Tube battle may halt Livingstone's mayor campaign

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KEN LIVINGSTONE risks blocking himself from Labour's shortlist for London mayor today if he refuses to back down on his opposition to government policy on the Tube.

The former Greater London Council leader said that he vehemently opposed the proposed part-privatisation of the Underground and plans to hand over some of its lines to Railtrack. Just as importantly, Mr Livingstone's campaign said his views on the issue were non-negotiable, which could kill his bid to be Labour candidate for mayor.

Party sources said that if the Brent East MP repeated such a stance to the selection panel, he was likely to be barred from the shortlist. "The manifesto will be drawn up by ... consultation with London Labour Party members, the NEC and the mayoral candidate. Anyone who says that anything is non-negotiable will find it difficult to get on the list."

The move came as the news that Labour strategists may delay the electoral- college ballot for a candidate until the new year, citing problems with the Christmas post. Ballot papers were expected to go out this week and be returned in three weeks but postal delays could put it back much further. Any such move could give Frank Dobson, Tony Blair's preferred candidate, extra time to sway wavering Labour members.Mr Livingstone will join Mr Dobson, Glenda Jackson and the party maverick Ken Baldry in interviews before the London Selection Board today.

Downing Street has indicated that Labour's candidate will have to agree to a manifesto that has been approved by the wider party. Ms Jackson's camp said she wanted her manifesto to form the basis of any negotiations but she would not sign any blank cheque to agree to whatever manifesto the party devised. Mr Livingstone and Ms Jackson said they were prepared to agree to a "loyalty oath" pledging not to campaign as independents if they lost. Millbank officials hope such a pledge will force Mr Livingstone to abandon hopes of what could be a damaging campaign as an independent.

Mr Dobson's campaign faced fresh controversy last night after the former Labour leader Neil Kinnock attacked Mr Livingstone. In a letter to Labour members in the capital's 17 Tory and Liberal Democrat strongholds, Mr Kinnock, now deputy president of the European Commission, blames Mr Livingstone for the party's "Loony Left" past and criticises his plans for London. "His leadership of the GLC gave daily substance to the Loony Left stories that drove people away from Labour. People in our party remember how that felt. And they recall how it helped Margaret Thatcher at all times, not least when she abolished the GLC, whose propaganda on the rates obscured any good work that it did."

The letter, which was distributed by the Dobson campaign, was attacked by the Livingstone camp as a possible breach of party rules forbidding attacks or denigration of rival candidates.

Mr Livingstone said: "It is very counter-productive for Frank to be associated with these tactics. Neil is fighting the tired old battles of the past. It is deeply depressing that the return of democratic government to London should be undermined by former Labour politicians repeating 20-year-old Tory smears. It is an unedifying and damaging spectacle for former Labour politicians to behave in this way."

Leading article,

Review, page 3;

Mark Steel,

Review, page 5