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Tuesday, 20 June, 2000, 12:40 GMT 13:40 UK
Livingstone's 'big tent' cabinet meets

Ken Livingstone and his deputy Nicky Gavron get to work
London Mayor Ken Livingstone held the first meeting of his "big tent" advisory cabinet on Tuesday, although the new mayor only takes up his powers in full in July.

In a shorter than billed hour-long meeting, the cabinet agreed to press ahead with moves to charge people caught breaching traffic rules in the capital's bus lanes a flat rate 80 fine.

This is the first in a number of measures designed to improve transport infrastructure in the capital.

Transport reforms

Mr Livingstone also said he was looking into extending the timetable of the London Underground, perhaps keep the Tube running all night.

The idea was initially proposed by Steve Norris, Conservative candidate for the London mayoralty.

Mr Livingstone's cabinet also agreed to possibily closing one or two roads in central London to mark European Car-Free Day in September.

Cabinet coup

On the eve of the meeting Mr Livingstone scored a minor coup by announcing that two more Labour MPs - Glenda Jackson, his onetime rival to become mayor, and Diane Abbott - were joining his cabinet.

Former transport minister Ms Jackson will act as Mr Livingstone's adviser on homelessness.

Ms Abbott, one of Mr Livingstone's fellow members of the left-wing Campaign group of MPs before he was expelled from Labour, will advise him on women's issues and equality.

Labour MP Glenda Jackson has responsibility for homelessness
The Hackney North & Stoke Newington MP has also been leading calls for the mayor to be readmitted to Labour. Mr Livingstone was expelled from the party for standing against its official candidate, Frank Dobson.

During Labour's long and controversy-strewn selection process to choose a mayoral candidate, former transport minister Ms Jackson formed an informal alliance with Mr Livingstone in the face of party leadership and officials' support for Mr Dobson.

Mr Livingstone said on Monday: "In putting together my advisory cabinet I have been keen to ensure that its members reflect the full spectrum of London and that they are all equally committed to developing and sustaining the changing needs of the different communities which make up a vibrant, living capital city.

"All these people have been chosen on merit and because they have consistently demonstrated convincing leadership in their respective fields of expertise.

"It contains representatives with solid backgrounds in such diverse issues as minority ethnic groups, women's rights and the environment as well as business, industry and urban regeneration."

The first MP to join Mr Livingstone's cabinet was John McDonnell - also a member of the Campaign group, and previously deputy leader of the Greater London Council.

The mayor's cabinet also includes Labour Greater London Assembly member Nicky Gavron, who Mr Livingstone appointed deputy mayor; Liberal Democrat GLA member Graham Tope, responsible for human rights, and Green GLA member Darren Johnson, with the environment portfolio.

Mr Johnson put forward the proposals for participation in European Car-Free day to Tuesday's cabinet meeting.

A Labour spokesman said the party was relaxed about Ms Jackson and Ms Abbott joining Mr Livingstone.

"The important thing is that Londoners benefit from the new authority, and we would hope that Glenda Jackson and Diane Abbott would contribute to that," the spokesman said.

The cabinet's members will not, as a rule, be paid salaries, nor will collective responsibility be enforced.

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See also:

20 Jun 00 | UK Politics
Consensus in cabinet Ken
23 May 00 | UK Politics
Labour MP joins Livingstone's team
16 May 00 | UK Politics
Labour deputy joins Livingstone
05 May 00 | UK Politics
Debate: What to do about Ken?
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