Mayor Livingstone readmitted to Labour Party

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London Mayor Ken Livingstone has been readmitted to the Labour Party just three years into his five-year suspension, a Labour Party official announced today.

The decision to allow the controversial politician to rejoin the party was made at a meeting of Labour's ruling National Executive Committee.

A Labour Party spokesman said: "Ken Livingstone is now a member of the Labour Party and will be able to take part in the ballot on whether he will be Labour's candidate for London Mayor in elections this year."

The Left-winger was suspended from the party in 2000 after standing as an independent against Frank Dobson, the party's official candidate, in that year's London mayoral elections.

He will be expected to support all aspects of Labour Party policy at local and national elections.

But there are bound to be political flashpoints between the Mayor and the Government. Some will stem from his duty to look after the interests of the capital and others from his maverick style.

In July he suggested that Transport Secretary Alistair Darling should "get up off his arse" to make sure that Crossrail is in place before the 2012 Olympics, for which London is bidding.

He accused the Cabinet minister and the "worriers" at the Department of Transport of dragging their feet despite widespread support from Parliament and the Treasury, which were "very enthused" about the £10 billion scheme.

Crossrail is set to link Heathrow in the west and the Isle of Dogs in the east and includes a twin bore tunnel between Paddington and Liverpool Street.

Rival Olympic bidders such as Paris and Madrid are already building new stations.

Mr Livingstone said he did not understand why the Government needed three years to prepare the Bill and analyse the business case for the line.

The rail link is forecast to carry 200,000 people in the morning peak period and could create 100,000 jobs.

Rival mayoral candidates Tory Steve Norris and Liberal Democrat Simon Hughes have voiced scorn for Mr Livingstone's reunion with Labour, pointing out it will mean him endorsing policies he has previously opposed, such as the part-privatisation of the London Underground.

Mr Livingstone claims that several key transport projects cannot go ahead without increased funding from the Government's Spending Review 2004 to fund Crossrail, trams in outer London, the Thames Gateway Bridge in east London and extensions to the Docklands Light Railway.

In fighting London's corner Mr Livingstone can be expected to further press the Government to rethink its regional spending allocations to deliver greater resources for the city.

London, which he believes is the UK's economic engine room, is already being "starved" of funding by having its resources redistributed to the English regions, he argues.

Investment is needed to improve the crumbling infrastructure and public services such as transport, affordable housing and increasing the number of police officers.

Being the official Labour Mayoral candidate in this year's election could provide him with greater access to Government, but whether it will tame his sometimes controversial views remains to be seen.

In November as US President George Bush was beginning his three-day State visit to Britain, Prime Minister Tony Blair said the closeness of the Anglo-American relationship was something to be celebrated.

Despite the talks that were under way to return him to the party and the potential embarrassment to Mr Blair, Mr Livingstone described the President as "the greatest threat to human life on this planet that we've most probably ever seen".

And taxpayers should not have to foot the £4.1 million cost to police the trip, he said.

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