Republican News · Thursday 11 May 2000

[An Phoblacht]

Livingstone's back

The Blair project received a, some would say welcome, blow on 4 May when Londoners voted for Ken Livingstone as the city's first directly elected mayor. Livingstone, who was expelled from the Labour Party when he announced his intention to run for office, was the subject of an intensely negative campaign by the party. Nevertheless, since his victory he has striven to build bridges with his former colleagues, inviting party member Nicky Gavron to accept the post of Deputy Mayor.

Frank Dobson, widely referred to as the Prime Minister's `placeman', was beaten into third place by the Conservative Party candidate Stephen Norris.

The failure of Labour to sieze the mayoralty also came on the same day as local government elections saw them lose almost 600 local councillors.

Ken Livingstone's victory was helped in no small part by London's huge first and second generation Irish community, estimated by some sources at as much as ten percent of the population, who voted overwhelmingly in his favour.

Livingstone has long been considered a friend to the Irish community in Britain, partly because of his willingness to engage in dialogue with Sinn Féin long before it was considered acceptable (he was almost declared public enemy number one by the then Conservative government when he invited Gerry Adams to the House of Commons), and partly because of his vigorous opposition to the Prevention of Terrorism Act.

During the electoral campaign, however, he was obliged to confess that, despite this opposition, he had in fact not voted against the new Terrorism Bill, considered by many human rights organisations to be even more draconian than the PTA. His explanation, during `Irish Question Time' in Camden Irish Centre organised by the Irish Post, was that neo-nazi and far-right groups such as the BNP and Combat 18 now represent a sufficient threat to justify the new Bill, although the only groups actually proscribed by it are those proscribed under the PTA - all Irish.

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