Ken aims to win back City

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The Independent Online

As part of his campaign to be London's mayor, Ken Livingstone is hoping to be all things to all people. Just a fortnight after a swingeing attack on the international financial system, he plans to address an infuriated City with a speech billed as "conciliatory".

On Monday, Mr Livingstone will be the keynote speaker at the inaugural financial Adviser Awards organised by mergermarket.com.

The event is an outright celebration of global capitalism, with teams from the world's foremost merchant banks rewarded for their roles in the biggest mergers and acquisitions of last year. Rubbing shoulders with Mr Livingstone will be representatives from Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley as well as corporate solicitors and European institutions. This may pose emotional difficulties for Red Ken, who is recorded in Hansard as saying, "I do not like bankers, whether they are British bankers or foreign bankers. . ."

But it is understood that the pre-prepared speech is an 11th-hour attempt to win back the confidence of the square mile before voting on Thursday.

It follows a string of interviews where he has revealed hostilities towards other financial institutions.

Earlier this month, Mr Livingstone told music magazine NME that the international finance system kills more people a year than died in the Second World War. This may have gone down well with Generation X, but the City was markedly less amused by the jibe.

Many are worried that if Mr Livingstone were to become Mayor and maintain his negative position on the business of the City, its institutions would become less appealing to foreign investors.

His comments to NME are in a long tradition of incendiary remarks hitting out at big business. In 1998 he told the Independent: "The Institute of Directors should get their heads out of the pig trough... to take a look at the real world."

He has also been a supporter of the "direct action" protests of the sort that erupted in Seattle and in London last June. Earlier this year, he told The Face, the youth magazine: "I can make it absolutely clear that if I am mayor of London we will not be inviting the World Trade Organisation to come here unless we can get vast stocks to put them in so we can throw stuff at them."

At the award ceremony, there are unlikely to be many surprises. The prizes have gone to the advisers who have handled the biggest deals. While 1999 was a bumper year for M&As, the hostile takeover of Mannesmann dominated the scene, and the teams working for Vodafone are sure not to leave empty- handed.

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