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The BBC's Norman Smith reports
"Mr Livingstone is now certain to be expelled from the Labour party"
 real 28k

Labour MP Paul Flynn
"It's very reminiscent of what happens in Scotland"
 real 28k

Susan Kramer, Liberal Democrat Candidate
"I'm ready to take Ken on"
 real 28k

Stephen Norris, Conservative Candidate
"If there is a god he's obviously Tory"
 real 28k

Monday, 6 March, 2000, 13:08 GMT
Livingstone to run for mayor

Frank Dobson beat Ken Livingstone to become Labour's candidate
Ken Livingstone, the left-wing Labour MP, has announced he is to stand as an independent candidate in the election to choose the mayor of London.

Ending weeks of speculation, Mr Livingstone said he would be standing to defend the right of Londoners to vote for the candidate they wanted.

At least he is not my responsibility any more.

Tony Blair
The former Greater London Council leader made his decision on Saturday but timed its announcement to come just before the official Labour Party candidate Frank Dobson relaunched his campaign for the 4 May contest.

Reacting to the announcement, Mr Dobson said that the left-winger was a "liar" and he would be exposed in the coming election.

Prime Minister Tony Blair said Mr Livingstone would be a "disaster for London".

London Mayor
Mr Blair said: "It's up to the public to decide but my view is he would be absolutely disastrous in terms of business, crime and London transport.

"But it's important that people realise that from today, he's not my responsibility at least."

Writing in the London Evening Standard, Mr Livingstone said: "I have been forced to choose between the party I love and upholding the democratic rights of Londoners.

"I have concluded that defence of the principle of London's right to govern itself requires that I stand as an independent candidate for London mayor on 4 May."

No political party should ever assume London voters are so stupid that they would not notice blatant ballot rigging.

Ken Livingstone
Antagonism between the left winger and Mr Dobson has intensified over the last few days with the pair trading insults on television and through the media.

But Mr Dobson said the "real debate" could now begin in the mayoral campaign.

He said: "I have one message for him today - Ken, you can run but you cannot hide your politics from Londoners.

"I will expose your policies and the people that surround you every day, every week of this campaign and I will do it because you are dangerous for London."

Expulsion delayed

But while Mr Livingstone has expected to face expulsion from the party, a Labour spokesman held open the possibility of him returning.

Labour assistant general secretary Phil Murphy told BBC News Online: "Ken Livingstone has chosen to walk away from the party."

Frank Dobson: "He cannot hide"
But Mr Murphy left room for a last-minute deal between the party and the Brent East MP:

"He won't be expelled from the party until he puts pens to paper," he said.

"We won't formally expel him until he signs and submits his nomination papers," adding that Labour members who sign the papers will also face expulsion.

The deadline for nomination papers for the London mayoral race is at the beginning of April.

'Point of principle'

In his article, Mr Livingstone described the last two weeks as "the most difficult of my life".

"I am standing as an independent solely in order to ensure that we have real devolution to London," said Mr Livingstone.

He admitted he was breaking previous promises not to stand against the official candidate.

"I offer no weasel words of equivocation and I apologise.

"But what I do not intend to do is take any lectures from those who have set new standards in ballot rigging."

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Independent Ken
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See also:

06 Mar 00 |  UK Politics
Livingstone: An issue of principle
06 Mar 00 |  UK Politics
Ken Livingstone: Rebel with a cause
06 Mar 00 |  UK Politics
Livingstone campaign: Full reaction
20 Feb 00 |  UK Politics
Dobson: Labour's loyal hope
26 Nov 99 |  UK Politics
What does the mayor get to do?
03 Mar 00 |  UK Politics
Out of the frying pan
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