`Support me' campaign by Livingstone

KEN LIVINGSTONE seized the initiative in his bid to become Mayor of London yesterday when he launched a high-profile public campaign to persuade Tony Blair to allow him to stand as Labour candidate.

In a move that took the party leadership by surprise, the former GLC leader went on the offensive with a full-page newspaper advertisement announcing a "Back Ken" rally to be held next week.

The advert, in the London Evening Standard, will be followed by thousands of leaflets carrying the slogan "Let Ken Livingstone Stand" as the Brent East MP takes his message directly to Londoners and party members.

Mr Livingstone's supporters hope that the campaign will attract enough support to make it too embarrassing for Labour to block him from any party shortlist for the mayoralty.

However, the new publicity blitz was immediately attacked by Blairite loyalists who dismissed it as a "desperate, last-chance" tactic that was likely to backfire.

The rally at Central Hall, Westminster, will be backed by the comedian Jo Brand and the pop singer Billy Bragg and will focus a concerted attempt to set up a pro-Ken organisation within each of the 14 districts forming the new Greater London Authority.

The advertisement, titled "Read Ken?", uses nine of the MP's recent quotes to counter what he claims is an attempt by Millbank officials to smear him as a dangerous left-winger.

One of the quotes, taken from an open letter to Tony Blair last month, states: "There is simply no question whatever of my seeking to use the mayorship as a platform to wage political warfare against this Government." Another quote, from The Independent last November, states: "Personally I am in favour of Labour winning elections, which means selecting candidates from the widest and most representative pool, and taking the troops with you."

The campaign will be funded by public contributions, he said, and appealed for supporters to send him "the price of a pint of lager or a pack of fags each week".

Mr Livingstone stressed yesterday that he wanted to show the Prime Minister the strength of feeling among the ordinary public in the capital.

"This is not my campaign to be Mayor. This is my campaign to be allowed to stand. It is aimed at changing the one vote which really matters, which is Tony Blair's.

"It's ridiculous to think it's been nearly a year since Londoners voted in a referendum and still Labour is not getting its act together and the Tories are off and running."

Labour's strategy was to put the contest "off and off" in the hope that his campaign would self-destruct, he claimed. "I have no intention of self-destructing," he said.

A party spokesman refused to comment on Mr Livingstone's campaign, but Joan Ryan, Labour MP for Enfield North and member of the London Labour Party board, accused him of "childish" tactics. "It is not acceptable. I think the public are fed up with it. He should wait his turn," she said.

London's 70,000 Labour Party members will be asked this autumn to vote on their choice in time for the election in May 2000.

But the party leadership is still wrestling with the problem that it has no mainstream candidate who is likely to beat Mr Livingstone in a one-member, one-vote contest. A selection panel has been appointed by the party's National Executive and is expected to draw up a shortlist after the European elections in June.

Party sources have frequently made plain that the panel will block Mr Livingstone's nomination on the grounds that he has criticised party policy and failed to back the idea of a mayoralty until recently.

Gillian Shephard, the shadow Environment Secretary, said: "If they cannot trust the people of London to choose their own Labour candidate, then their talk about trusting the people is empty prattle."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £45,000

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a solutions / s...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45,000

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Test Development Engineer

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you inspired to bring new a...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Motor Engineer

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific