Legal challenge over mayor vote

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The Labour Party is threatened with legal action over its refusal to allow a pro-Ken Livingstone union to take part in the selection of its candidate for London mayor. Representatives of the MSF white-collar union in the London area have been told by lawyers that the party leadership broke the law when it decided that its vote would not count.

The Labour Party is threatened with legal action over its refusal to allow a pro-Ken Livingstone union to take part in the selection of its candidate for London mayor. Representatives of the MSF white-collar union in the London area have been told by lawyers that the party leadership broke the law when it decided that its vote would not count.

It is understood that activists are preparing to go to the High Court this week or next Monday ahead of a selection panel on Tuesday, which will draw up a shortlist of candidates for nomination by the party. Some sources believe the selection committee will block Mr Livingstone's candidature because of perceived disloyalty to the Labour leadership, but others contend such a move would permanently harm the party in the capital.

The party disenfranchised the union because its £1-a-head affiliation fee was not paid by the 31 December 1998 deadline, but the MSF in London contends that it has regularly paid late and has never lost its vote before. "We voted at the Labour Party conference and there was no question of MSF's London levy payers being disenfranchised. So the only reason for not allowing us a vote on this occasion is that our members were likely to opt for a candidate that was unacceptable to the leadership," said one senior activist. The leftist London executive of the union has overwhelmingly backed Mr Livingstone and hoped to recommend him in a ballot of 18,000 members in London.

"The whole thing is shot through with anomalies. We've been asked to participate in drawing up the manifesto for the next election, but our vote has been declared null and void as far as selecting the Labour candidate for mayor is concerned. It is ridiculous and rather sinister." Labour has also excluded RMT, Aslef and broadcasting union Bectu.

* Mr Livingstone will be banned from criticising both Millbank and his Labour rivals for the post of London mayor once he hands in his application for the party's candidacy today.

Party sources said last night that the former GLC leader would automatically disqualify himself from the selection process if he breached strict rules on speaking to the media.

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