Dobson gains huge lead over Livingstone

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Indy Politics

Tony Blair's allies launched scathing personal attacks on Ken Livingstone yesterday as the first signs emerged that Frank Dobson could overtake him in the race to become Labour's candidate for mayor of London.

Tony Blair's allies launched scathing personal attacks on Ken Livingstone yesterday as the first signs emerged that Frank Dobson could overtake him in the race to become Labour's candidate for mayor of London.

A survey by The Independent shows that Mr Dobson already has more than half the votes he needs for victory. The former health secretary has the support of 72 per cent of MPs, MEPs and Greater London Assembly (GLA) candidates, while Mr Livingstone trails badly on just 12 per cent.

This group of 75 people commands one-third of the votes in the electoral college that will select Labour's candidate, with the other two-thirds representing trade unions and party members.

The bitterness of the "Stop Ken" campaign was revealed yesterday when Neil Kinnock, the European Commissioner and former Labour leader, told the BBC's On the Record programme that people would remember Mr Livingstone as "the man who brought about the destruction of the GLC, the man who invented the London Loony Left and everything that went with it, then they'll say we really don't want this guy to represent the greatest city in the world".

Margaret Hodge, an Education minister, claims in The Independent today that Mr Livingstone even called Mr Kinnock a "bastard" for not backing his attempts to become an MP in 1983. She also attacked Mr Livingstone's "gesture politics" claiming that his manifesto would impose high taxes on business.

The Independent survey suggests a nail-biting contest between Mr Livingstone and Mr Dobson, and will provide a welcome fillip for the Dobson camp after two earlier opinion polls, by Mori and ICM, gave Mr Livingstone a large lead among the public and Labour supporters. The Independent survey found that Mr Dobson commands the support of 38 out of London's 57 Labour MPs, 13 out of its 14 GLA candidates and three out of the capital's four Labour MEPs. Only nine MPs went for Mr Livingstone, who failed to win the backing of a single GLA candidate.

Only four of the 75-strong panel refused to answer or were unavailable.

Meanwhile, the survey shows Trevor Phillips, the broadcaster, with 6.6 per cent and Glenda Jackson, the former transport minister, has 2.6 per cent support among the MPs, MEPs and assembly candidates, putting them under huge pressure to pull out of the contest.

More ominously for Mr Livingstone, if Mr Phillips and Ms Jackson were to drop out of the race, Mr Dobson's vote would rise yet further, allowing him to claim an astonishing 81 per cent of this section of the electoral college.

The poll, which was conducted this weekend, bears out the worst fears of Mr Livingstone's supporters that the electoral college system has been designed to maximise his main opponent's vote. Under the system, each MP's vote is worth 1,000 times that of an ordinary party member.

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