Ken Livingstone may become Labour candidate within weeks

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Indy Politics

Moves to readmit Ken Livingstone to the Labour Party in time to fight next year's London mayoral elections were backed by Labour officials in the capital last night.

The London Labour Board, which includes MPs, trade unionists and members of the Greater London Assembly, supported a proposal that Mr Livingstone should be asked to rejoin. At last night's meeting, Geoff Martin, the London convenor of Unison, said: "The choice is clear, we either go forward with a united party and win next year's election or face meltdown in London.''

The likelihood of Mr Livingstone becoming Labour's candidate for Mayor of London within weeks will also grow if Tony Blair today approves a so-called "incumbency" plan to speed his return to the party.

The Prime Minister and members of Labour's ruling National Executive Committee (NEC) will be asked to end Mr Livingstone's five-year expulsion for standing as an independent in the 2000 mayoral election.

But on the eve of the vote yesterday, Gordon Brown and John Prescott made it clear that they backed Neil Kinnock's vehement opposition to Mr Livingstone's return. Treasury sources claimed cabinet heavyweights such as Hilary Armstrong, the chief whip, and Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, were also opposed. But few cabinet ministers sit on the NEC and several members are understood to have changed their minds since they voted 17-13 against his readmission last year. The vote is still on a knife-edge until Mr Blair makes his own position clear, sources said.