Dobson to win, says secret party count

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FRANK DOBSON will defeat Ken Livingstone to become Labour's candidate for mayor of London, according to secret figures compiled at Labour's Millbank headquarters.

The forecast, which gives Mr Dobson a nine-point lead over his left-wing rival, is believed to have influenced Tony Blair's decision not to veto Mr Livingstone's attempt to be Labour's candidate in the election next May. The figures, seen by The Independent, predict that Mr Dobson, the candidate favoured by Mr Blair, is on course to win 52 per cent of the votes of the electoral college that will choose Labour's candidate next month. Mr Livingstone is set to win 43 per cent and Glenda Jackson 5 per cent.

Mr Livingstone is ahead of Mr Dobson among Labour's 68,000 London members, with over 50 per cent of their votes to Mr Dobson's 38 per cent.

But under the system chosen by Labour, party members have only a third of the votes in the college. The two other sections represent the trade unions, London Labour MPs, Euro-MPs and Greater London Assembly candidates.

The Brent East MP is well ahead in the union section, with 66 per cent of the votes to Mr Dobson's 32 per cent, according to Millbank's forecasts. But Mr Dobson is set for overall victory due to his commanding lead among MPs, Euro-MPs and candidates, with 87-per-cent support to Mr Livingstone's 12 per cent.

A Labour Party panel will interview the candidates tomorrow and is expected to shortlist Mr Livingstone, Mr Dobson and Ms Jackson. If he were barred, Blair allies fear that Mr Livingstone would run as an independent. "We can shoot his fox by allowing him to stand," one minister said. As an "insurance policy" in case Mr Livingstone wins, the Labour leadership will have the final say on the manifesto for the mayoral election.

But both Mr Livingstone and Ms Jackson suggested yesterday they would not accept such a constraint. Mr Livingstone refused to drop his opposition to the Government's plan for a partial privatisation of the London Underground.

Steve Richards,

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