what we think
Blair faces crisis over Livingstone
TONY BLAIR is in a panic over the election for the Labour Party's candidate for mayor of London. Livingstone won the overwhelming backing of the London membership of the Transport and General Workers Union (TGWU) last week. An amazing 86 percent of TGWU members voted for Livingstone. Glenda Jackson trailed in second place with only 7.3 percent of the vote and Blair's candidate, Frank Dobson, came last with a humiliating 6.9 percent.
The vote is a clear indication of the deep seated bitterness with Tony Blair and New Labour. Grassroots pressure is mounting on Labour MPs and MEPs not to back Dobson. Last week two Labour MPs, John Cryer and Steve Pound, announced they were now backing Livingstone. Even Dobson understands that New Labour's business friendly policies are unpopular with working class people. In an attempt to increase his support Dobson has attacked the government's New Deal for the unemployed.
The TGWU result is a massive boost to the Livingstone campaign but no one should be complacent. It is far from certain that he will win as the voting system is rigged in favour of Dobson. But Livingstone's continued lead in the opinion polls means Blair and his supporters are agonising over what to do. There are those in Blair's camp that want to see him risk everything and declare an "all out war" on Livingstone. This is the strategy Dobson has deployed on his latest leaflet, which reprints a disgusting Liberal Democrat statement calling Ken Livingstone "red scum". But the Blair camp is split.
The Guardian newspaper claims that some want to ditch Dobson and throw their support behind Glenda Jackson. Others, the paper claims, believe Blair should cut his losses and rebuild bridges with Livingstone in the likelihood that he will win. Sadly, Livingstone has gone out of his way to court the Labour leadership. Only last week Livingstone told a Radio 4 reporter that he got on well with Tony Blair and would have no problem working with the party leadership. Comments like these anger Livingstone's supporters. They want to see him stand up to Blair.
Despite this, the fact remains that Livingstone's opposition to tube privatisation and Blair's wrath against him mean that he has become a focus of discontent with New Labour. Now is the time to step up the campaign to get Livingstone elected.
LABOUR PARTY MEMBERS:
- The Labour Party will send out the ballot papers on 26 January and voting runs until 16 February. The result will be on 19 February.
TRADE UNION MEMBERS:
- The AEEU engineering and electricians' union is refusing to ballot its London members. Instead the union leadership will cast their votes for Dobson.
- The Communication Workers Union is balloting its London membership. The winner will receive the union's block vote. The result will be announced on 16 February.
- The print workers' GPMU and building workers' UCATT will conduct their ballots in the same way.
- The GMB general union will ballot its members. It will split the vote proportionally between all the candidates depending on their vote.
- The public sector workers' UNISON is balloting its London membership. The winner will receive the whole UNISON block vote.
- The rail workers' RMT and ASLEF unions, as well as the MSF financial, technical and services union, have been barred from voting by Labour leaders, and were challenging this ruling in a court case which ended after Socialist Worker went to press.