Blair expresses reservations as Livingstone faces showdown

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Indy Politics

Tony Blair today made public for the first time his seemingly profound opposition to Ken Livingstone becoming the Labour candidate in the battle for the Mayor of London.

Tony Blair today made public for the first time his seemingly profound opposition to Ken Livingstone becoming the Labour candidate in the battle for the Mayor of London.

Earlier, Mr Livingstone arrived for his showdown over whether he can stand for selection as Labour's candidate - pledging to "help dig the party out of a hole".

The Prime Minister, stepping personally into the row, made no secret of his reservations when he told a question and answer session at the Design Council: "The rules should be applied to everyone, including Ken Livingstone.

"We have created today's Labour party by changing, by modernising, by leaving the politics of extremism behind, by leaving behind everything that made the Labour party despised on policies like law and order in the Eighties."

This was being interpreted by Mr Livingstone's supporters and opponents alike as a clear message to Labour activists in London that if he was their choice then it would amount to a step back to the days when left-wing hard-liners controlled the party - with disastrous electoral results.

Mr Blair was also asked about the media influence on the mayoral contest. He said: "Who people elect as the Mayor of London is their choice, it's the choice of Londoners and we have given them that choice.

"I hope that people and party members, whatever happens this morning, really think carefully about this issue and maybe ask themselves the question as to why such a large part of the Conservative party and Conservative media are so keen for a particular individual to be Mayor."

Mr Livingstone's arrival at Labour's Millbank HQ shortly before 10am descended into chaos as he was followed by two protesters dressed as monkeys and mobbed by waiting photographers and cameramen.

At one point, perhaps as a foretaste of the fireworks to come, there was the sound of either a firecracker being set off, or a timely backfire from a passing car.

He was called back today for a "clarification" meeting with Labour's selection board, which is drawing up the shortlist from which the party will select its London mayoral candidate.

As he arrived, Mr Livingstone appeared to hold out an olive branch to the party, saying through the crush: "I'm happy to stand on Labour's manifesto. We all stand on the manifesto and it's most important it's drawn up by London Labour Party members."

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