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Monday, 6 March, 2000, 15:41 GMT
Livingstone campaign: Full reaction

Ken Livingstone: Surprised many people by his announcement
Ken Livingstone's decision to stand as an independent candidate in the contest to become London mayor is a "very sad day" for Labour", the chair of the London party has said.

Jim Fitzpatrick said that his reaction to Mr Livingstone's Monday morning announcement was one of "great disappointment".

London Mayor
"It is a very sad day for the London Labour Party," he told BBC News Online.

"I think [the decision] will fire [the Dobson campaign] up. Frank has a clear view now of the way ahead.

"He will be rubbing his hands together because at least now there is a certainty about the next two months."

Mr Fitzpatrick said expelling Mr Livingstone from the party was not a "fait accompli" until he handed his nomination papers as an independent in the mayoral poll - but he said he had "virtually" expelled himself from the party.

'Surprised and sad'

Clive Soley, chair of the parliamentary Labour Party, said Mr Livingstone has always been determined to become mayor regardless of the "political party he claimed to be supporting" and he was not surprised by Monday's announcement.

"Why didn't he do this in the first place?" questioned Mr Soley.

"Ever since I interviewed Ken all those months ago along with the other candidates, they all said they would stand on the Labour manifesto. Ken wouldn't say that.

"I've known for a long time that his first aim was to try to become mayor on his own manifesto with or without the support of the party.

"His second option if he couldn't stand that, was to stand as an independent. And now he's done what he should have done in the first place."

'Terrible decision to leave'

Glenda Jackson, the other candidate who fought to become Labour's mayoral candidate, said she was surprised "and also sad" by Mr Livingstone's decision.

Susan Kramer: Civil war
"It must be a terrible decision to leave the Labour Party and of course as Ken is standing as an independent he must leave the Labour Party."

But she added: "One good thing that has come out of today's announcement is we can get away from the process and start concentrating on the issues. "We're now into a genuine debate on the issues which matter to Londoners."

Conservative mayoral candidate Steve Norris said he was "absolutely delighted" by Mr Livingstone's decision.

"This is proof there is a God and he must be a Tory," he said.

"This means the end of the Dobson campaign - I imagine it is pretty much dead in the water. I think there is a very clear choice now for London, which is bluntly between action and politics."

'Labour civil war' - Kramer

Liberal Democrat candidate Susan Kramer welcomed Mr Livingstone's decision but said it would mean civil war for the Labour Party.

"There is a real danger, that Labour in-fighting will now go on distracting attention from the real problems of Londoners," she said.

"Ken Livingstone promised Labour that he would not stand, and now he has broken his word.

"If he's unreliable on this issue, how can we trust him to run London?"

Green Party candidate Darren Johnson welcomed the apparent breakdown of party allegiances.

"With the new system of voting, we could be looking at a massive breakthrough for the Green Party in May," he said.

'Great tragedy'

Geoff Martin, London convenor for the public services union Unison whose members had backed Mr Livingstone, said the decision would have "seismic repercussions" for the Labour movement.

"It's a great tragedy that Frank Dobson did not get the message every time a ballot was held in this contest," said Mr Martin.

"If he had, then we may have been able to avoid what is going to a turbulent period for Labour."

Sir Ken Jackson, general secretary of the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union, said he was "extremely disappointed" that Mr Livingstone had decided to stand.

'A fine mayor'

Mark Seddon, editor of the left-wing Labour journal Tribune: "However badly treated - and Ken Livingstone has been very badly treated indeed - by New Labour, I had hoped that he would stay and fight his corner in the Labour Party along with the rest of us.

"Should he overcome the considerable obstacles that will be placed in his path, he may yet find the job of London mayor something of a poisoned chalice. But he may make a fine mayor.

Newport West MP Paul Flynn, one of three Labour MPs to have called on Frank Dobson to stand down as Labour's mayoral candidate, said Mr Blair should now "decide that Londoners' choice should go forward as the only Labour candidate".

"It could only help our opponents if we have two candidates standing," he said.

"Many Labour Party members are so angry at the stitch up that they will punish the Labour Party by voting for other parties or staying at home."

Millbank - only itself to blame

The London Socialist Alliance, which is fielding a group of GLA candidates, immediately welcomed Mr Livingstone's decision.

In a statement the LSA said: "He has given Londoners an alternative at the ballot box. We hope Ken will stand on a socialist and trade union platform."

While the Christian Peoples Alliance responded to the news saying: "The centralising tendencies in Labour's Millbank Tower have only themselves to blame for the internal party warfare that will now break out across London."

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See also:

06 Mar 00 |  UK Politics
Livingstone to run for mayor
06 Mar 00 |  UK Politics
Livingstone: An issue of principle
06 Mar 00 |  UK Politics
Ken Livingstone: Rebel with a cause
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