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Ken Livingstone MP
"Nowhere do I support violence"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 18 January, 2000, 12:49 GMT
'Direct action' row hits Livingstone

Ken Livingstone: At the centre of controversy again

Ken Livingstone has rejected as "complete rubbish" accusations that his support for direct action amounted to backing for the kind of criminal damage caused by rioters in the City of London last summer.

The allegation came from two of Mr Livingstone's rivals to become mayor of London, Frank Dobson and Steven Norris, following a magazine interview in which the Brent East MP said he had "always been in favour of direct action".

His remarks were denounced by Mr Dobson, who chose the same day to relaunch his plans to tackle crime in the capital while taking a sideswipe at his chief rival for supposedly declaring solidarity with anarchists.

London Mayor

The former health secretary is running against Mr Livingstone for the Labour Party's London mayoral nomination.

'Fondest memory . . .'

Interviewed by The Face magazine, the former Greater London Council leader said: "One of my fondest memories was chasing the inspector of the Archway Road [planning] inquiry out on to the roof of Central Hall.

"The barrister representing the government was one Michael Howard, who interposed with his body saying 'Don't throw him over!' As if I was going to."

On the subject of last year's riots in Seattle during the World Trade Organisation conference, Mr Livingstone said that as mayor he would not invite the WTO to London "unless we get vast stocks in so we can throw stuff at them in an organised way".

Frank Dobson: Relaunched law and order proposals first unveiled last October
The Dobson camp, whose campaign to win Labour's mayoral nomination has been lagging behind Mr Livingstone's, seized on the left-winger's words.

"These comments are quite disgraceful from anyone seeking to be mayor of London, with responsibility for the police," said Mr Dobson.

But Mr Livingstone dismissed any comparison between his comments and support for violent demonstrations like the City riots. "It's complete rubbish - I've always opposed violence," he told the BBC.

No mistake

Asked whether his remarks were a mistake, he replied: "No, this is an interview in The Face magazine, this is not an interview in detail about policing or economic policy.

"It covers things like my relationship with [rock singer] Damon Albarn, my attitude to drugs and Steve Norris's sex life."

He continued: "It's really ridiculous for papers to latch on to this - nowhere do I support violence in this.

"I simply say that if I was mayor of London I wouldn't invite the World Trade Organisation to come."

It would be a "bad deal because you'd undoubtedly have all the violence you saw in Seattle repeated here with a huge policing bill".

He pointed out that direct action and violent protest were not the same thing: "Direct action is usually going on a demonstration, direct action is usually most effective when it's humorous and pokes fun at the rich and powerful."

'Disturbing' remarks - Dobson

Steven Norris was confirmed as the Tory candidate on Monday
Mr Dobson also used Tuesday - the same day the latest crime figures were released - to relaunch a package of law and order measures he first unveiled back in October last year.

He was also set to later question the likelihood of Mr Livingstone combating crime as mayor. At a campaign meeting in Hounslow, London, Mr Dobson was expected to say: "These irresponsible remarks are very disturbing.

"They cast doubt on Ken Livingstone's willingness to tackle the growing problems of crime and disorder in the capital and they could drive much-needed investment from London.

"When there are riots and disorder, we rely on the police to restore order. When the police are doing that difficult job and doing it properly, they are entitled to the support of everyone."

"Those who were terrorised in their workplace and who saw their businesses damaged in the riots are also entitled to expect the mayor to be on their side, not that of the rioters."

Another month remains before Labour chooses its mayoral candidate. Mr Dobson has been trailing Mr Livingstone in opinion polls on who should be mayor.

Also contesting the nomination is former transport minister Glenda Jackson, who beat Mr Dobson to second place in a trade union mayoral ballot earlier this month.

No more cuddly Ken - Norris

Conservative mayoral candidate Steven Norris joined the attack. He condemned Mr Livingstone's comments as "a disgrace" that contradicted his "cuddly Ken" public image, insisting they amounted to support for rioters.

"Londoners do not want to see their mayor advocating trashing the city," Mr Norris said.

"The idea that the mayor would approve of the criminal damage that was done in the city just a few months ago is outrageous."

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See also:
17 Jan 00 |  UK Politics
Norris wins Tory mayoral race
17 Jan 00 |  UK Politics
I'm not backed by stooges, says Dobson
13 Jan 00 |  UK Politics
Glenda's back, and she's angry
07 Jan 00 |  UK Politics
Bad day for a Dobson relaunch
06 Jan 00 |  UK Politics
Livingstone buoyed by union backing
13 Dec 99 |  Panorama
The Blair Mayor Project. Panorama. 13.12.99
20 Jun 99 |  UK
Six charged after City violence
22 Oct 99 |  UK Politics
Dobson unveils crime strategy

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