Ken Livingstone & the Labour Party
Ken Livingstone, the elected mayor of London, who was forced to leave the Labour Party in order to stand (run) for election, subsequently beating the official Labour candidate into third place behind the Tory, has made it clear that he will stand for re-election at the end of his current mayoral term and that he would like to be re-admitted to the party so that he can stand, next time, as the official Labour candidate. He proclaims his willingness to submit himself to the party’s candidate selection process provided that this is not artificially stacked against him, as it was on the last occasion. Now Clive Soley, MP, who chaired the disastrous party selection committee meetings last time which rejected Livingstone as the party’s candidate, writes to the Guardian to assert that the problem over Ken’s selection last time had been his refusal to promise to be bound by the Labour Party’s official manifesto for the mayoral election. Soley demands to know whether Ken would make that promise next time. This is crudely disingenuous stuff. The party manifesto had not yet been written at the time when Livingstone was being pressed to promise to be bound by it as a condition of his selection as the Labour candidate: but he knew perfectly well that the manifesto would include a commitment to the government’s Public-Private Partnership (PPP) plan for the London Underground, generally equated in the public’s mind with partial privatisation. Opinion polls have repeatedly shown that a huge majority of Londoners, including Labour Party supporters, are strongly opposed to any privatisation of the Tube, especially after the disastrous experience of the privatisation of the railways. Livingstone has consistently opposed the PPP and privatisation of the Tube, advocating an alternative which is popular and apparently well founded on the successful experience of New York some years ago. To require him to sign a blank cheque, which would obviously then be made out to PPP privatisation, was a blatant piece of political trickery, from which Livingstone was able to escape only by resigning from the party and running as an independent. The humiliation by the London voters, including many who normally vote Labour and even card-carrying Labour Party members, of the official Labour candidate and Livingstone’s election as independent Mayor manifestly reflected London’s rejection of privatisation and support for the Livingstone alternative. None of which stops Soley trying to bait the same old trap for Livingstone with the same old rotten meat: nor does it stop the government ploughing on with its discredited plans for privatising the Tube. Responding to the obvious wishes of the London electorate and the policies of the elected Mayor obviously takes second place to ministers’ visceral dislike of Livingstone and their unwillingness to lose face by letting him win a famous victory.