Candidates to write on one side of the issue only

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WRITTEN "LOYALTY" and intelligence tests for candidates to be Mayor of London are being devised by the Labour Party in what critics claim is an attempt to block Ken Livingstone from standing for the post.

London Labour Party members reacted with anger yesterday to the news that Millbank officials had finally come up with a way to "stop Ken". It is understood that all potential candidates for the mayoralty and the 25-seat Greater London Assembly will have to undergo written and oral tests on their "knowledge and communication" of party policy, in a scheme called Project 99. Similar tests will also be set for potential candidates for council elections across the country next year. The project's aim is to have a "good Labour candidate" in every seat.

Party sources said that mayoral hopefuls would face a "scientific" exam paper that would test their ability to master a brief quickly and handle "real-life" crises. Ability to perform on television would also be tested. A National Executive Committee selection panel would then weed out the candidates with the lowest test scores. The approved shortlist would be put before all party members in London.

Although Mr Livingstone is a consummate media performer, the Brent East MP and former GLC leader has criticised several areas of party policy, from tuition fees for students to the Chancellor's running of the economy.

The London Labour Party voted at its annual conference this year to give constituency parties the main say over who the mayoral and GLA candidates should be.

Geoff Martin, a member of the Labour Campaign for a People's London, said the move was deeply undemocratic. "They have been trying hard to find a way to knock Ken out of any contest and it looks like this is it."