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Tuesday, 16 May, 2000, 11:41 GMT 12:41 UK
Groundswell for Livingstone's Labour return
London Mayor Ken Livingstone wants to re-join Labour
Labour chiefs face the prospect of confronting a groundswell of support for London Mayor Ken Livingstone's return to the party at this autumn's annual conference.

A string of resolutions calling for Mr Livingstone to be allowed to re-join the party is expected to be approved by trade unions affiliated to Labour in advance of its conference in September.

Similar motions are likely to then be tabled at the conference itself, setting the scene for a confrontation between Labour managers - who would seek to rule the matter out of order for debate - and rank and file party members.

Mr Livingstone was expelled from Labour last month for standing against its official London mayoral candidate, Frank Dobson. Under party rules the expulsion stands for at least five years.

Head of steam

Labour's Frank Dobson: Ken Livingstone was expelled for standing against him
On Friday the annual conference of the left-wing Fire Brigades Union (FBU), which backed Mr Livingstone's mayoral bid, is expected to approve a motion calling on Labour to "immediately reinstate Ken Livingstone to party membership".

Mick Shaw, a member of the FBU's executive council, predicted the motion was just the first of many that would be passed by unions in the run-up to Labour conference.

"We expect there to be pressure from London trade union members calling for the same thing," he told BBC News Online. "We hope to see a head of steam building up towards the annual Labour conference this autumn."

He added: "I hope to see Ken back in the party by the end of the year."

The south-east region of the Transport and General Workers' Union is also thought likely to approve a motion calling for the swift resinstatement of Mr Livingstone's membership. "We would then seek to put that motion to the Labour Party itself," a senior TGWU source said.

Similar moves are understood to be afoot within the public sector union Unison.

'Daft to keep him out'


The public don't understand why Ken Livingstone can't be taken back, and Labour members are impatient to have him back

Mark Seddon
The issue of Mr Livingstone's membership is expected to come up when Labour's ruling National Executive Committee meets later this month.

Tribune editor and NEC member Mark Seddon told BBC News Online the mayor should be allowed to rejoin "for the good of London and Labour".

"He should be welcomed back immediately," said Mr Seddon. "The public don't understand why he can't be taken back, and Labour members are impatient to have him back.

"He is an electoral asset to Labour - it is daft to keep him outside the fold."

Last week Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott appeared to hint at a possible compromise over the five-year expulsion period when he conceded it was possible the MP could be readmitted earlier.

Shortly before last week's mayoral election Mr Livingstone said that once it was over he would apply to re-join Labour and expected to be a member again by the end of the year.

Left MPs back re-entry


More sensible to accelerate Ken's return to the party than to insist on the same exclusion which might be imposed on a Militant infiltrator

Austin Mitchell MP
Meanwhile the latest edition of Socialist Campaign Group News carried articles by a number of left-wing backbenchers backing Mr Livingstone's re-entry.

John McDonnell, chair of the Campaign Group of MPs, described his party's performance in last week's mayoral and local elections as a "debacle".

The Hayes & Harlington MP said: "The demand should come from all rank and file members now for the immediate reinstatement of Ken Livingstone into the Labour Party and the Parliamentary Labour Party."

Hackney North & Stoke Newington MP Diane Abbott said Labour's grassroots supporters "are tired of being taken for granted" and warned the government against pursuing its plans for a sell-off of London Underground.

Opposing the part-privatisation plans was a key plank of Mr Livingstone's mayoral campaign.

"If the government pick a fight with Ken on the privatisation of the Tube, they will be the losers. They are endangering a number of London marginals in the run-up to next year's general election," said Ms Abbott.

'Work together'

Grimsby MP Austin Mitchell said the balance of power in the Greater London Assembly made coalition government for the capital inevitable.

He added: "More sensible to accelerate Ken's return to the party than to insist on the same exclusion which might be imposed on a Militant infiltrator ... Unless we work together, London suffers, not Ken."

And Tony Benn drew a comparison with the welcomes given to Conservative defectors to Labour: "If Shaun Woodward, until recently a Tory frontbench spokesman, can be admitted to the Labour Party, Ken Livingstone should be readmitted at once to heal the breach created by New Labour."

A senior Labour spokesman said Mr Livingstone "knew that by standing against Frank Dobson he would be automatically expelled for a minimum of five years".

He added: "It wouldn't be right for us to treat Ken Livingstone differently to any other member who broke the party rules."

See also:

11 May 00 | UK Politics
10 May 00 | UK Politics
09 May 00 | UK Politics
11 May 00 | Talking Point
05 May 00 | London Mayor
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