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Monday, 6 March, 2000, 12:03 GMT
Livingstone: An issue of principle

Ken Livingstone has said that he has been "forced" to choose between the party he loves and upholding the democratic rights of Londoners in deciding to stand as mayor for London.

In his article for Monday's London Evening Standard, Mr Livingstone writes: "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."

Mr Livingstone said that he was standing to "ensure that we have real devolution in London" - and that he hoped one day to be able to return to Labour.

He describes the two weeks since he narrowly lost the Labour contest as "the most difficult of my life".

But defending his decision to stand, he also admitted that he had broken every promise that he had made to the party.

"I offer no weasel words of equivocation and I apologise," he said.

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

'Issue is self-government'

In his article, Mr Livingstone wrote: "The issue now facing London voters is whether our first directly elected mayor will really mean that we have self-government for the capital, or whether it will be a facade with all real decisions taken centrally.

"I have spent the two weeks since the Labour Party announced that Frank Dobson would be Labour's candidate trying to persuade the party and the Government of two principles.

"Without these two principles, devolution and real self-government will be meaningless.

"The first principle is that Londoners should not have a candidate imposed on them that they do not want.

"The second is that the break-up and partial privatisation of the Underground is overwhelmingly rejected by Londoners."

'I'm the one they want'

And he argued that he was the candidate that Labour voters wanted to see running the city.

"In Labour's selection, wherever a trade union balloted its members, my lead was overwhelming. "Sixty per cent of Labour's individual members voted for me.

If we add up the votes of all Labour Party members, trade unionists and MPs who voted in this contest, I received 74,000 votes to Frank Dobson's 24,000. That's three times as many votes."

'Londoners aren't stupid'

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

"As many Londoners have put it to me, `If we let them get away with this they'll think they can get away with anything."'

"I took the view that it was in the best interests of London and the country if the Government and those currently running the Labour Party could be persuaded to listen to Londoners.

"By the end of last week it had become crystal clear that they had no intention of doing so.

"Disraeli once said: `Damn your principle. Stick to your party.' I do not agree with that.

"I have been forced to choose between the party I love and upholding the democratic rights of Londoners."

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06 Mar 00 |  UK Politics
Livingstone to run for mayor
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