Labour calls up Livingstone to fight by-election

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The Independent Online
KEN LIVINGSTONE is to be invited to campaign for Labour at the Kensington and Chelsea by-election in spite of the growing attempts to block him from the shortlist of the party's candidates for Mayor of London.

The "stop Ken" campaign, which has caused chaos in Labour's strategy for the Mayoral elections, descended into more backbiting last night when a supporter of his main rival, Frank Dobson, branded the Brent East MP a "whinger" for saying the establishment was out to get him.

Mr Livingstone had become obsessed with becoming Mayor, Brian Sedgemore, an outspoken Labour MP, told Brent and Harrow Labour parties at an event in support of Mr Dobson. "London needs a big hitter as Mayor rather than a big whinger and publicist who is too clever by half," said Mr Sedgemore. "Did we really fight for hundreds of years to get rid of the Divine Right of Kings only to have that doctrine replaced by the divine right of Livingstone to rule London?"

Jim Fitzpatrick, the London Labour Party leader who is running the party's campaign for the safe Tory seat, will invite the former GLC leader to campaign for Labour in the by-election with rivals Glenda Jackson and Mr Dobson.

Some Labour MPs believe the invitation is the clearest signal that he will not be blocked from running as Mayor. A Cabinet source told The Independent that blocking Mr Livingstone because of his criticism of the Labour leadership and his record would be a mistake."If they did that, they could go all the way back to when Tony Blair was a member of CND," said the minister.

Geoff Martin, London convener of the public sector union Unison, warned that there would "blood on the walls" if Mr Livingstone was excluded from the shortlist of candidates. "It would rip apart the Labour movement in London if he was banned," said Mr Martin.

But there are powerful figures in the party who want to see him blocked for his disloyalty, which includes calling for Gordon Brown to be sacked as Chancellor. A senior party member said: "The selection panel will have to ask him about his commitment to the party and its policies. The problem is that if we deal differently with him, there are a lot of other troublemakers who will feel they have been dealt with unfairly in the past."

Another source said: "There is plenty of evidence against him. If this was a by-election, Livingstone would barely get through the door." Mr Livingstone made it clear he would appeal if he is left off the shortlist by the 13-person London Labour Board, which will interview the candidates before issuing the final shortlist on 16 November. Labour leaders are anxious to avoid opening the way to a legal challenge by making his exclusion from the list a foregone conclusion.

Margaret McDonagh, the party's general secretary, will discipline a member of the selection board, Baroness Uddin, for making it clear she was opposed to Mr Livingstone.

In turn, Mr Livingstone called on Baroness Uddin to step down from the selection committee, saying she was clearly prejudiced against his candidature, but there was no sign of that happening.

Mr Dobson also said he was sleaze-free as the controversy continued over claims that his camp has had access to the party's central membership list - an allegation that is being investigated by the Data Protection Registrar, Elizabeth France.

He told GMTV's Sunday Programme with Alastair Stewart: "The general accusation by people on the left and by people in the Tory party who want to stop me being Labour's candidate is that in some way or other the Labour Party machine is supporting me - and the Labour Party machine isn't supporting me."

Asked about the involvement of Millbank, the Prime Minister and Downing Street in his campaign, Mr Dobson replied: "There may be bright young things in Downing Street doing all sorts of things but none of them, as far as I know, is formally giving me a hand.

"The Millbank machine is not giving me a hand.''

In the mayoral candidate race, a third of the votes go to London unions, a third to London Labour MPs and the rest to party members.

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