Blair counts the cost of stronger local democracy

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 May, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 May, 2000, 12:00am

British Prime Minister Tony Blair's likely failure to get his anointed candidate elected in today's elections has seen him labelled a control freak who has lost control, and is the latest in a series of political embarrassments.

The Government has introduced measures that have resulted in a parliament in Scotland and an assembly for Wales, and a pledge to allow major cities to elect their own mayors. But efforts to ensure his appointees were left running these bodies foundered, with party members revolting against his attempts to retain control.

'It's a bit like giving a present to your child and then saying he can't play with it. After what's happened in London I think he'll be thinking again before letting any power trickle down from Westminster,' said Rodney Barker of the London School of Economics.

Mr Blair tried to stop Ken Livingstone being selected as the Labour candidate but when he was shortlisted, designed a system that was rigged to ensure he was knocked out despite winning majority support from party members.

'I think what he's going to have to do is find a way of working with Livingstone, because for the first time he's going to have a powerful political figure over whom he has no control,' Dr Barker said.

The London mayor will enjoy considerable authority by virtue of having been directly elected by the capital's five million voters. But Mr Livingstone has pledged to work with the Prime Minister despite being thrown out of the party.

With a general election likely to be called next year, Mr Blair does not have much time to convince the party that he really is prepared to listen to their views.