Tony Blair's own monster

London: The new mayor was not invented to be such an old-hat left-winger.

May 05, 2000

BACK in the 1980s, when people said Britain's Labor Party was chained in the political wilderness by its "loony left," Ken Livingstone was whom they meant.

When the Tory prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, abolished the Greater London Council to get rid of its leader, he just went into Parliament and national politics. It took three successive Labor Party leaders to beat back his influence and drive the party to the center.

Now that Mr. Livingstone is to be the first mayor of all London, elected as an independent but really as a Labor apostate, everyone is delighted. Many Londoners cherish his ideas; others supported him as the stone around Prime Minister Tony Blair's neck that will sink "New Labor" to allow a Conservative revival.

Mr. Blair might be a centrist, small-c conservative on economic and social issues. He is a true radical in constitutional modernization of Britain.

His government is "devolving" power to state government for Scotland, Wales and London. It is ending hereditary voting in the House of Lords, which it plans to make elective, meanwhile stacking it with Labor appointees.

And each of these innovations has unintended, embarrassing consequences. The Scottish Assembly revived the Scots nationalism it was meant to squelch. Scottish, Welsh and London constituencies are more left-wing than the government that created them.

Mayor-elect Livingstone will claim a mandate to subsidize the London Underground more than the national government would tolerate and to fight the Blair plan to privatize parts of it. Yet creating Mr. Livingstone's platform for obstruction was the bright idea of Mr. Blair and his own failed candidate for the office.

If Mr. Livingstone is the Monster, Mr. Blair is the mad scientist who brought him back, oops, by mistake.

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