For all his talk of unity, Livingstone still has to prove he's a team player

It wasn't quite Margaret Thatcher's St Francis of Assisi refrain on the steps of Downing Street, but when Ken Livingstone accepted the chains of mayoral office yesterday, he spoke only of unity.

Effective relations with the Government, with Millbank and with the parties on the Greater London Assembly were among his key concerns. Wounds should be healed, not deepened, he stressed.

Yet as Labour's most famous expellee gets stuck into the serious business of governing London this weekend, it is clear that he will have to work hard to prove he has changed the habits of a lifetime. Or, as one minister put it more prosaically in the early hours of yesterday: "Ken and the Government, it's like a dog and a lamppost - he just can't resist."

Scepticism about whether the left-wing leopard has changed its spots has certainly been a key theme of Labour's campaign against Mr Livingstone over the past months. He has been painted variously as an anarchist, a loony tax-and-spender and a chatshow charlie.

Tony Blair himself repeated the mantra that the former GLC leader had to prove that he had changed, that he had ditched the "gesture politics" that left Labour in the political wilderness for nearly two decades.

But now that Mr Livingstone has resumed real power once more - not to mention an annual budget of £3.6 billion and a national platform - the Government is left with a dilemma about how to deal with him.

As the London results trickled in early yesterday and the reality of Mayor Livingstone became apparent, several cabinet ministers appeared to offer an olive branch.

David Blunkett, Margaret Beckett and Jack Straw all stressed that the Government would work constructively with the maverick independent as long as he worked constructively with them.

Mr Blunkett said he believed the MP had "tempered" his radicalism, while Trevor Phillips, the deputy mayoral candidate, said there would be "no vendettas" pursued.

The tone of their remarks was much softer than recent Labour attacks on Mr Livingstone's integrity suggested.

The newly elected Mayor made the most of the softer approach yesterday, pointing out that he had got in touch with ministers within minutes of winning the top job.

"I strongly welcome the various statements made since the mayor election by Government ministers on co-operation with the Mayor. I am already in contact with ministers to coordinate policy between Government and the Mayor on the issues which face the capital," Mr Livingstone said.

A meeting with the Prime Minister, possibly at Chequers this weekend, would confirm the rapprochement between Mr Blair and the man he confidently predicted would be a "disaster" for London.

Given that creating the job of Britain's first directly elected mayor was Mr Blair's own pet project, it is now in Downing Street's interests to make the mayoralty work.

But while Red Ken may have transformed himself into Cuddly Ken over the years, some members of the Government feel the new Citizen Ken is not to be trusted. Gordon Brown, for one, has made clear that he loathes Mr Livingstone, a feeling that appears to be mutual.

The Mayor is desperate to rejoin the party to which he has given most of his adult life. Whether he can resist taking aim at the Government lamppost remains to be seen.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Books should be for everyone, says Els, 8. Publisher Scholastic now agrees
booksAn eight-year-old saw a pirate book was ‘for boys’ and took on the publishers
Life and Style
Mary Beard received abuse after speaking positively on 'Question Time' about immigrant workers: 'When people say ridiculous, untrue and hurtful things, then I think you should call them out'
tech
Life and Style
Most mail-order brides are thought to come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania
life
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Voices
Margaret Thatcher, with her director of publicity Sir Gordon Reece, who helped her and the Tory Party to victory in 1979
voicesThe subject is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for former PR man DJ Taylor
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Cancer Research UK: Corporate Partnerships Volunteer Events Coordinator – London

Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...

Ashdown Group: Head of IT - Hertfordshire - £90,000

£70000 - £90000 per annum + bonus + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: H...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions