Ken's back on board

TONY Blair, relieved that Saddam Hussein's capture will shut up some critics within his own party, may land himself in a renewed spot of bother this week with some of his Cabinet colleagues.

TONY Blair, relieved that Saddam Hussein's capture will shut up some critics within his own party, may land himself in a renewed spot of bother this week with some of his Cabinet colleagues.

The Prime Minister wants London Mayor Ken Livingstone – expelled from the party for five years standing against the official candidate in the 2000 mayoral poll – to be readmitted to Labour's ranks and become the party's candidate in next June elections,

Labour's ruling board is expected to decide this week whether to readmit Mr Livingstone to the party early. But one of Mr Blair's closest allies, former Labour leader Neil Kinnock, now the Vice-President of the European Commission, said: "I am fundamentally and irretrievably against it. Ken Livingstone has only ever belonged to one party - the Ken Livingstone party."

Mr Kinnock added: "There is no possibility, whatever his immediate future, of the Labour Party being able to rely upon sufficient loyalty and commitment to its aims and obligations."'


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Prime Minister Tony Blair is thought to want Mr Livingstone back amid fears that Labour's official candidate, Nicky Gavron, could be pushed into fourth place in next year's election. But, as well as Mr Kinnock, Chancellor Gordon Brown and Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott are believed to be opposed to the move.

To those who say that we in East Anglia should not be concerning ourselves with who runs London, I just mention one word: transport.

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Tens of thousands of us commute to the capital for work or pleasure each day through Stratford and Liverpool Street each day, and then use the underground and the buses. Mayoral policies have a direct bearing on our qualities of life.

Under the system of proportional representation used for electing the mayor, second preference votes will be crucial. With the Tories having no chance of winning, Labour needs to be united to see off the increasingly formidable challenge of Liberal Democrat candidate Simon Hughes, who could cause the Blair government inordinate problems compared with born-again New Labour groupie Ken Livingstone.

Mr Hughes yesterday unveiled his transport proposals to be implemented if he wins. These include pedestrianising Oxford Street, scrapping the proposed West London tram link saving £425M, and extending the tube's running hours until 2am from Thursdays to Saturdays.

HAVING been a prolific critic of trains and buses over the years, I'm not averse to praising integrated transport when it is actually integrated. Last Wednesday, I left The Two Chairmen public house in Westminster at 6.25pm and was opening the front door of my home in Ipswich less than two hours later.

Everything worked – a two minute walk to St James's Park tube, the District Line to Monument underground station, half-a-mile dash below street level to Bank station, the Central Line to Liverpool Street, the 7.pm InterCity to Suffolk, straight onto a waiting First Eastern Counties bus at Ipswich station, and then a four minute walk home from the bus stop in Woodbridge Road.

It doesn't often happen.

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