Is Mr Blair foolish enough to try to stop me running for mayor of London?

WHILE SOME of us are trying to ensure that Labour's selection process does not lead to a disaster at the polls next May, the media's angle about the London mayoralty appears to have found its feet. At last, the columnists and pundits have decided that it isn't a question of getting conductors back on the buses, or which funding system is best for London Underground.

No, it's a question of whether I shall pass a hypothetical loyalty test, which in fact isn't even mentioned in the application form for Labour's London mayor nomination, which I am busily filling in. Yesterday's two- page spread in the London Evening Standard setting my articles in The Independent against a series of "loyalty" tests was good fun. But, much as the sudden interest in my outpourings may gladden the heart of some, I doubt whether it has much to do with real politics.

On 5 August I wrote to Labour's general secretary, Margaret McDonagh, asking her to look into a long line of stories that had appeared in the press, implying that Labour sources are briefing journalists about the mechanism by which I might be excluded from standing for the job.

A story had already appeared in two broadsheets, alleging that a transcript of an interview with me on Newsnight, conducted by David Aaronovitch in February, was likely to be used to show that I am unfit to be mayor of London.

In The Sunday Times (1 August 1999), Michael Prescott reported: "Downing Street has already drawn up a `block Ken' plan. A transcript of a Newsnight interview Livingstone gave last February is being circulated to people likely to be on the party board that will shortlist official Labour candidates for mayor. The Blairites want his interview panel to do the same, then bar him on grounds of likely disloyalty."

In The Independent it was reported (5 August 1999) that the Newsnight interview "may provide the `silver bullet' that kills his hopes of becoming mayor of London. Officials at Labour's Millbank headquarters believe that resurrecting Mr Livingstone's criticism of the Government will enable the party to veto him from the shortlist of Labour candidates on which London party members will vote at the end of this year." Quoting extensively from the Aaronovitch interview, it added: "A transcript of the interview will be sent to the London Labour panel that will quiz candidates and draw up the shortlist. The panel, said to be dominated by Blair loyalists, may repeat some of the questions put to Mr Livingstone on the programme."

There is a gaping hole in all of this. Millbank must have taken advice, and therefore must realise that any selection system that has mechanisms built into it to stop one candidate from seeking office is by definition deeply questionable, not just morally but procedurally. Should I be ruled out next Tuesday on the basis of the "Newsnight model", Labour would then be exposed as having agreed on a system designed to exclude me, and then having briefed reporters to confirm it. It wouldn't stand up.

The sensitivity of Millbank to this question was exposed yesterday, when it was confirmed that Baroness Uddin had resigned from the London selection board after her comments about my candidacy on Radio 4 threatened to undermine the board's neutrality.

There is also a political problem associated with the "Newsnight option". The Millbank Tendency would not risk ruling me out over issues of policy, because on all of the rebellions quoted against me (such as lone parent benefits, and last week's vote on disability benefits) my views are shared by the overwhelming majority of Labour Party members and voters. My exclusion on political grounds would open up a hornets' nest in the London Labour Party.

Take the question of the part-privatisation of the Underground. Not one Londoner in a thousand wants it. As many as 66 per cent of London voters want the Tube to remain solely in the public sector. I certainly have not met a single person who thinks it is a good idea to hand over the sub-surface Tube lines to Railtrack. The problem for the "Newsnight option" is that if I were excluded for agreeing with almost every Londoner, a majority of party members, every leading academic and most commentators, including Max Hastings, the editor of the Evening Standard, then there would be a crisis. To have such a mainstream view excluded would reduce the Labour selection to farce.

That's why they can't do it.

Senior party figures must know this. The "Newsnight option" is a rather blunt piece of spin designed to get every political correspondent running around repeating David Aaronovitch's questions to me endlessly as a mechanism to "prove" my disloyalty. It is intended not as a bureaucratic mechanism to exclude me, but a political attack.

As I said in my letter to Margaret McDonagh at the time, I am sure it is not beyond the wit of the formidable Millbank rebuttal team to kill these stories off. If party officials were strongly to deny these stories and refuse to give them any credence, then they would quickly disappear. My warnings that Millbank needs to get to grips with this sort of story before it demoralises the party membership have been left unheeded.

Half of the political correspondents in the capital are propping up bars as I write, speculating on whether I shall pass a hypothetical loyalty test. The British Prime Minister, in full view of the world, is not about to rig a selection or risk a haemorrhage of the Greater London Labour Party membership, based on a script from Newsnight. He's a better politician than that.

The Independent reported one blinkered minister last week, who said: "There is an intense debate going on about what to do. Blocking Ken would send the right signal to the voters but a terrible one to the party." This the nub of the problem. The hardline faction seeking to get me barred completely misunderstands the level of feeling among the core Labour electorate, as they misjudged it in Wales earlier this year. Contrary to the line of the supporters of the "Newsnight option", the vast majority of London voters regard me as their preferred Labour candidate for the election next May. If my candidacy were not so much in tune with the mood of broad public opinion, we should never have got into this mess in the first place.

Arts & Entertainment
art

By opportunistic local hoping to exhibit the work

Arts & Entertainment
Leonardo DiCaprio will star in an adaptation of Michael Punke's thriller 'The Revenant'
film

Fans will be hoping the role finally wins him an Oscar

Arts & Entertainment
Cody and Paul Walker pictured in 2003.
film

Arts & Entertainment
Down to earth: Fern Britton presents 'The Big Allotment Challenge'
TV

VIDEO
Arts & Entertainment
The London Mozart Players is the longest-running chamber orchestra in the UK
musicThreatened orchestra plays on, managed by its own members
Arts & Entertainment
Seeing red: James Dean with Sal Mineo in 'Rebel without a Cause'
film

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
TV
Arts & Entertainment
Heads up: Andy Scott's The Kelpies in Falkirk
art

What do gigantic horse heads tell us about Falkirk?

Arts & Entertainment
artGraffiti legend posts picture of work – but no one knows where it is
Arts & Entertainment
A close-up of Tom of Finland's new Finnish stamp
art

Finnish Postal Service praises the 'self irony and humour' of the drawings

Arts & Entertainment
Pierce Brosnan as James Bond in 2002's Die Another Day
film

The actor has confessed to his own insecurities

Life & Style
Green fingers: a plot in East London
TV

Allotments are the focus of a new reality show

Arts & Entertainment
Myleene Klass attends the Olivier awards 2014

Oliviers 2014Theatre stars arrive at Britain's most prestigious theatre awards
Arts & Entertainment
Stars of The Book of Mormon by Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park

Oliviers 2014Blockbuster picked up Best Musical and Best Actor in a Musical
Arts & Entertainment
Lesley Manville with her Olivier for Best Actress for her role in 'Ghosts'

Oliviers 2014Actress thanked director Richard Eyre for a stunning production
Arts & Entertainment
Rory Kinnear in his Olivier-winning role as Iago in Othello

Oliviers 2014Actor beat Jude Law and Tom Hiddleston to take the award
Arts & Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch is best known for this roles in Sherlock and Star Trek
TV

Arts & Entertainment
theatreAll hail the temporary venue that has shaken things up at the National Theatre
Arts & Entertainment
musicShe is candid, comic and coming our way
Arts & Entertainment
booksHer new novel is about people seeking where they belong
Arts & Entertainment
TV
Arts & Entertainment
tvGrace Dent on The Crimson Field
Arts & Entertainment
Gian Sammarco plays Adrian Mole in 'The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole'
books

Sue Townsend's much-loved character will live on
Arts & Entertainment
Kylie has helped to boost viewing figures for the talent show
TV

Kylie Minogue quits The Voice UK

Arts & Entertainment
Chiwetel Ejiofor, Favour Asikpa and Thandie Newton in 'Half of a Yellow Sun'
film

Review: Half of A Yellow Sun

Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

    Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

    Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
    The pain of IVF

    The pain of IVF

    As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal
    Supersize art

    Is big better? Britain's latest super-sized art

    The Kelpies are the latest addition to a growing army of giant sculptures. But naysayers are asking what a pair of gigantic horse heads tells us about Falkirk?
    James Dean: Back on the big screen

    James Dean: Back on the big screen

    As 'Rebel without a Cause' is re-released, Geoffrey Macnab reveals how its star perfected his moody act
    Catch-22: How the cult classic was adapted for the stage

    How a cult classic was adapted for the stage

    More than half a century after it was published 'Catch-22' will make its British stage debut next week
    10 best activity books for children

    10 best activity books for children

    Keep little ones busy this bank holiday with one of these creative, educational and fun books
    Arsenal 3 West Ham United 1: Five things we learnt from the battle between the London sides

    Five things we learnt from Arsenal's win over West Ham

    Arsenal still in driving seat for Champions League spot and Carroll can make late charge into England’s World Cup squad
    Copa del Rey final: Barcelona are paying for their complacency and not even victory over Real Madrid will put things right

    Pete Jenson on the Copa del Rey final

    Barcelona are paying for their complacency and not even victory over Real Madrid will put things right
    Rafa to reign? Ten issues clay courts will serve up this season

    Rafa to reign? Ten issues clay courts will serve up this season

    With the tennis circus now rolling on to the slowest surface, Paul Newman highlights who'll be making the headlines – and why
    Exclusive: NHS faces financial disaster in 2015 as politicians urged to find radical solution

    NHS faces financial disaster in 2015

    Politicians urged to find radical solution
    Ukraine crisis: How spontaneous are the pro-Russian protests breaking out in Ukraine’s east?

    Ukraine crisis

    How spontaneous are the pro-Russian protests breaking out in Ukraine’s east?
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: The first execution at the Tower of London for 167 years

    The first execution at the Tower of London for 167 years

    A history of the First World War in 100 moments
    Fires could turn Amazon rainforest into a desert as human activity and climate change threaten ‘lungs of the world’, says study

    New threat to the Amazon rainforest:

    Fires that scorch the ‘lungs of the Earth’
    Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City: And the winner of this season’s Premier League title will be...

    Who’s in box seat now? The winner of the title will be ...

    Who is in best shape to take the Premier League prize?