Dobson backs public ownership of Tube

RAILTRACK AND LONDON Blair-endorsed candidate moves closer to Livingstone's line as infrastructure firm suffers fall-out from Paddington
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The Independent Online
FRANK DOBSON will try to boost his campaign for mayor of London tomorrow with manifesto pledges to tackle crime, improve the Tube and review fire station closures.

In an attempt to wrest the initiative from Ken Livingstone, Mr Dobson will announce a personal manifesto designed to be radical yet practical. On the issue of investment in London Underground, the former health secretary will make clear he is open to alternatives to the Government's plans for a public-private partnership.

Mr Livingstone has led the opposition to proposals by John Prescott, the Transport Secretary, to hand over parts of the Tube network to Railtrack. Mr Dobson supported the scheme, which was ditched last night by Mr Prescott. Mr Dobson has now decided he will consider "any alternative source of funding" as long as the Tube remains in public hands, tough health and safety tests are met and value for money is obtained.

This funding formula could include a bond issue similar to that advocated by Mr Livingstone, but which has been criticised by Tony Blair and Mr Prescott.

The manifesto will also order an independent review of London fire station closures and include a promise to host a crime summit embracing police, employers and trade unions.

In another initiative, Mr Dobson will appoint a Medical Officer of Health for London responsible for improving the health of the poorest citizens.

New police measures to protect nurses, teachers and shop staff from intimidation and assaults will also be introduced.

Tomorrow Mr Dobson will say that he wants to tackle the "witches' brew of poverty, deprivation and hopelessness" affecting London's poorest areas.

Aware of the view that he is Downing Street's favourite, he will stress that he will stand up for the city against the Government. "No one who knows me could challenge my willingness to stick up for what I believe is right, whether in public or in private. So be clear that I will stick up for London."

Downing Street's backing for Mr Dobson will become evident later this week when Tony Blair and Neil Kinnock address a meeting of Labour members in the capital. Mr Kinnock will share a platform with Mr Dobson again on Monday.

Dobson backs public ownership of Tube