Livingstone faces gag on criticism of Millbank and New Labour

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The Independent Online
KEN LIVINGSTONE will be banned from criticising both Millbank and his Labour rivals for the mayor of London once he hands in his application for the party's candidacy today.

Party sources said last night that the former GLC leader would automatically disqualify himself from the selection process if he breached strict rules on speaking to the media.

Mr Livingstone will join Frank Dobson, Tony Blair's favourite for the job, and Glenda Jackson in submitting his application for the Labour nomination today. But as soon as he does so, the Brent East MP will be subject to a tight "gagging clause" that prevents all candidates from criticising their rivals and the selection process.

Mr Livingstone and Ms Jackson have both hit out at Labour's decision to create an electoral college of trade unions, party members, MPs, MEPs and Greater London Assembly candidates. But the code of conduct makes clear that "candidates or their agents shall not use the media to attack or denigrate other candidates in the elections".

It adds: "Neither shall any candidates or those acting on their behalf make public or reported statements designed to bring the independent scrutineer or the party organisation or its staff into disrepute or question the integrity of the conduct of the ballot or the complaints procedure."

In an article in The Independent today, Mr Livingstone issues what could be his final attack on Millbank before the process formally begins. He claims that any attempt by the 12-strong selection panel to block him from the shortlist would be "deeply questionable not just morally but procedurally". Mr Livingstone also claimed that his opposition to the Government's part- privatisation of the Tube was backed by the public. "If I were excluded for agreeing with almost every Londoner, a majority of party members, every leading academic ... then there would be a crisis. To have such a mainstream view excluded would reduce the Labour selection to a farce," he says.

If it decided to rule him out on the basis of disloyalty, the party would be exposed as having agreed a system specifically designed to exclude him, he writes. An intense debate is still being conducted within Downing Street and Millbank about the wisdom of blocking Mr Livingstone from the final shortlist of candidates.

Many Blairites believe their case for barring him was bolstered at the weekend when Mr Livingstone agreed with the Tories that the Government had attempted to impose "stealth taxes" on the public.

t The Labour Party is being threatened with legal action over its refusal to allow a pro-Livingstone union to take part in the selection of its candidate for London mayor. Representatives of the MSF white-collar union in the London area have been told by lawyers that the party leadership broke the law when it decided that its vote would not count.

Activists are preparing to go to the High Court this week or next Monday ahead of a selection panel on Tuesday, which will draw up a shortlist of candidates for nomination by the party. Some sources believe the selection committee will block Mr Livingstone's candidature because of perceived disloyalty to the Labour leadership, but others contend such a move would permanently harm the party in the capital.

The party disenfranchised the union because its pounds 1-a-head affiliation fee was not paid by the 31 December 1998 deadline.

Ken Livingstone,

Review, page 4