Blair loyalist set to challenge Livingstone in mayoralty race

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PAULINE GREEN, a Labour Euro MP, may emerge as Tony Blair's preferred candidate as Mayor of London in an attempt to stop Ken Livingstone winning the nomination.

Allies of Mr Blair are desperate to stop Mr Livingstone, the left-wing MP for Brent East, running for the mayor's job and are seeking a candidate who might beat him in a ballot of London party members.

Although some Blairites want to bar Mr Livingstone other Blair supporters are arguing that it would be better to "take Ken on and defeat him".

Ms Green is leader of the Socialist group, the largest in the Strasbourg parliament, which includes Britain's 60 Labour members. Although she is standing for re-election in London North in next June's Euro elections, she is considering running for the mayor's job. "I think it is an interesting idea," she said last night.

A Blair loyalist, Ms Green won election to Labour's National Executive Committee (NEC) at this month's party conference in Blackpool. The NEC is due to discuss the selection procedure in December. It is expected that a joint panel drawn from the NEC and the London Labour party will interview candidates early next year before drawing up a shortlist of five or six names to go into the ballot.

Candidates will be able to put themselves forward. The leadership feared the former leader of the Greater London Council would otherwise win more party nominations than his rivals, establishing an unstoppable bandwagon. Other possible candidates include Glenda Jackson, the Transport Minister; Tony Banks, the Sports Minister and Trevor Phillips, the broadcaster.

t Mr Blair has appointed three pro-European senior Tories to a new group set up to improve links between Britain and Mexico. They are Kenneth Clarke, the former Chancellor; Lord Walker, the former Cabinet minister; and Lord Garel Jones, the former Minister for Europe.

The move is another sign of the Prime Minister's determination to recruit Tories to government posts. Last week he angered the Tories by appointing Michael Heseltine to an Anglo-Chinese group.