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Monday, 29 November, 1999, 11:27 GMT
Livingstone rallies to Archer's defence
Lord Archer: Resigned as Tory mayor candidate a week ago

Few politicians have leapt to Lord Archer's defence in the past week, but now a few words in his defence have emerged from an unlikely source.

Labour mayoral hopeful Ken Livingstone said he believed the disgraced Tory would have proved not a "particularly bad mayor".

London Mayor
The notion Lord Archer would have been a disaster for London was the justification used by his former friend Ted Francis for wrecking his political career.

But Mr Livingstone said a different picture of the peer might have emerged had he achieved his political ambition.

"I don't think he would have been a corrupt mayor, I don't think he would have been a particularly bad mayor," the left-wing Labour MP said.

"I think we would all have been quite surprised and will have said: 'That Archer, he didn't turn out to be so bad after all'.

"I feel some sympathy that he's been denied that chance to leave a better public record than is going to be the case."

He added: "I came to the conclusion that although Jeffrey had a lot of very dubious things in the past, he genuinely wants to be a good mayor as a way of wiping that out so that in the history books he can be remembered as this great first mayor of London and not the author who had all those funny and difficult-to-explain share dealings and other things."

'Incredibly offensive personal attacks'

Ken Livingstone: Outraged at attacks against him
Mr Livingstone also claimed he had been the victim of "most incredibly personally offensive attacks" by government ministers and other members of the Labour Party, since he was allowed on to the party shortlist for its mayoral candidate.

He further described the decision to make accesible the votes of Labour MPs in the selection process as an "an absolute scandal".

"If MPs privately want to vote for me, they should be able to do so without it damaging their career," he said.

Mr Livingstone said up to five MPs had told him they would like to back him but dared not risk threatening their careers.

A Labour Party spokeswoman said the ballot would be secret, although she admitted the fact ballot papers were numbered meant it would be possible "in theory" to track individual votes.

Labour's choice for its mayor candidate will be decided by an electoral college, split three ways into unions, party members and elected representatives plus assembly hopefuls.

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See also:
29 Nov 99 |  UK Politics
Police investigate fresh Archer claims
24 Nov 99 |  UK Politics
Archer ready to face Tory inquiry
27 Nov 99 |  UK
Hague 'will not tolerate sleaze'

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