Phillips to drop out of London mayor race

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Indy Politics

The broadcaster Trevor Phillips will announce today that he is pulling out of the race to become Labour candidate for the mayor of London, The Independent has learnt.

The broadcaster Trevor Phillips will announce today that he is pulling out of the race to become Labour candidate for the mayor of London, The Independent has learnt.

In a move that will delight Downing Street, Mr Phillips will withdraw from the contest this morning and offer his support to Frank Dobson, Tony Blair's favoured candidate.

Mr Phillips, a Blairite moderniser, is still a possible candidate for the Greater London Assembly (GLA) and may now run for deputy mayor on a joint ticket with the former health secretary. If he is elected to the GLA next May, Mr Phillips could be installed by Mr Dobson as the chairman of the new police authority with responsibility for the Metropolitan Police.

With the force still reeling from the Stephen Lawrence inquiry, Labour desperately wants to appoint a black chairman to the new body to prove it is serious about reform.

Mr Phillips' decision means that the race for Labour's nomination will be down to just three hopefuls, with Ken Livingstone and Glenda Jackson hoping to defeat Mr Dobson.

He will say today that Mr Dobson, MP for Holborn and St Pancras, is the best man to beat Mr Livingstone in the party's selection contest next month.

Mr Phillips headed the "yes" campaign in last year's capital-wide referendum on the mayoralty and then became one of the first people to run for the post. A close friend of Peter Mandelson and a well-known moderniser, it is understood that he was strongly encouraged by Downing Street to join the race.

Proof of his links to the Millbank hierarchy became clear when Adrian McMenamin, Labour's former chief media spokesman, left the party to become his spin-doctor. Similarly, Stephen Twigg, the Blairite MP for Enfield Southgate, led the support for him in the House of Commons.

But as Ms Jackson and then Mr Dobson joined the contest, it became clear that his lack of profile among Labour members gave him little realistic chance of winning. The final nail in his campaign coffin emerged on Monday, when an Independent poll showed that he had just 5 per cent of the key MPs' section of the electoral college drawn up to decide the candidate. Mr Dobson commands 72 per cent of the MPs, MEPs and GLA candidates section of the college and with transfers from Mr Phillips, is certain to increase that proportion further.

Although she will now come under intense pressure to abandon her candidacy, Ms Jackson firmly believes that a woman should appear on the party's shortlist and is not expected to pull out of the race.

Mr Livingstone today rebuts recent attacks on his own campaign by a series of ministers. Writing in The Independent, he accuses his opponents of indulging in "smears" that re-wrote his tenure at the GLC.

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