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The BBC's Carolyn Quinn
"He risks being ostracised"
 real 28k

The BBC's Nicholas Jones
"Crunch time"
 real 28k

Jim Fitzpatrick MP
"Ken will support Frank Dobson"
 real 28k

Labour MP Ken Livingstone
"This is the hardest decision of my life.."
 real 28k

Monday, 28 February, 2000, 23:25 GMT
Livingstone keeps London guessing
livingstone
Ken Livingstone tells Panorama he wants to win
Speculation remains over whether left-winger Ken Livingstone will stand as an independent in London's mayoral elections despite two hours of talks between the MP and Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott.

London Mayor
The two men issued only a brief statement following the crunch meeting in Westminster on Monday evening.

It came after a flurry of statements from Mr Livingstone and Labour's headquarters as the saga over the Brent East MP's future continued.

The Labour leadership let it be known it "assumed" Mr Livingstone was planning to break from the party and run as an independent in the elections - and promised to conduct a "hard-hitting campaign" against him.

In response, Mr Livingstone said he was trying to do everything he could "to avoid my party finding itself in a confrontation with the wishes of the great majority of London voters".

After their meeting, Mr Livingstone and Mr Prescott issued a one-line statement saying: "We had a very comradely discussion lasting over two hours about the forthcoming London elections and their implications."

A Labour Party spokesman declined to elaborate further, while Mr Livingstone left the meeting without making any comment to waiting journalists.


I've given so many commitments I wouldn't leave, and to actually break those commitments would be an appalling thing to do

Ken Livingstone
Mr Prescott was hoping to dissuade the popular left-winger from splitting the Labour vote and running against the party's official candidate, Frank Dobson.

Further meetings between the two men have not been ruled out.

Meanwhile Tory candidate for mayor, Steve Norris, called on Mr Livingstone to "stand down or deliver".

"Surely it's time Ken Livingstone made up his mind?" he said.

"Resign your seat and get in the race. Or get on and support your party's hapless official candidate."

Earlier, Mr Livingstone called on the government to "see reason" and drop its plans for a part-privatisation of London's tube system.

But Prime Minister Tony Blair's official spokesman insisted on Monday morning that the meeting with Mr Prescott was "in no way a negotiation".

The meeting came as Mr Livingstone said on the BBC's Panorama programme that he remained confident of winning the mayoral election if he stood as an independent.

He refused to say whether he would stand as an independent, but said he desperately wants to be mayor.

'I could win'

The MP also acknowledged that going it alone would be the worst thing he has done in public life after making several commitments to remain in the party if he lost Labour's selection contest.

In the interview, Mr Livingstone said: "All the polls show I can win. There's no question of that. I think I could win.

dobson
Frank Dobson: Labour's official candidate
"I desperately want it. Almost every aspect of my waking life is thinking about the nuts and bolts of how you would now run London."

And he condemned Labour candidate Frank Dobson's campaign, saying: "I don't think Frank (Dobson) is electable.

"He's indelibly stained as the stooge of Downing Street and, as we've seen in Wales, you can't escape once you've got that albatross round your neck."

Pressure

Mr Livingstone has called on Mr Dobson to stand down, arguing that the former health secretary only became Labour's candidate because of a "tainted" result in the selection procedure.

Pressed on whether, if he did run, electors could conclude that he is "untrustworthy, an opportunist and a liar", Mr Livingstone concedes: "They'll be perfectly free to make that conclusion.

"I've given so many commitments that I wouldn't leave, and to actually break those commitments would be an appalling thing to do."

He also said MPs who supported him in the mayoral selection race had been pressured by Downing Street to support Mr Dobson.

And he said Mr Blair had not offered him any posts - either within a Labour mayoral administration or within the government - in return for agreeing not to stand as an independent.

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See also:

27 Feb 00 |  UK Politics
Prescott: 'Back off, Ken'
23 Feb 00 |  UK Politics
Labour piles pressure on Livingstone
28 Feb 00 |  UK Politics
London elections to go ahead
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