Why Ken still has the appetite to take on London

By Rob Virtue on January 13, 2011 2:09 PM |


Perched on a seat on the Jubilee line to Canary Wharf, Ken Livingstone is getting some early hits in on his old foe Boris Johnson.

Ken remains one of the most powerful and controversial politicians in London, despite not holding office for more than two years - an exile he is planning to end as he prepares for his fourth mayoral election in 16 months' time.

He's confident Londoners will believe he is the best man for the capital's top job, even though he will be nearly 67 by the time the election comes round.

As for Boris, Ken says, he has his eyes on a bigger prize.

"David Cameron won't allow Boris back in Parliament while he's there because if you remember the first couple of days of the last party conference Boris totally dominated it," said the 65-year-old Labour candidate.

"He opens his mouth, he gets all the attention.

"So his strategy is to get re-elected, have four years where nothing goes wrong, get back into Parliament and succeed Cameron by the middle of the decade."

For Lambeth-born Ken, meanwhile, there is only one role on his mind.

He wants to be seen as the man to take the current Government to task - he doesn't believe the coalition will self-destruct while they are "all on £140,000 a year" - but whoever is in charge Ken believes his record as a large and painful thorn in the side of central Government gives him an advantage.

"The last time I was Mayor I went against the Government on half a dozen occasions," he said. "Not just part-privatisation on the Underground, I took them to court to prevent Post Office closures and the incinerator in Beckton.

"You need a Government who's scared of the Mayor. It was because Brown and Blair knew I would do what I thought was right rather than what they wanted that we got so much money out of them."

Ken's record of extracting money from the Chancellor's iron grip is not at question, but with the country still reeling from recession will he be strong enough to make stringent cuts?

Surprisingly, he doesn't believe he will have to.

"If I hadn't lost the last election and I'd be Mayor now, I'd be having to make some retrenchment," said Ken.


"But I'm not spending the next 16 months working out what I'd do as Mayor now, it's about what I'd do in 16 months. After the two lots of savage cuts I'm standing on the basis that we've had enough.

"I will seek an honest mandate for Londoners to say this is your chance make this a referendum to say the cuts stop here."

Ken remains his own boss and any thoughts to the contrary were extinguished by scenes of him in east London during the Tower Hamlets mayoral election last year.

Ken was supporting the expelled Labour candidate Lutfur Rahman who was standing as an Independent.

They were divisive actions that mirror Ken's previous spat with Labour's hierarchy when the party decided not to back him for Mayor in 2000.

Helping Lutfur to a convincing victory, he said it was something he had to do, despite calls for him to be expelled himself because of his maverick behaviour.

"You had the vicious campaign from [journalist] Andrew Gilligan implying that Lutfur Rahman was in Al Qaeda and everyone knows that Lutfur is primarily a Brit and a Londoner," said Ken.

"It was bizarre. It's unacceptable that someone who has won a position can be stripped of it without being invited to a meeting and told what charges he faces.

"It was such a crushing victory and the Labour Party has taken it on board. In a year or two years' time the party will be reunited and they'll be quite happy with the role and work Lutfur's doing."

Support him or not in 2012, Ken is sure to make it an interesting election.


Wais said:

Vote for Ken and send msg to DC! Gd article