serious job.

"London's voters want a candidate who will make a practical difference, not a headline grabber or a self-publicist."

Political farce

Liberal Democrat candidate Susan Kramer said the race for London mayor had gone from farce to tragedy.

She said: "For several months now, there will be no Labour or Conservative candidate in the field."

She said: "These two parties have been so incompetent in their candidate selection that they have already lost the confidence of the voters.

"Every further day which they spend trying to sort out their internal crises is a day which they are not devoting to the problems of Londoners."

Down but not out

Despite the current crisis Lord Archer's mayoral campaign director Nadhim Zahawi is still predicting the novelist will return to politics.

Three hours after Lord Archer's resignation statement, Mr Zahawi said: "Jeffrey will certainly be back. He's a man full of energy and enthusiasm ... I'm sure he will come back with some brilliant ideas again."

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See also:
20 Nov 99 |  UK Politics
Archer statement in full
20 Nov 99 |  UK Politics
Profile: Jeffrey Archer
28 Sep 99 |  UK Politics
Tory dismay at 'sleazy Archer' poll

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