Lone Livingstone will be kept in check by parties

He may have won the biggestpersonal mandate in British political history, but Ken Livingstone will now have to work hard with the Greater London Assembly if he wants to make a real impact on the capital's future.

The 25-member Assembly will have a potential veto over the Mayor's budget, wide powers of appointment and the ability to put a brake on what it deems to be extreme policies.

As the only non-party politician in the new regional authority, Mr Livingstone will inevitably cut a rather lonely figure unless he can persuade the mainstream parties he has ditched the worst excesses of his GLC days.

The three Green members of the Assembly are likely to work with the independent Mayor, but Labour, the Tories and Liberal Democrats are all much more wary of his intentions.

The new regional government will be Britain's first full-time, salaried local authority, with each member receiving £35,436 a year and the deputy mayor receiving £53,243 a year.

The assembly can appoint the GLA's head of paid service, chief finance officers and all other members of the authority's staff, apart from the 12 appointed to the Mayor's kitchen cabinet. It can also summon the Mayor to explain his policies, provide members for the police authority and even serve on the new London Development Agency.

But most worrying for Mr Livingstone will be the fact that a two-thirds majority can amend his £3.6bn annual budget and in effect kill any of his boldest schemes should it so wish.

Labour's nine members are expected to confirm today who will be their group leader, but last night it looked clear that Trevor Phillips, the party's deputy mayoral candidate, would not get the job. Almost all members of the Labour group have years of experience as council leaders and many were annoyed Mr Phillips was installed at the head of the party list for the 11 top-up seats. Some have privately described Mr Phillips as an arriviste.

Toby Harris, who chairs the Association of London Government, has a strong chance of being elected leader, with Len Duvall, the Greenwich and Lewisham member.

The Tories, whose group also meets this morning, will almost certainly be led by Bob Neill, the new GLA member for Bexley and Bromley. As a former chairman of the Conservatives' London region, Mr Neill has long experience of politics in the capital.The Tories' strong performance in the elections gives them a real chance to form a launch pad to win the London parliamentary seats that are crucial to the outcome of the general election.

The Liberal Democrat group is likely to be led by Baroness Hamwee, Susan Kramer's deputy mayoral running mate, and its four members will hold the balance of power.

Labour will certainly have to woo the Liberal Democrats if it wants to have a real influence over the Assembly's affairs.

Mr Livingstone appealed yesterday for a ban on whipping by all the parties on the GLA, calling for them to treat each issue according to its merits and an end to caucuses. The plea is likely to fall on deaf ears, but Labour members in particular will have an interest in working with a Mayor elected by more 700,000 voters.

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