Livingstone's bid to be Labour's mayoral choice looks doomed

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KEN LIVINGSTONE'S hopes of becoming Labour's candidate to be mayor of London looked doomed last night after he refused to abandon his criticism of the Government's policy on the Tube.

The former GLC leader plunged the party's selection process into chaos when he told officials that he would not back down over his opposition to the part privatisation of the London Underground.

Amid extraordinary scenes, the London selection board decided to adjourn and recall Mr Livingstone for a further interview tomorrow to "clarify" his position.

Downing Street had expected the 12-strong panel to allow the Brent East MP to join Labour's shortlist alongside Frank Dobson and Glenda Jackson. But after more than four hours of heated debate, the panel decided that Mr Livingstone had not committed himself to signing a manifesto drawn up by the wider party.

Clive Soley MP, the board's chairman, said no candidate could be allowed to select parts of the manifesto or stand on a different manifesto from that of Greater London Assembly (GLA) candidates. If, as expected, Mr Livingstone refuses to back down tomorrow, he will be excluded from the shortlist, a move that could see him stand as an independent.

Mr Livingstone said last night: "We should be grown-up enough to allow London Labour Party members and MPs to decide which candidate has got the best policy on modernising the Tube, and not try to pre-empt that by barring myself."

The adjournment caughteven Downing Street by surprise and Tony Blair was forced to cancel interviews on the mayoralty scheduled for the early evening TV news.

Mr Soley said that during the interview with Mr Livingstone, he appeared to state that he would withdraw from the contest if the manifesto was not to his liking. "On the answers given, we could not be sufficiently assured on the commitment that Ken Livingstone has given us on his willingness to commit himself to the policies of the Labour Party and to stand on the party's manifesto," Mr Soley said.

Mr Dobson and Ms Jackson are understood to have succeeded in getting on to the ballot paper to be distributed in the next few weeks to the party's electoral college, comprising one-third party members, one-third trade unionists and one-third MPs, MEPs and GLA candidates. A fourth candidate, Ken Baldry, is expected to be excluded.

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