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Poll: Livingstone Elected in London

May 4, 2000

LONDON (AP) _ Londoners chose their first elected mayor Thursday, with the man Prime Minister Tony Blair clumsily tried to sideline _ political outcast Ken Livingstone _ the apparent winner, according to exit polls.

The British Broadcasting Corp. polls projected Livingstone as the winner with 51 percent, followed by the Conservative Party’s Steve Norris.

As he voted in his north London neighborhood on a cool, drizzly day, the man popularly known as ``Red Ken″ for his leftist views complained he had been the target of an ``absolutely vile campaign from start to finish.″

``It has been a negative campaign and I don’t think Londoners will want another like this,″ said Livingstone, an independent candidate who ran the capital’s last metropolitan government. Before being disbanded in 1986 by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s government, Livingstone’s Greater London Council had declared the city a nuclear-free zone, supported gay rights and cut subway fares.

To Blair, the man popularly known as ``Red Ken″ is a reminder of the party’s deep splits of the 1980s, when the left was in the ascendancy and the party was unelectable. Today’s Labor Party rose to record popularity by hugging the middle, and Blair has referred to Livingstone’s supporters as a ``ragbag of Trotskyists and Tory newspapers.″

Last week, polls showed Livingstone with 51 percent support, so far ahead of Norris’ 17 percent that one major betting agency stopped taking wagers. Labor’s candidate, former Health Secretary Frank Dobson, had 14 percent in those polls, just edging out Liberal Democrat Susan Kramer.

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