Dobson may have won as Labour candidate

 

Mr Ken Livingstone was last night preparing a litany of formal challenges to the running of Labour's London mayoral selection contest as speculation grew that his main rival, Mr Frank Dobson, has narrowly won the nomination to be the party's official candidate on May 4th.

Although Labour and Downing Street officials insisted that even cabinet ministers were being kept in the dark about the result, there were growing signs that Labour's complicated electoral college system may have saved the day for Mr Tony Blair's candidate, even as the ballot results piled up for Mr Livingstone.

With the formal announcement of the winner due early tomorrow afternoon, Labour's Millbank headquarters yesterday contacted the Dobson campaign team to discuss possible joint arrangements for Sunday and Monday, though no such approach was made to the Livingstone camp.

However, returns from affiliated trade unions - the latest being the public services giant, Unison - are still showing commanding majorities for the former greater London council leader, and there were still doubts among some officials that Mr Dobson had picked up the 36 per cent-plus he needs from individual Labour members to win.

The Labour hierarchy has been taking no chances. It was alleged yesterday that one MP who recently switched support to Mr Dobson had done so after discussions with the Prime Minister about a possible peerage.

Unison members yesterday delivered a four-to-one majority for Mr Livingstone giving the Brent East MP a 69 per cent share, against 17 per cent for Mr Dobson and 14 per cent for Ms Glenda Jackson - this is worth six per cent of the electoral college.

That result reflects the pattern in all the union ballots, where Mr Livingstone has taken between 60 per cent and 90 per cent.

Only two unions, which decided not to ballot, the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union and the ISTC steel union, have backed Mr Dobson.

In his submission to the Labour party and the scrutineers, Unity Security Balloting, Mr Livingstone will call for the votes of all those affiliated organisations which failed to ballot to be excluded from the count.