In Labour's siege mentality, a spark of individuality is seen as a threat

'Had Mo stayed and taken on the control freaks, she would have rallied tremendous public support'

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Mo Mowlam is the latest casualty of the siege mentality at the top of the Labour Party which can see any spark of originality, independence or flair as a threat rather than a potential asset. Those who give anonymous briefings, stabbing their colleagues in the back, saw Mo as a problem. Not because of any weakness, real or imagined, but because of her enormous strengths as a politician who could win the hearts of the Party and the public.

Mo Mowlam is the latest casualty of the siege mentality at the top of the Labour Party which can see any spark of originality, independence or flair as a threat rather than a potential asset. Those who give anonymous briefings, stabbing their colleagues in the back, saw Mo as a problem. Not because of any weakness, real or imagined, but because of her enormous strengths as a politician who could win the hearts of the Party and the public.

Her personalty made her the perfect conciliator at a time when the peace process made that the quality most need by a Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. Just consider events in Northern Ireland before and after Mo's enforced removal from that post and you get a clear idea of how great her contribution but also how much damage the narrow sectarianism associated with some of the Prime Minister's closest advisers can do to the Party and the country.

I very much regret that Mo has felt that she should leave politics. Had she stayed and taken on the control freaks she would have rallied tremendous political support. After the debacles in Wales and London, that would have brought forward the day when the decent broad church majority will re-establish their control over their party.

Earlier this year, I took the immensely difficult decision to stand as an independent because I believed that London must have the right to choose its Mayor. The Labour leadership tried to justify fixing the selection for London Mayor by claiming that, if elected, I would be a disaster for London and that in turn would damage the Party. I also stood because if that lie was not nailed it could provide a basis for removing every left winger from public office.

At the end of last week, a poll was published which gave a detailed picture of the views of London business executives four months after the London elections. Commissioned by the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Evening Standard and covering executives of 330 companies employing 200,000 people, the results make fascinating reading. The executives were asked four questions which they had also been asked in October last year and in April this year, just before the Mayoral Election. So the poll indicated how their attitudes had been influenced by the experience of my first months in office.

I think it is fair to say that the results do not bear out the dire predictions repeated by Tony Blair again and again prior to the election. Some 72 per cent of London executives now say that they think I perform well as "an ambassador for London". That has jumped from 50 per cent in the pre-election polls. Similarly, the proportion of executives saying that I "work well with London's business community" has leapt from 39 per cent in April to 63 per cent today.

The Evening Standard said: "These are remarkable figures for a man who has been painted in such vivid colours by his detractors as a dangerous extremist, bent on undermining modern capitalism. What, then, has happened to his reputation among the very people who might be expected to dread most his election as Mayor? Have they become convinced that he is no longer left-wing?"

I am delighted to be able to report to your readers that nothing of the sort has happened. In fact, according to the same poll, fully 88 per cent of London company executives regard me as either "very left-wing" (29 per cent) or "slightly left-wing" (59 per cent), with the remaining 12 per cent saying I am of the centre, and zero per cent considering me to be right-wing.

The details of the poll on policy are almost equally interesting. They show support from business in the capital as part of the broad coalitions I have tried to construct in order to lobby for London and tackle the unique problems of the capital.

On transport, 67 per cent say I will tackle London's transport problems well, up 7 per cent on April, and compared to just 22 per cent who say I am doing badly. Some 61 per cent support my proposal to introduce charging as part of a package to tackle traffic congestion, with just 24 per cent against. There is greater scepticism about whether I will be able to reduce crime - which is rational as the mayor's powers here are highly restricted - but nevertheless, the balance in favour is highly positive.

On wider issues, more than twice as many executives, 54 per cent, back my campaign for Britain to join the European Monetary Union, as opposed it - a mere 26 per cent.

Remarkably, demonstrating a rather broader political culture than some Labour apparatchiks, 62 per cent of executives backed my decision to work closely with the Green Party on environmental issues.

These findings show that we have achieved an extraordinary degree of consensus in starting to build very broad coalitions indeed to tackle some of the common problems of the UK's capital. This is even borne out, on a personal level, by the range of meetings I have been invited to address at this year's Labour Party conference. These include not only the annual rally of the left-wing Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, or that of the rail trade unions opposed to part-privatisation of the Tube, but also this newspaper and the meeting of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the London Tourist Board.

I believe these results provide the real key to the desperate efforts to prevent me from being the Labour candidate earlier this year. They did not fear that I would be a disaster - that was just the spin for public consumption. What they most feared was that I might be a success - which is why some at the top of the party even backed Tory Stephen Norris over me. Because a successful centre-left politics, led from the left, with broad-based popular support would undermine the myth peddled by some of Tony Blair's closest advisers that the only way to win elections is to accept the monetarist consensus bequeathed by Thatcherism and pander to prejudice on issues like single mothers and asylum seekers.

I had to be stopped at all costs because, as the record of the GLC had demonstrated, a Livingstone mayoracy might prove that it is possible to build an electoral coalition encompassing both core Labour voters and Middle England on the basis of a progressive platform of radical reform.

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