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Thursday, 16 March, 2000, 19:58 GMT
Mayor poll about trust - Dobson

Frank Dobson: Needs to claw back Ken Livingstone's poll lead
Labour's London mayor candidate Frank Dobson has sought to capitalise on MPs' criticism of Ken Livingstone's declaration of outside interests by insisting the 4 May poll should be an "election about trust".

London Mayor
Mr Dobson, whose camp had previously declined to comment officially on the critical Commons report of Mr Livingstone, said people would be "surprised" and "disappointed" by the Brent East MP's behaviour.

His remarks came during a visit to a south London school as an opinion poll suggested Mr Livingstone was still way ahead of all other contenders.

Thursday's poll, for London's Evening Standard, suggested the former GLC leader was 45 points ahead: respondents gave Mr Livingstone 61% support, Mr Dobson 16%, Tory Steve Norris 13% and Liberal Democrat Susan Kramer 8%.

'Trustworthiness' appears unaffected

Frank Dobson: Mayoral election about trust
Most of the 1,005 Londoners gave their views to ICM before the Commons Standards and Privileges Committee rebuked Mr Livingstone for failing to declare in detail more than 158,000 earnings from journalism and public speaking.

But Labour hopes the episode might halt the left-winger's bandwagon came to little as 300 voters questioned after the news broke rated Mr Livingstone highly for trustworthiness.

Facing an uphill battle to claw back Mr Livingstone's lead over the next seven weeks, Mr Dobson weighed into the outside interests controversy.

"I am sure people will be surprised - indeed disappointed - to discover that Ken Livingstone has earned nearly 250,000 [over 18 months] without declaring it to the House of Commons," he said. "I believe this is an election about trust."

"I will be working hard to win the trust of Londoners, setting out exactly what I will do to improve transport, boost jobs and cut crime. And there will be no hidden costs to my policies."

Mystery over complainant

Meanwhile the complainant cited in the committee's report, Loughborough University researcher John C Jones, repeated he had nothing to do with it and had been baffled to receive a letter on the subject from the Commons.

In a statement, he said: "None of this is anything to do with me. All I can think is that someone else has written this letter of complaint and used my name and address.

"When I received the letter from the Commons authority I called the commission as I did not have the faintest idea what it was all about. I told them it was not me who had written the letter and that I knew nothing about it."

Ken Livingstone: Mystery over who lodged a complaint
But Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards Elizabeth Filkin said there would be no inquiry into the matter and that it would rest unless Mr Jones reported someone's impersonation of him to the police.

She said she had no authority or power to investigate who made well-founded complaints.

'Target for dirty tricks' - Livingstone

Mr Livingstone later said he believed he may have been the victim of "dirty tricks" and given the mystery over the identity of the complainant, he believed an investigation might have to take place.

"If the statements by John Jones that he did not make a complaint to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards is confirmed, there will have to be an investigation into this matter and its timing before the London elections," he said.

In response to the committee report rebuking him, he said: "All of my speaking and writing commitments are in the public domain. No one has suggested that any of them might in any way influence my conduct in Parliament."

"The main point made by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards is that my entry in the register was outdated because my earnings from speaking and writing had become more regular than previously."

Of his outside earnings, Mr Livingstone said: "The purpose of my company is to organise my earnings from writing and speaking to be used primarily for political campaigning.

"Should any dividend be paid to me - and this has only happened once - it is taxed at the full rate. My earnings increased over the last 18 months."

"I intended to use this income to assist Labour's campaign fund for the London elections. A contribution will be made to my independent campaign instead."

He added that he had "never doubted" that his decision to run for mayor would "make me a target for dirty tricks".

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See also:

15 Mar 00 | UK Politics
Livingstone 'breached Commons rules'
26 Nov 99 | UK Politics
Livingstone remains ahead in polls
13 Mar 00 | UK Politics
Livingstone: I'll fight for the euro
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