There's no business like showbusiness - except politics

`Tony will do his best to look surprised as he throws his arms round a bearded Yorkshireman'

THE DAY that Labour decided that the restoration of a London-wide authority should centre around the election of an individual mayor, it became inevitable that personalities would count for more than policies. There's no business like showbusiness - except politics in the Nineties. Jeffrey Archer's victory over Steven Norris was based on a simple personality difference: Archer had one, Norris didn't. Tory members knew who Archer was because Archer is a spectacular self-publicist, which is why he wants to be mayor in the first place.

The Liberals had a problem because they only had one MP who'd been on Have I Got News For You a lot and, on that basis, they'd already given him leadership of the party. So now they are lumbered with a candidate who is not even a household name in her own house. She desperately needs to get her name about more, but I won't spoil the fun by mentioning it here.

And now Labour are also in trouble because the candidate that they want to get the nomination has not been on telly nearly as much as the one that they don't. The outsider Glenda Jackson used to be on telly a lot but then she did terrible damage to her political chances by deciding to concentrate on politics.

In keeping with the showbiz theme, next week's selection panel is threatening to turn into a political version of Blind Date. The three Labour hopefuls will sit on stools behind a screen while Tony asks each of them completely unscripted questions. "Contestant number one - people say I like to get my own way. Would you cuddle up to me or rub me up the wrong way?" Then the screen will come back and Tony will do his best to look surprised and delighted with his choice as he throws his arms around the bearded Yorkshireman who used to be his health secretary.

Opponents of the Government claim that Ken Livingstone is popular among Labour members because they are fed up with the control freaks in Millbank and they wish to register a protest. But if the anti-Millbank candidate was John Cryer or another low-profile left-winger, the Labour Party wouldn't have this problem. Ken is popular because he has consistently maintained a very high profile whether it's appearances on chat shows or advertising red Leicester cheese. I once co-wrote a radio show called A Look Back At The Future set in the 21st century in which Livingstone was Labour prime minister. We couldn't decide which impressionist did the best Ken Livingstone, until we realised that no one played that part better than Red Ken himself. He came along, did an uncanny Ken Livingstone and the audience cheered.

No one plays the part of martyr better than Red Ken. We loved him for it when the baddie was Maggie Thatcher and now the baddies are those bossy apparatchiks at Millbank he's revived his greatest role and it's playing all over London now. But the trouble is that this is the role Ken will play if he gets to be mayor. He will continue to be poor picked-on Ken; because like all showbiz personalities he'll always give the audience the lines for which they grew to love him. Fine if you want entertainment but not if you want the best leadership London could have.

Tony Blair is haunted by the spectre of Red Ken running London. He believes that it threatens to undermine all the work he has done dragging Labour out of the self-indulgent Eighties.

But for me the scarier prospect is Labour's competence as a political machine returning to the useless farce of the Eighties. I cannot believe that Millbank are trying to fix it for Frank Dobson, because these people do not normally make such a hash of political fixing. The well-oiled machine of the 1997 general election campaign seems a million miles from the identical personalised letters that went out from various London MPs saying why they were supporting Frank Dobson. I'm just relieved there wasn't a photocopied letter to Brent East members in support of Frank Dobson signed by Ken Livingstone.

Labour should allow Ken Livingstone to compete for the nomination. It's one thing to exclude by-election candidates that no one knows, but with the exception of actors who leave Coronation Street to go to Hollywood, you can't just make famous people disappear.

Then Labour should openly and honestly explain why they believe that he'd make a bad mayor. Most London Labour MPs do not want their figurehead to be an alternative leader of the opposition but have not yet said so loudly enough. Then we could have a proper debate about what each candidate stands for. The only alternative is to make the former health secretary a bigger showbiz star than Ken or Glenda. And for me, the image of Frank Dobson snogging Geri Halliwell on the front of The Sun is more than the Labour Party could cope with right now.

Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
Arts and Entertainment
Swiss guards stand in the Sistine Chapel, which is to be lit, and protected, by 7,000 LEDs
artSistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer, Lord Alan Sugar, Karren Brady are returning for The Apprentice series 10

TV
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Angelina Jolie and Winona Ryder star in 'Girl, Interrupted'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Ed Stoppard as Brian Epstein, Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Elliott Cowan as George Martin in 'Cilla'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Thomas Pynchon in 1955, left, and Reese Witherspoon and Joaquin Phoenix in Paul Thomas Anderson's adaptation of his novel, Inherent Vice

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Nicole Scherzinger will join the cast of Cats

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Fans were left surprised by the death on Sunday night's season 26 premiere

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal

film
Arts and Entertainment
Lady Mary goes hunting with suitor Lord Gillingham

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Dunne, played by Ben Affleck, finds himself at the centre of a media storm when his wife is reported missing and assumed dead

film
Arts and Entertainment
Lindsay Lohan made her West End debut earlier this week in 'Speed-the-Plow'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Artist Nathan Sawaya stands with his sculpture 'Yellow' at the Art of Brick Exhibition

art
Arts and Entertainment
'Strictly Come Dancing' attracted 6.53 million viewers on Friday
tv
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant plays Detective Emmett Carver in the US version on Broadchurch

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor goes undercover at Coal Hill School in 'The Caretaker'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Ni , Rock of Rah, Vanuatu: The Ni live on one of the smallest islands of Vanuatu; Nelson flew five hours from Sydney to capture the 'isolation forged by their remoteness'
photographyJimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style
Arts and Entertainment
David Byrne
musicDavid Byrne describes how the notorious First Lady's high life dazzled him out of a career low
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

    Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

    A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
    Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

    Time to stop running

    At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
    Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

    Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

    The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
    An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

    An app for the amorous

    Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
    Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

    Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

    Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
    Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

    Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

    After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
    She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

    She's having a laugh

    Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
    Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

    Let there be light

    Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
    Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

    Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

    Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
    Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

    A look to the future

    It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
    The 10 best bedspreads

    The 10 best bedspreads

    Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
    Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

    Arsenal vs Galatasaray

    Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
    Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

    Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

    This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
    Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

    The children orphaned by Ebola...

    ... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
    Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence