Ken's olive branch hides legal threat

Ken Livingstone, the newly-elected Mayor of London, took his charm offensive against New Labour to the Sunday political talkshows this morning.

But lurking among the promises of co-operation and clean slates for all was the threat of court action over the fate of the London Underground.

Appearing on the BBC, ITV, and Sky News on the day after he offered the Deputy Mayorship to Labour's Nicky Gavron, he repeatedly insisted that he was not seeking conflict with the government.

On the potentially explosive issue of Tube funding he said he expected the government would find itself moving towards his position of issuing bonds, and away from its planned public-private partnership.

He told the BBC's Breakfast With Frost: "From what I'm picking up about how the investigations are going about the contracts and so on, by the time they all land on John Prescott's desk ... I think he will be in a position to say this isn't a particularly good deal, and back out of it.

"If they don't, and they try to push ahead with the deal that is bad for London, you would have to consider going to a judge and saying 'well is this really right?'

"Judicial review is there so that citizens can go and say 'well look, government, local government, is not really doing what is in our best interests.

"But we will have to wait and see the documents. I'm hoping we can avoid all of that, and we can sit down and sort it out sensibly. But the Mayor's job is to do what is best for London, if those contracts are bad for London, you have got to try to stop them," he warned.

Yesterday he offered positions in his administration to members of all four political groups in the Assembly. All will hold internal meeting before deciding whether to accept.

Mr Livingstone said Tony Blair had reassured him that his Labour nominees would be free to accept the posts if they wished.

He said: "I was worried that there would be pressures in the Labour Party for them not to take the jobs, but he said 'don't worry, that won't be a problem'. The Prime Minister wants me to have a broad-based administration."

The Brent East MP reiterated that he wanted to rejoin the Labour Party, from which he was expelled for five years for standing against Labour's official candidate Frank Dobson.

"I hope it won't take five years, because I will be up for re-election as an independent in four years if I'm not allowed back in the Labour Party. I would much rather be the Labour candidate."

He said he would not step down as MP for Brent East immediately, as he did not wish to provoke a by-election. But he would stand down at the next general election.

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