Livingstone's mayoral bid backed by Aslef

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One of the organisations that founded the Labour Party is risking expulsion by backing Ken Livingstone's attempt to be re-elected Mayor of London in 2004.

The train drivers' union Aslef voted yesterday to support his candidature in direct contravention of party rules stopping affiliates backing non-Labour politicians.

The union will oppose the official Labour candidate, Nicky Gavron, on the basis that Mr Livingstone has adopted authentic socialist policies in contrast to those pursued by ministers.

The decision by Aslef is expected to be followed by other organisations including the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union (RMT), forming a serious challenge to the Labour leadership.

After a speech to Aslef's annual conference in Scarborough, Mr Livingstone welcomed the train drivers' backing and the possibility of endorsement by other affiliates. "It recognises a reality that in London you have an independent mayor carrying out a traditional Labour agenda on public services and transport. It's not realistic for trade unions to ignore that. They have to deal with the situation on the ground,'' he said.