Livingstone's mayoral bid is `buried'

KEN LIVINGSTONE'S hopes of becoming Mayor of London are "dead and buried" according to senior Labour figures who claim he has breached party rules in his campaign to stand for the top post.

Party sources confirmed to The Independent that the former Greater London Council leader has ruined his chances by failing to meet Millbank guidelines on campaign spending and materials.

The Brent East MP launched his "Let Ken Stand" bid last month with full- page adverts in the London Evening Standard, leaflets and a rally attended by 1,200 people.

But party officials believe that the campaign, together with Mr Livingstone's political record, contravenes strict guidelines drawn up to ensure that no one can "buy" their way in any Labour contest.

A detailed charge sheet has been drawn up that alleges "Red Ken" has breached seven out of nine specific rules covering Greater London Assembly candidates.

The confidential rules, which are only available to those in the party who are involved in the process and certain to be extended to the mayoral contest, insist that all campaign materials have to approved, forbid newspaper ads and limit spending to pounds 1,000. Only two mailshots are likely to be allowed in the mayoral race.

Officials say that Mr Livingstone has admitted raising pounds 3,400, has used newspaper ads and sent out a leaflet to all Labour councillors across London detailing his manifesto. "Let Ken Stand" t-shirts, badges and leaflets fall foul of the guidelines on spending and materials, they say.

Officials also allege that he has breached Rule 4 of the candidates' code of conduct, which states that no candidate should issues statements to the media about any aspect of the selection procedure.

The MP has frequently attacked the suggestion that a vetting panel of 16 party figures should be allowed to prevent him putting his name on ballot papers for London's 69,000 Labour members.

Millbank further alleges that the MP has disqualified himself on two elements of the personal specification for candidates. These insist on a "commitment to party policy and programme and campaigns" and a "commitment to the principle of a Greater London Assembly and Directly Elected Mayor".

The detailed rule breaches, taken with Mr Livingstone's potentially low score on a "loyalty test", mean that he is not likely to even make the longlist for interviews for the mayoral candidacy, it is claimed.

A National Executive Committee source said: "He has put himself outside the rules on this." Another said: "After launching this campaign, he's dead and buried. He's given us all the ammunition we needed."

A party insider said Mr Livingstone's appeal for public funds left him open to the charge that Labour's political opponents could be supporting his campaign and try to influence an internal party matter.

"He has clearly breached the spirit of the rules. The rules are drawn up in the first place to make sure that no one can buy their way into any election within the party. That means no posters, ads, or non-approved material.

"The scoring system is systematic, not drawn up arbitrarily - and on loyalty and commitment to the principle of a Mayor, he scores abysmally."

The party has already used its Excalibur rebuttal computer, which was devised to attack the Tories in opposition, to find quotes from House of Commons speeches, media comments and press articles for evidence of his disloyalty.

Although Labour has yet to formally draw up its selection procedure, it is being stressed that the Livingstone campaign is clearly aimed at influencing such a contest.

Last night, Mr Livingstone insisted that he was not campaigning for the mayoralty but simply for his right to stand.

"As soon as the Millbank mafia make clear I'm allowed to stand, my campaign will stop. Once the rules are extended, I will obey them," he said. "The machinations of these anonymous spin doctors run the risk of us losing the mayoralty. If they rig the ballot, there is a chance Labour will lose."