Quango queen from Highgate is capital's No.2

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Indy Politics

She may be a battle-scarred veteran of London politics, but Nicky Gavron is going to need all her fabled powers of survival to cope with the job of being Ken Livingstone's deputy.

Described variously as a quango queen and one of Tony's cronies by her enemies, her elevation will catapult her from relative obscurity to one of the most high-profile posts in the country.

A former art teacher, Ms Gavron has spent the past 14 years as a Haringey councillor, helping the once "loony left" borough move slowly towards New Labour respectability.

She serves on no fewer than 16 public bodies and was appointed by John Prescott, Deputy Prime Minister, to a planning task force for the capital in recognition of her expertise in the field.

The former wife of the publishing tycoon Lord Gavron, who donated £500,000 to New Labour last year, she lives in a £1m home in Highgate, the literati-strewn district of the capital. Born Felicia Nicolette Gavron, she has been described by her critics as wordy and worthy, a policy wonk capable of spending hours talking about the minutiae of planning law.

But Ms Gavron is no wide-eyed political innocent, proving her ability to outmanoeuvre colleagues when she ousted Toby Harris, Haringey leader and now leader of the Labour GLA group, from the Enfield and Haringey seat on the assembly.

It was during Labour's selection process, when she won the highest popular vote among party members, that Ms Gavron first made the discreet contacts with Mr Livingstone that will now prove invaluable.

While Millbank pursued the rebel MP, she maintained lines of communication in the knowledge that he was incredibly popular among the membership.

Faced with outright suspicion from Lord Harris of Haringey (Toby Harris) and Trevor Phillips, Mr Livingstone knew that she was his best hope of attracting a deputy.

Although a Blairite by temperament, Ms Gavron has espoused pro-environment policies and is on record as proposing a congestion charge for motorist in the capital. Haringey itself is still far from a shining example of New Labour politics, taking from Islington the dubious mantle of the highest council tax in London, with a Band D rate of £932 per year.

The borough also has the 14th-largest council debt in Britain, at £552m, and its local education authority has just been slated by Ofsted.

As she collects her salary of £53,243 as deputy mayor, Ms Gavron faces the unenviable task of treading the fine line between being seen as Ken's poodle or Downing Street's placewoman in the GLA. But if she performs well, she may put herself in line for the post of mayor in four years.

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