Socialist Worker

How new labour nobbled Ken Livingstone

Issue No. 1685

Anatomy of a stitch up

How new labour nobbled Ken Livingstone

"I DID very well in the ballot of Labour Party members in London." That was Frank Dobson's amazing claim after it was announced that he had beaten Ken Livingstone to become Labour's candidate for mayor of London. Livingstone did not lose the election. He was robbed. If the vote had been conducted using one member one vote (OMOV), the system Tony Blair claims to prefer, Livingstone would have easily won. He won an estimated 74,646 votes in all three sections, compared to 22,275 for Dobson and 11,185 for Jackson. The election was a stitch-up from start to finish. The electoral college was divided into three sections, each worth just over 33 percent of the vote. The election was rigged, allowing Dobson to scrape home with 51.3 percent. Livingstone came second with 48.7 percent.


Labour party members

DOBSON AND his supporters claim that he got the backing of the majority of Labour Party members. Trevor Phillips, Dobson's running mate, even had the cheek to claim that "London Labour Party members wanted Frank to be their candidate". This is a lie. Less than 35 percent of Labour Party members voted for Dobson. Livingstone won 55 percent of the membership section.


Trade union section

LIVINGSTONE TROUNCED Dobson in the union section. He won the majority of votes in every union which balloted its members. For example, a whopping 94 percent of firefighters backed Livingstone. Officials of the shop workers' USDAW union urged their members to vote for Dobson. Despite this, 61 percent still voted for Livingstone. Sir Ken Jackson, right wing leader of the AEEU union, refused to hold a ballot. Instead a handful of union officials voted to back Dobson.

The union's 4 percent vote was given to Dobson on a plate. Co-op societies were also able to vote in this section. All Co-op branches that held a ballot backed Livingstone. But the South London Co-op refused to ballot its members and cast its vote for Dobson. Three unions, the RMT, MSF and ASLEF, were all barred from voting in the election because of late affiliation fee payments.

This rule was not applied to Labour Party members who paid their subscriptions late. At the very last minute the clerical branch of the GPMU union, which voted heavily for Livingstone, was ruled out for late affiliation payments. A Labour spokesman announced on Thursday of last week that the inclusion of the branch, with 4,000 votes, in the electoral college list had been a clerical error.


London MPs, MEPs And Assembly Candidates

TONY BLAIR had to rely on the votes of London Labour MPs, MEPs and Greater London Authority candidates to make sure Dobson won the election. Under the electoral college one Labour MP's vote was equal to 900 ordinary party members' or 5,270 union members' votes. The vast majority went along with Blair. But even then a few votes needed to be fixed.

Pauline Green retired as a London MEP last December. But she was allowed to vote in the election. She cast her vote for Dobson. The Guardian newspaper revealed that one London Labour MP was offered a peerage if he voted for Frank Dobson! Blair got the result he wanted because of one trade union, one retired MEP and one small Co-op branch. The Labour Party leadership is rotten to the core. It is time for socialists to stand up and fight back.


The way the votes stacked up

TRADE UNION SECTION

Union Ballot?  Outcome 

AEEU    No    Union leaders voted to support Dobson 
CWU      Yes   Livingstone 71% Dobson 15% Jackson 14% 
FBU        Yes  Livingstone 94 % Jackson 4% Dobson 2% 
GMB       Yes  Livingstone 67 % Jackson 13% Dobson 9% 
GPMU    Yes  Livingstone 87 % Dobson 6% Jackson 6% 
TGWU    Yes  Livingstone 86 % Jackson 7% Dobson 7% 
UNISON Yes  Livingstone 68 % Dobson 16% Jackson 13% 

CO-OP

South London No Voted Dobson 
North London Yes Livingstone 58% Dobson 34% Jackson 8% 

Several other small trade unions and organisations also voted in this section

MP Section

SOME 57 MPs, four MEPs and 14 Greater London Authority candidates in London were eligible to vote. Dobson had the support of 45 MPs and all 18 others. Livingstone won the support of 10 MPs. Jackson voted for herself. One MP abstained.

Members section

Around 49,000 Labour Party members were eligible to vote. Around 33,000 voted. On the first round: Livingstone 55% Dobson 35% Jackson 10%. Jackson's votes were transferred: Livingstone 60% Dobson 40%

The result

When all three sections were added up: DOBSON 51.53% LIVINGSTONE 48.47% (Jackson was knocked out in the first round with just 4.21 percent of the vote)


'The party is no longer my home'

THE RIGGED election has created a massive crisis inside the Labour Party. Socialist Worker talked to some Labour Party members about the result and its impact on local parties. Ruth, a London Labour Party regional secretary, said she was "devastated by the result".

She added, "I've been a member of the Labour Party for 20 years. I've never seen anything like this. This is the second time we have had a candidate imposed on us. I don't think anyone should resign from the party. It's up to every democrat to organise and fight back." Another regional secretary added, "My phone has not stopped ringing. Hundreds of people are going to leave the party. Some will leave on the spot but most will not renew their membership. "No one is willing to canvass for Dobson. I can honestly say I've never seen anything like this before. It's going to make what happened in Wales look like a tea party."

Geoff Martin is London convenor of the UNISON union, whose members voted four to one for Livingstone. He said, "It would be an absolute disaster if Millbank [Labour headquarters] just continued to plough on and ignored the clear wishes of the vast majority of Labour Party members who have given such a clear and ringing endorsement to Livingstone." While most Labour Party officials hope Livingstone would not stand as an independent, many rank and file members want him to.

Colin Stone, a Labour Party member in Barking, talked about the damage the contest has done to his local Labour Party branch: "The result has got more in common with Stalin's Russia than it has with a democratic party. "I no longer believe the Labour Party is my home. I hope Livingstone stands as an independent and punishes Tony Blair." Jean, a Labour Party member from Enfield, said, "I've voted Labour all my life. If Livingstone stood as an independent I would vote for him."


If you enjoy Socialist Worker, please consider giving to our annual appeal to make sure we can maintain and develop our online and print versions of Socialist Worker. Go here for details and to donate.

Article information

News
Sat 26 Feb 2000, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1685
Share this article


Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.