Labour Conference: Left jubilant as Mandelson fails in NEC election

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The Independent Online
Labour left-wingers were jubilant last night after strengthening their position on the party's National Executive. Fran Abrams, Political Correspondent, was in the hall to hear the results.

A cheer went up as Peter Mandelson's vote in the NEC election was read out. There were seven places in the constituency section of the committee, and he had come eighth.

Ken Livingstone, the former Greater London Council leader and MP for Brent East, who won the seat Mr Mandelson had been competing for had not expected to win.

Describing it as "an amazing result", Mr Livingstone said: "For all the hype you read in the papers, old Labour and its values are alive and well and this result demonstrates that." He said the vote should encourage the Government to be a little more radical, particularly when it came to raising taxes for public spending.

Dennis Skinner, whose vote went up by 30,000 to more than 100,000, was delighted. "This ballot showed a major shift to the Left, without any doubt at all. All the candidates from the socialist group had increased votes. Peter Mandelson had an enormous amount of publicity, he must have been a hot favourite, and ultimately he was beaten quite easily by Ken Livingstone," he said.

Diane Abbott, another left-wing MP who secured her place on the NEC with an increased vote, said the membership had clearly rejected Mr Mandelson's politics. "The whole of the Millbank machinery was behind him, every piece of paper had his picture on it but they still couldn't get him on the NEC. The politics he is associated with remains deeply unpopular with Labour Party members," she said.

Last night party spokesmen were emphasising that very few politicians made it on to the NEC the first time they stood. Two of those who did were Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

Neil Kinnock, the former party leader who is now a European Transport Commissioner, gave his support to Mr Mandelson, who masterminded his election campaign in 1992. He had got "actually not a bad score," he said. "It's the first time he has run. Hell, it took me three tries," he added.

However, Mr Mandelson will not stand for election again because rule changes approved yesterday made it impossible for MPs to do so.

The most popular figure with party members remained Robin Cook, who gained 118,726 votes. Next came David Blunkett, with 106,601, followed by Mo Mowlam, Dennis Skinner, Ken Livingstone, Harriet Harman and Diane Abbott.