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2000: Livingstone to take on government

In his inaugural speech as Mayor of London Ken Livingstone has announced that he will stand up to the government when they are not acting in the capital's best interests.

Six weeks after the ballot on 4 May, the former Labour rebel has taken up full powers as London's first directly-elected mayor.

Mr Livingstone pinpointed transport as his number one priority and said that he wanted to "make sure that officials in London transport realise that (people) are customers, not cattle".

He went on to repeat his opposition to government plans to improve the London Underground through a public-private partnership (PPP).

But he spoke in favour of the congestion charges the Labour candidate, Frank Dobson, had campaigned against.

"The first duty of the mayor is to London"

Ken Livingstone

His willingness to tackle the government directly, including over the euro, suggests that his influence will extend beyond his official authority.

Mr Livingstone emphasised: "The first duty of the mayor is to London. There is not one major decision I have taken since my election that has been affected by whether I was or was not a member of the Labour Party."

The 25 members of the new Greater London Assembly (GLA), elected at the same time as the mayor, also took on their formal responsibilities today.

Their chair, Labour's Trevor Phillips, has warned Mr Livingstone that he must not use his mayoral office to pursue his own political goals, saying, "This is a democracy, not a Kenocracy".

"Where we agree with Ken and where he does well for London we will carry him in triumph through the streets. Where he does things that will harm London we will kick his ass," he said.

Mr Livingstone was expelled from the Labour Party in March 2000 when he decided to run as an independent against them but he has already spoken of his wish to rejoin.

In Context
The beginning of Ken Livingstone's first term as mayor was dominated by wrangles with the government over the future of the London Underground.

Mr Livingstone was involved in a legal action over public-private partnership in July 2001. His group lost the case and did not appeal.

In March 2002 Mr Livingstone attracted criticism for appointing six special advisors, at a public cost of 70,000. Other members of the GLA suggested he was installing a cabinet.

A congestion charge of 5 was levied on cars coming into central London in February 2003 and succeeded in cutting traffic by 40%.

In January 2004 Mr Livingstone was allowed back into the party and the Prime Minister Tony Blair admitted his prediction that Mr Livingstone would be a "disaster" for London had been proved wrong.

He was re-elected London Mayor in June 2004.

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