The Guardian: Livingstone in car plant talks

Mark Jones jones118 at
Tue May 9 01:01:37 MDT 2000

[today is the 55th anniversary of the defeat of Hitler Germany)

Byers breaks Labour's quarantine on London's new mayor to discuss crisis
that threatens Ford car plant

The London mayor: special report

Seumas Milne, Labour editor
Tuesday May 9, 2000

Trade and industry secretary Stephen Byers yesterday became the first
minister to break New Labour's political quarantine around Ken Livingstone
when he met the newly-elected mayor to discuss the closure threat hanging
over Ford's Dagenham car factory.
The two men agreed to work together to intensify pressure on the US-owned
multinational to maintain manufacturing production at the Essex site - Ford
is expected to announce the closure of the Fiesta assembly plant on Friday -
and maximise investment in the area to offset the expected loss of more than
2,000 jobs.

Mr Livingstone, who was sworn in as mayor at the temporary Greater London
assembly headquarters at Westminster yesterday, is also seeking an emergency
meeting with senior Ford managers.

He will argue that Ford's reputation in Britain as a good "corporate
citizen" will be seriously damaged if it goes ahead with plans to phase out
car production in a country which now accounts for 28% of its European

Mr Livingstone has already met union and business leaders to discuss what
can be done to save the plant, though responsibility for economic
regeneration will remain with the trade and industry department until July.

Both Mr Byers and Mr Livingstone described their meeting as constructive.

The mayor also held talks yesterday with London assembly members he was
hoping to draw into his coalition administration, amid signs of disagreement
in the GLA Labour group and between Downing Street and Labour's Millbank
headquarters about how far to co-operate.

The discussions were described by one member of Mr Livingstone's team as
"extremely sensitive" and last night only one assembly member had accepted a
job in his cabinet: Darren Johnson, the Green party's former mayoral
candidate, who has taken the environment portfolio.

Mr Johnson immediately threw the mayoral administration's weight behind the
campaign to stop the building of a controversial leisure complex in Crystal
Palace park, south London.

But Liberal Democrat Lord Tope yesterday turned down an offer to become
chairman of the fire and emergency planning authority, saying the job did
not "accord with our priorities", which were equalities and social justice.

Labour GLA member Lord Harris, who Mr Livingstone wanted to chair the new
Metropolitan police committee, complained that he first heard about the
proposal through the media, and Tory Bob Neill said the offer of a
"non-portfolio role" smacked of tokenism.

The Labour group was meeting last night to consider how far to co-operate
with Mr Livingstone, who has offered the post of deputy to Labour's Nicky

The Guardian 09.05.00

Mark Jones

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