Livingstone complaint triggered by party activist

The complaint which led to a Commons censure for Ken Livingstone for failing to declare his outside earnings was triggered by a Labour Party activist, it emerged today.

Mr Livingstone claimed he was the victim of a "dirty tricks" campaign after Loughborough University research student John C Jones - who was named as having made the complaint to the Commons Standards and Privileges Committee - said he had nothing to do with it.

Today Rob Smeath - a former aide to Trevor Phillips, Frank Dobson's running mate for London mayor - said that he had orchestrated the letter of complaint to the committee.

Mr Smeath, a lawyer, said that Mr Jones - a friend - had agreed that it could be sent in his name so that he could distance himself from the complaint to prevent it becoming embroiled in controversy over the mayoral contest.

However he insisted that he was acting off his own bat and was not working on behalf of Mr Dobson - the official Labour Party candidate in the contest. Mr Smeath said he had not told Mr Phillips what he was doing.

"I wanted to get the issue of MPs not declaring earnings discussed. I was so incensed," he said in an interview with London's Evening Standard newspaper.

"I had been involved in the Trevor Phillips campaign and I wanted to be distanced from any idea that Trevor was making me do this."

Mr Smeath was Mr Phillips's campaign treasurer before he gave up his own campaign to become Labour's mayoral candidate to back Mr Dobson.

Mr Smeath said that he had asked Mr Jones if the letter could be sent in his name as he was "absolutely disinterested" in politics and therefore seemed the perfect person.

He said that Mr Jones had agreed "albeit reluctantly", but when he was approached by journalists earlier this week he had denied responsibility because he thought: "Why have I got caught up in this?"

The report of the Standards and Privileges Committee, which censured Mr Livingstone for failing to declare more than £150,000 in earnings from after dinner speaking and writing newspaper articles, was widely viewed as a setback for his mayoral campaign, denting his "man of the people" image.

Mr Livingstone, speaking at Kensington Town Hall in west London where he was opening an Animal Aid campaign, said: "We knew that it was organised from someone of the Millbank Tendency. We were just surprised that it was someone so close to Trevor and Frank.

"There will be lots more dirty tricks but I don't think the public is drawn in."

Commenting on the Standards Committee report, Mr Livingstone said: "I was told about the report the night before but no-one asked to see me or to ask about my views. Without seeing the person that they are investigating it is just bizarre.

"When I got home my partner said: 'If you are earning so much money how come we are always in debt?'

"In a year the company may have an income of £98,000 through public appearances and talks. Fifty-three thousand (pounds) is invested in employing people, paying them and on items like computers.

"Then we are left with a company profit of just about £50,000 and a lot of tax before spending on any campaign."

Mr Livingstone announced that if he became mayor he would put in post an officer to deal specifically with animal cruelty.

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