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The BBC's Robin Oakley
"The victor is keen to lose his tag as Downing Street's man"
 real 28k

The BBC's Laura Trevelyan
"Ken Livingstone is facing the biggest gamble of his political life"
 real 28k

Frank Dobson
"I feel sympathy for Ken"
 real 28k

Dianne Abbott
Mr Dobson should think "very hard"
 real 28k

Steve Norris
"Labour gerrymandered the result"
 real 28k

Monday, 21 February, 2000, 15:19 GMT
Labour's mayor choice hits back

Dobson wins - but will Livingstone fight on?

Frank Dobson's controversial selection as Labour's candidate for London mayor has been welcomed by Prime Minister Tony Blair amid growing speculation over whether defeated left-winger Ken Livingstone will go it alone.

London Mayor
A Downing Street spokesman said former health secretary Mr Dobson was "the right choice" for the job.

But an ICM opinion poll in Monday's London Evening Standard newspaper suggested that Mr Livingstone would prove twice as popular with Londoners than Mr Dobson if he ran as an independent in the mayoral elections on 4 May.

Mr Dobson has urged his defeated rival to accept the result of the controversial electoral college system - while Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott said Mr Livingstone should "stop whining".

Mr Livingstone, who has called on Mr Dobson to stand down, is furious over the result, saying he was "robbed" of votes because some unions did not ballot members.

How they voted
Unions: Ken Livingstone 72%, Frank Dobson 28%
Labour members: Ken Livingstone 59.9%, Frank Dobson 40.1%
MPs, MEPs and GLA: Frank Dobson 86.5%, Ken Livingstone 13.5%
Both he and Mr Dobson met Mr Blair in separate meetings at Chequers on Saturday, though a Downing Street spokesman refused to comment on what was said at the meetings or on reports that Mr Livingstone had been offered a ministerial post.

Mr Dobson said he was "very sympathetic" towards the defeated Brent East MP, but said all candidates had agreed at the outset "to abide by the outcome whatever it was".

And Mr Prescott said he did not believe Mr Livingstone - who would face automatic expulsion from Labour if he stands as an independent - would go it alone.

"He has said he was born Labour and would die Labour and I think that is what is going to happen," said Mr Prescott.

'Vote could collapse'

But Labour MP Diane Abbott, one of only a few MPs to support Mr Livingstone, called on Mr Dobson to think "very hard" about his position, warning that Labour's vote in London may collapse if Mr Livingstone is not the party's candidate.

If Ken declares as an independent at the end of this week then Frank Dobson's career as prospective mayor of London will have lasted just seven days.
Diane Abbott
Although she pledged her support to Mr Dobson and urged Mr Livingstone not to quit Labour, she said she believed the left-winger could win as an independent candidate.

While Mr Dobson won the support of most MPs in Labour's mayoral selection procedure, Mr Livingstone was backed by a clear majority among party members and those unions which balloted their members.

Tory candidate Steve Norris, who said Mr Livingstone was the "moral victor" of Labour's selection battle, acknowledged that Mr Livingstone would make a strong contender for mayor even as an independent.

The Brent East MP is expected to announce his plans at the end of the week.

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Mayor battle
Should Ken Livingstone stand for London mayor?

See also:
26 Nov 99 |  UK Politics
Poll puts independent Livingstone ahead
21 Feb 00 |  UK Politics
London mayor: How Labour voted
20 Feb 00 |  UK Politics
D-day for Livingstone
20 Feb 00 |  UK
Blair's mayor nightmare
20 Feb 00 |  UK Politics
Dobson pleads for united party
20 Feb 00 |  UK Politics
Dobson position 'unsustainable'
20 Feb 00 |  UK Politics
Dobson: Labour's loyal hope

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