Go on then Mr Kinnock - tell us how to win an election

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Indy Politics

SO WHAT other schemes did Mr Blair come up with for stopping Ken Livingstone? I bet they considered getting the candidates to do Stars in Their Eyes , with Alastair Campbell pleading that Frank Dobson would walk it as Kenny Rogers. Then someone heard a rumour that Mr Livingstone could do a passable David Bowie, so they panicked and opted for the electoral college.

SO WHAT other schemes did Mr Blair come up with for stopping Ken Livingstone? I bet they considered getting the candidates to do Stars in Their Eyes , with Alastair Campbell pleading that Frank Dobson would walk it as Kenny Rogers. Then someone heard a rumour that Mr Livingstone could do a passable David Bowie, so they panicked and opted for the electoral college.

The procedure is like that of blokes who play pool against strangers from another pub. You pot the black to win, and they say: "Hard luck; local rules are, you have to nominate the pocket. So you lose." And if you do nominate the pocket, they say: "But you have to do it 14 days in advance, see?"

So even if Mr Livingstone overcomes the bizarre voting procedure, he'll be told: "Hard luck; you have to nominate the exact ballot box that gives you a majority. So you lose, see? Feel free to chalk your name up for next time, though."

Or Mr Blair might say: "Er... best of three?" And the next electoral college will be one-third ordinary members, one-third prospective buyers of the London Underground, and one-third regular diners at that charming, if expensive, Italian brasserie near the antique warehouses in Islington.

It makes you wonder whether they've consulted some of those expert old bureaucrats from China about the fixing. Maybe there'll be an announcement that all glory must be bestowed upon our virtuous supreme former health secretary, who would surely have reduced the waiting-lists to a minus figure if only we weren't such unworthy weeds. Which is why he won 100 per cent of the vote.

Worse still, Mr Blair might consider that the Indonesian army owes us a favour in return for all those Hawks and water-cannon. So, if the vote goes the wrong way, the areas that voted for Mr Livingstone will find themselves driven across the border into Surrey.

All hands are on deck to peddle even the daftest argument. Neil Kinnock said that Mr Livingstone "brought about the destruction of the GLC". So let's get this right. It wasn't Margaret Thatcher who shut down the GLC; it was Ken. Mr Kinnock must get into a terrible state watching detective stories. He must shout: "Morse, you idiot, there's the murderer. It was that dead bloke with a chalk mark around him."

Besides, if you wanted advice on how to win an election, I can't imagine that Mr Kinnock would be the first name to spring to mind. How he must wish that an elaborate voting procedure would ever have been necessary to beat him.

New Labour is convinced that it owes its position to being New rather than Labour. Its whole perspective depends on the theory that opposition to the free market is "a force of conservatism". So how do you explain the popularity of a politician identified with that opposition? Margaret Hodge tried in this paper yesterday. "That's no surprise," she wrote. "He started campaigning two years ago." She has confused the election with a steeplechase.

From there on, the anti-Livingstone argument gets even weaker. His time at the GLC, Ms Hodge says, was concerned with "gesture politics". Unlike New Labour's vision for London, which responds to the city's needs with a big wheel.

Livingstone once, says Hodge, referred to Kinnock as a "bastard". Is that the best scandal she can come up with after trawling through 16 years of his career? Not even the US Republicans would put out adverts with sinister music, and a voiceover growling: "This man wants your vote. But in 1983, by a table somewhere in London he referred to someone as 'a bastard'. Is that the sort of unhinged Bohemian we want in charge of the city's transport and litter-clearing arrangements?"

Fares Fair, she adds, was "thrown out by the Law Lord... [because the] details were not properly checked". I see. The Law Lords opposed it because Clause 7b displayed poor syntax, and the bit about cycle lanes should have been a new paragraph.

Or perhaps it was because the rich paid more rates than the poor, and they didn't like their money being invested in public transport, which the poor use?

Livingstone is popular because he symbolises opposition to the rich, especially to the boards of Railtrack, Stagecoach and Great Western Trains - the very people who make Blair, Dobson, Kinnock and Hodge go weak at the knees.

Which is why, if it looks as if it's going wrong, Tony Blair might still find the time to replace Labour's electoral college with a series of international gymnastics judges. So the moment Dobson knows he's won, will be when Barry Davies, shrieks "and the crowd are booing at that shocking 5.1 for Livingstone from the Bulgarian".

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