Kenneth Robert Livingstone (born 17 June 1945) is a British Labour Party politician who has twice held the leading political role in London local government, first as the Leader of the Greater London Council (GLC) from 1981 until the Council was abolished in 1986, and then as the first elected Mayor of London from the creation of the office in 2000 until 2008. He also served as the Member of Parliament (MP) for Brent East from 1987 to 2001. A democratic socialist, Livingstone has positioned himself on the hard left of the Labour Party.
Born to a working-class family in Lambeth, Livingstone joined the Labour Party in 1968 and was elected to represent Norwood at the GLC in 1973, before moving to represent Hackney North and Stoke Newington in 1977, and then Paddington in 1981. That year, he was internally elected to the leadership of the GLC; attempting to reduce London Underground fares, his plans were challenged in court and found to be illegal. More successful were his schemes to benefit women and underprivileged minorities, despite facing stiff opposition. A vocal opponent of the Conservative Party government of Margaret Thatcher, Livingstone was heavily criticised in the mainstream media for supporting controversial issues like republicanism, LGBT rights and a United Ireland, being given the moniker of "Red Ken" for his socialist beliefs. Viewing the GLC as a political threat and a waste of money, in 1986 Thatcher's government abolished the Council, putting Livingstone out of a job. Turning to a parliamentary career, he represented Brent East as an MP from 1987.
In 1999 Livingstone sought Labour's nomination to be the first elected Mayor of London; opposed by Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair, he successfully contested the 2000 election as an independent candidate, leading to his expulsion from Labour. During his first term, he organised a major upgrade of London's transport system, introducing the congestion charge and Oyster card. Rejoining Labour, he was re-elected in 2004, continuing and expanding his transport policies through mandatory bus and cycling lanes. Initiating and overseeing London's winning bid to host the 2012 Summer Olympics and ushering in a major redevelopment of the city's East End, he initiated improvements in energy saving and recycling, and enacted environmental and civil rights policies. His leadership during the 7 July 2005 London bombings was widely praised and brought him international attention. He stood unsuccessfully as Labour candidate in London's mayoral elections of 2008 and 2012, both times losing to Conservative candidate Boris Johnson.
A polarising figure in British politics, Livingstone is the author of two autobiographies, If Voting Changed Anything, They'd Abolish It (1987) and You Can't Say That (2012), as well as the subject of several biographies.
1 Early life
1.1 Childhood and young adulthood: 1945-1967,
1.2 Political activism: 1968-1970,
1.3 Lambeth Housing Committee: 1971-1973,
1.4 Early years on the Greater London Council: 1973-1977,
1.5 Hampstead: 1977-1980,
2 Greater London Council leadership
2.1 Becoming leader of the GLC: 1979-1981,
2.2 Leader of the GLC: 1981-1983
2.2.1 Fares Fair and transport policy,
2.2.2 GLEB and nuclear disarmament,
2.2.3 Social liberal policies,
2.2.4 Scandal: Republicanism and Ireland,
2.3 Abolition of the GLC: 1983-1986,
3 Member of Parliament
3.1 Member of Parliament for Brent East: 1987-2001,
4 Mayor of London
4.1 First mayoral term: 2000-2004,
4.2 Second mayoral term: 2004-2008,
4.3 Post-mayoral career: 2008-2012,
4.4 2012 mayoral contest,
4.5 Public transport,
4.6 Congestion charge,
4.7 2012 Olympics,
4.8 Environmental policies,
4.9 Reaction to 7 July 2005 London bombings,
4.10 Anti-racism policies
4.10.1 Apology for London's role in the transatlantic slave trade,
4.11 Religious and other festivals,
4.12 Same-sex civil partnerships,
5.1 Cronyism and corruption allegations,
5.2 2004 tube drivers' strike,
5.3 Remarks about foreign policy,
5.4 Venezuelan oil deal,
5.5 Dispute with embassies over payment of congestion charge,
5.6 Meeting with Islamic Cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi,
5.7 Connection to Socialist Action,
5.8 Allegations of antisemitism
5.8.1 Oliver Finegold controversy,
5.8.2 Remarks regarding the Reuben brothers,
5.8.3 'Rich Jews' controversy,
6 Political views,
7 Personal life
8 References in popular culture,
10 External links,
Childhood and young adulthood: 1945-1967:
Livingstone was born in his grandmother's house at 21b Shrubbery Road in Lambeth, South London on 17 June 1945. His parents were working class; his mother, Ethel Ada (née Kennard, 1915-1997), had been born in Southwark before training as an acrobatic dancer and working on the music hall circuit prior to the Second World War. Ken's Scottish father, Robert "Bob" Moffat Livingstone (1915-1971), had been born in Dunoon before joining the Merchant Navy in 1932 and becoming ship's master. Having met in April 1940 at a music hall in Workington, they married within three months. After the war the couple moved in with Ethel's aggressive mother, Zona Kennard, who Livingstone considered "tyrannical". Livingstone's sister Lin was born two-and-a-half years later. Robert and Ethel went through various jobs in the post-war years, with the former working on fishing trawlers and English Channel ferries, while the latter worked in a bakers, at Freemans catalogue dispatch and as a cinema usherette. Livingstone's parents were "working class Tories", although unusually held socially liberal views, opposing racism and homophobia. The family was nominally Anglican, although Livingstone abandoned Christianity when he was 11, becoming an atheist.
After moving to a new council housing estate in Tulse Hill, Livingstone attended St. Leonard's Primary School. Failing his eleven plus exam, in 1956 he began his secondary education at Tulse Hill Comprehensive School. In 1957, his family purchased their own property at 66 Wolfington Road, West Norwood. Rather shy at school, he was bullied, and got into trouble for truancy. One year, his form master was Philip Hobsbaum, who encouraged his pupils to debate current events; first interesting Livingstone in politics, he related that he became "an argumentative cocky little brat" at home, bringing up topics at the dinner table to enrage his father. His interest in politics was furthered by the 1958 Papal election of Pope John XXIII - a man who had "a strong impact" on Livingstone - and the United States presidential election, 1960. At Tulse Hill Comprehensive he gained his interest in amphibians and reptiles, keeping several as pets; his mother worried that rather than focusing on school work all he cared about was "his pet lizard and friends". At school he attained four O-levels in English Literature, English Language, Geography and Art, subjects he later described as "the easy ones". He started work rather than stay on for the non-compulsory sixth form, which required six O-levels.
From 1962 through to 1970, Livingstone worked as a technician at the Chester Beatty cancer research laboratory in Fulham, looking after animals used in experimentation. Most of the technicians were socialists, and Livingstone helped found a branch of the Association of Scientific, Technical and Managerial Staffs to fight redundancies imposed by company bosses. Livingstone's leftist views solidified upon the election of Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson in 1964. With a friend from Chester Beatty, Livingstone toured West Africa in 1966, visiting Algeria, Niger, Nigeria, Lagos, Ghana and Togo. Interested in the region's wildlife, Livingstone rescued an infant ostrich from being eaten, donating it to Lagos children's zoo. Returning home, he took part in several protest marches as a part of the anti-Vietnam War movement, becoming increasingly interested in politics and briefly subscribing to the publication of a libertarian socialist group, Solidarity.
Political activism: 1968-1970:
"My arrival at the Norwood Labour Party meetings had been rather like taking a bottle of gin into a room full of alcoholics. I was immediately passed round and consumed."
Ken Livingstone (1987)
Livingstone joined the Labour Party in March 1968, when he was 23 years old. Later describing it as "one of the few recorded instances of a rat climbing aboard a sinking ship", many leftists were leaving in disgust at the Labour government's policies of supporting the U.S. in the Vietnam War, cutting the National Health Service budget and restricting the trade unions; many went on to join far left parties like the International Socialists and the Socialist Labour League, or single-issue groups like the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and the Child Poverty Action Group. Suffering mass electoral defeat at the local elections, in London, Labour lost 15 boroughs, including Livingstone's London Borough of Lambeth, which came under Conservative control. Contrastingly, Livingstone believed that grassroots campaigning - such as the 1968 student protests - were ineffective, joining Labour because he considered it the best chance for implementing progressive political change in the UK.
Joining his local Labour branch in Norwood, he involved himself in their operations, within a month becoming chair and secretary of the Norwood Young Socialists, gaining a place on the constituency's General Management and Executive Committees, and sitting on the Local Government Committee who prepared Labour's manifesto for the next borough election. Hoping for better qualifications, he attended night school, gaining O-levels in Human Anatomy, Physiology and Hygiene, and an A-level in Zoology. Leaving his job at Chester Beatty, in September 1970 he began a 3-year course at the Philippa Fawcett Teacher Training College (PFTTC) in Streatham; his attendance was poor, and he considered it "a complete waste" of time. Beginning a romantic relationship with Christine Chapman, president of the PFTTC student's union, the couple married in 1973. Realising the Conservative governance of Lambeth Borough council was hard to unseat, Livingstone aided Eddie Lopez in reaching out to members of the local populace disenfranchised from the traditional Labour leadership. Associating with the leftist Schools' Action Union (SAU) founded in the wake of the 1968 student protests, he encouraged members of the Brixton branch of the Black Panther Party to join Labour. His involvement in the SAU led to his dismissal from the PFTCC student's union, who disagreed with politicising secondary school pupils.
Lambeth Housing Committee: 1971-1973:
"It was intoxicating to be at what seemed at the time the centre of events. We were pushing ahead with our schemes. We had honoured our pledge that pensioners should travel free on London Transport buses. We introduced the provision of free contraception for anyone who lived or worked in the borough. When Mrs Thatcher (then Education Secretary) made it illegal for Education Authorities to give children free school milk, Lambeth - which was not an education authority - stepped in to continue paying for the service."
Ken Livingstone on the Labour-run Lambeth Borough Council in the early 1970s (1987).
In 1971, Livingstone and his comrades developed a new strategy for obtaining political power in Lambeth borough. Focusing on campaigning for the marginal seats in the south of the borough, the safe Labour seats in the north were left to established party members. Public dissatisfaction with the Conservative government of Prime Minister Edward Heath led to Labour's best local government results since the 1940s; Labour leftists gained every marginal seat in Lambeth, and the borough returned to Labour control. In October 1971, Livingstone's father died of a heart attack; his mother soon moved to Lincoln. That year, Labour members voted Livingstone Vice-Chairman of the Housing Committee on the Lambeth London Borough Council, his first job in local government. Reforming the housing system, Livingstone and Committee Chairman Ewan Carr cancelled the proposed rent increase for council housing, temporarily halting the construction of Europe's largest tower blocks, and founded a Family Squatting Group to ensure that homeless families would be immediately rehoused through squatting in empty houses. He increased the number of compulsory purchase orders for private-rented properties, converted them to council housing. They faced opposition to their reforms, which were cancelled by central government.
Livingstone and the leftists became embroiled in factional in-fighting within Labour, vying for powerful positions with centrist members. Although never adopting Marxism, Livingstone became involved with a number of Trotskyist groups active within Labour; viewing them as potential allies, he became friends with Chris Knight, Graham Bash and Keith Veness, members of the Socialist Charter, a Trotskyist cell affiliated with the Revolutionary Communist League that had infiltrated the Labour party. In his struggle against Labour centrists, Livingstone was influenced by Trotskyist Ted Knight, who convinced him to oppose the use of British troops in Northern Ireland, believing they would simply be used to quash nationalist protests against British rule. Livingstone stood as the leftist candidate for the Chair of the Lambeth Housing Committee in April 1973, but was defeated by David Stimpson, who undid many of Livingston and Carr's reforms.
Early years on the Greater London Council: 1973-1977:
In June 1972, after a campaign orchestrated by Eddie Lopez, Livingstone was selected as the Labour candidate for Norwood in the Greater London Council (GLC). In the 1973 GLC elections, he won the seat with 11,622 votes, a firm lead over his Conservative rival. Led by Reg Goodwin, the GLC was dominated by Labour, who controlled 57 seats, compared to 33 controlled by the Conservatives and 2 by the Liberal Party. Of the Labour GLC members, around 16, including Livingstone, were staunch leftists. Representing Norwood in the GLC, Livingstone continued as a Lambeth councillor and Vice Chairman of the Lambeth Housing Committee, criticising Lambeth council's dealings with the borough's homeless. Learning that the council had pursued a racist policy of allocating the best housing to white working-class families, Livingstone went public with the evidence, which was published in the South London Press. In August 1973, he publicly threatened to resign from the Lambeth Housing Committee if the council failed "to honour longstanding promises" to rehouse 76 homeless families then staying in dilapidated and overcrowded halfway accommodation. Frustrated at the council's failure to achieve this, he resigned from the Housing Committee in December 1973.
Considered a radical troublemaker by the GLC's Labour management, Livingstone was allocated the relatively unimportant position of Vice Chairman of the Film Viewing Board, monitoring the release of soft pornography. Like most Board members, Livingstone opposed cinematic censorship, a view he changed with the increasing availability of violent pornography. With growing support from Labour leftists, in March 1974 he was elected onto the executive of the Greater London Labour Party (GLLP), responsible for drawing up the manifesto for the GLC Labour group and the lists of candidates for council and parliamentary seats. Turning his attention once more to housing, he became Vice Chairman of the GLC's Housing Management Committee, however was sacked in April 1975 for his vocal opposition to the Goodwin administration's decision to cut £50,000,000 from the GLC's house-building budget. Coming up to the 1977 GLC elections, Livingstone recognised the difficulty of retaining his Norwood seat, instead being selected for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, a Labour safe seat, following the retirement of David Pitt. Accused of being a "carpetbagger", it ensured he was one of the few leftist Labour councillors to remain on the GLC, which fell into Conservative hands under Horace Cutler.
Turning towards the Houses of Parliament, Livingstone and Christine moved to West Hampstead, North London; in June 1977 he was selected by local party members as the Labour parliamentary candidate for the Hampstead constituency, beating Vince Cable. He gained notoriety in the Hampstead and Highgate Express for publicly reaffirming his support for the controversial issue of LGBT rights, declaring he supported the reduction of the age of consent for male same-sex activity from 21 to 16, in line with the different-sex age of consent consent. Becoming active in the politics of the London Borough of Camden, Livingstone was elected Chair of Camden's Housing Committee; putting forward radical reforms, he democratized council housing meetings by welcoming local people, froze rents for a year, reformed the rate collection system, changed rent arrears procedures and implemented further compulsory purchase orders to increase council housing. Criticised by some senior colleagues as incompetent and excessively ambitious, some accused him of encouraging leftists to move into the borough's council housing to increase his local support base.
In 1979, internal crisis rocked Labour as activists organised as the Campaign for Labour Democracy struggled with the Parliamentary Labour Party for a greater say in party management. Livingstone joined the activists' side, on 15 July 1978 helping unify small hard left groups as the Socialist Campaign for a Labour Victory (SCLV). Producing a sporadically published paper, Socialist Organiser, as a mouthpiece for Livingstone's views, it criticised Labour Prime Minister James Callaghan as "anti-working class". In January 1979, Britain was hit by a series of public sector worker strikes that came to be known as the "Winter of Discontent." In Camden Borough, council employees unionised under the National Union of Public Employees (NUPE) went on strike, demanding a 35 hour limit to their working week and a weekly wage increase to £60. Livingstone backed the strikers, urging Camden Council to grant their demands, eventually getting his way. District auditor Ian Pickwell, a government-appointed accountant who monitored council finances, claimed that this move was reckless and illegal, taking Camden Council to court. If found guilty, Livingstone would have been held personally responsible for the measure, forced to pay the massive surcharge, and been disqualified for public office for 5 years; ultimately the judge threw out the case.
In May 1979, a general election was held in the United Kingdom. Standing as Labour candidate for Hampstead, Livingstone was defeated by the incumbent Conservative, Geoffrey Finsberg. Weakened by the Winter of Discontent, Callaghan's government lost to the Conservatives, whose leader, Margaret Thatcher, became Prime Minister. A staunch right winger and free market advocate, she became a bitter opponent of the labour movement and Livingstone. Following the electoral defeat, Livingstone told Socialist Organiser that the blame lay solely with the "Labour government's policies" and the anti-democratic attitude of Callaghan and the Parliamentary Labour Party, calling for greater party democracy and a turn towards a socialist platform. This was a popular message among many Labour activists amassed under the SCLV. The primary figurehead for this leftist trend was Tony Benn, who narrowly missed being elected deputy leader of Labour in September 1981, under new party leader Michael Foot. The head of the "Bennite left", Benn became "an inspiration and a prophet" to Livingstone; the two became the best known left-wingers in Labour.
Greater London Council leadership:
Becoming leader of the GLC: 1979-1981:
Inspired by the Bennites, Livingstone planned a GLC take-over; on 18 October 1979, he called a meeting of Labour leftists entitled "Taking over the GLC", beginning publication of monthly newsletter, the London Labour Briefing. Focused on increasing leftist power in the London Labour Party, he urged socialists to stand as candidates in the upcoming GLC election. When the time came to choose who would lead London Labour in that election, Livingstone put his name down, but was challenged by the moderate Andrew McIntosh; in the 28 April 1980 vote, McIntosh beat Livingstone by 14 votes to 13. In September 1980, Livingstone separated from his wife Christine; they remained amicable, holidaying in the Far East together. Moving into a small flat at 195 Randolph Avenue, Maida Vale with his pet reptiles and amphibians, he divorced in October 1982 and began a relationship with Kate Allen, chair of Camden Council Women's Committee.
Livingstone turned his attention to achieving a GLC Labour victory, exchanging his safe-seat in Hackney North for the marginal Inner London seat at Paddington; in May 1981 he won the seat by 2,397 votes. Supporting leftist candidates across London, Cutler and the Conservatives learned of Livingstone's plans, proclaiming that a GLC Labour victory would lead to a takeover of London by "Marxists and extremists". The rightist press picked up the story, with the Daily Express using the headline of "Why We Must Stop These Red Wreckers", in which Cutler warned of a potential communist takeover of Britain. Such scaremongering was ineffective, and the GLC election on 6 May 1981 proved a victory for Labour, with McIntosh installed as Head of the GLC; within 24 hours he would be deposed by members of his own party, replaced by Livingstone.
On 7 May, Livingstone called a caucus of his supporters; announcing his intent to challenge McIntosh's leadership, he invited those assembled to stand for other GLC posts. The meeting ended at 4:45pm having agreed on a full slate of candidates. At 5 o'clock, McIntosh held a GLC Labour meeting; the attendees called an immediate leadership election, in which Livingstone defeated him by 30 votes to 20. The entire left caucus slate was then elected. The next day, a leftist coup deposed Sir Ashley Bramall on the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA), replacing him with Bryn Davies; the left group now controlled both the GLC and the ILEA.
McIntosh proclaimed the GLC coup illegitimate, asserting that Labour was in danger from a leftist take-over. The mainstream right-wing press criticised the coup; the Daily Mail called Livingstone a "left wing extremist", and The Sun nicknamed him "Red Ken", stating his victory meant "full-steam-ahead red-blooded Socialism for London." The Financial Times issued a "warning" that leftists could use such tactics to take control of the government, when "the erosion of our democracy will surely begin." Thatcher joined the rallying call, proclaiming that leftists like Livingstone had "no time for parliamentary democracy", but were plotting "To impose upon this nation a tyranny which the peoples of Eastern Europe yearn to cast aside."
Leader of the GLC: 1981-1983:
Entering County Hall as GLC leader on 8 May 1981, Livingstone initiated changes; he converted the building's Fremasonic temple into a meeting room, removed many of the GLC members and senior officers' privileges by phasing out the use of chauffeurs, removing the annual international holiday and unsuccessfully attempting to stop the supply of free alcohol. He initiated an open-door policy allowing citizens to enter County Hall to raise issues or hold meetings in the committee rooms free of charge. County Hall gained the nickname of "the People's Palace"; Livingstone took great pleasure watching the disgust expressed by some Conservative GLC members when non-members began using the building's restaurant. In the London Labour Briefing, Livingstone announced "London's ours! After the most vicious GLC election of all time, the Labour Party has won a working majority on a radical socialist programme." He stated that their job was to "sustain a holding operation until such time as the Tory Conservative government can be brought down and replaced by a left-wing Labour government." There was a perception among Livingstone's allies that they constituted the genuine opposition to Thatcher's government, with Foot's Labour leadership dismissed as ineffectual; they hoped Benn would soon replace him.
"There is nothing that happens to you at any stage in your life that can prepare you for the British Press in full hue and cry. As a socialist I started out with the lowest possible opinion of Fleet Street and was amazed to discover that they managed to sink even lower than I expected... I would spend hours carefully explaining our policies only to open the paper the next morning and see instead a smear about my sex-life, alleged personality defects or some completely fabricated account of a meeting or a split that never actually happened."
Ken Livingstone, 1987.
There was a widespread public perception that Livingstone's GLC leadership was illegitimate, while the mainstream British media remained resolutely hostile to the hard left. Livingstone received the levels of national press attention normally reserved for senior Members of Parliament. A press interview was arranged with the Max Hastings for the Evening Standard, in which Livingstone was portrayed as affable but ruthless and "lacking in humanity."Kelvin MacKenzie, editor for The Sun, took a particular interest in Livingstone, establishing a reporting team to "dig up the dirt" on him; they were unable to uncover any scandalous information, focusing on his love of amphibians, a personality trait mocked by other media sources. The satirical journal Private Eye referred to him as "Ken Leninspart" after Vladimir Lenin, proceeding to erroneously claim that Livingstone received funding from the Libyan Jamahiriya; suing them for libel, in November 1983 the journal apologised, giving Livingstone £15,000 in damages in an out-of-court settlement.
During 1982, Livingstone made new appointments to the GLC governance, with John McDonnell appointed key chair of finance and Valerie Wise chair of the new Women's Committee, while Sir Ashley Bramall became GLC chairman and Tony McBrearty was appointed chair of housing. Others stayed in their former positions, including Dave Wetzel as transport chair and Mike Ward as chair of industry; thus was created what biographer John Carvel described as "the second Livingstone administration", leading to a "more calm and supportive environment". Turning his attention once more to Parliament, Livingstone attempted to get selected as the Labour candidate for the constituency of Brent East, a place which he felt an "affinity" for and where several friends lived. At the time, the Brent East Labour Party was in strife as competing factions battled for control, with Livingstone attempting to gain the support of both the hard and soft left. Securing a significant level of support from local party members, he nonetheless failed to apply for candidacy in time, and so the incumbent centrist Reg Freeson was once more selected as Labour candidate for Brent East. A subsequent vote at the council meeting revealed that 52 local Labour members would have voted for Livingstone, with only 2 for Freeson and 3 abstentions. Nevertheless, in the United Kingdom general election, 1983, Freeson went on to win the Brent East constituency for Labour. In 1983, Livingstone began co-presenting a late night television chat show with Janet Street-Porter for London Weekend Television.
Fares Fair and transport policy:
The Greater London Labour Manifesto for the 1981 elections, although written under McIntosh's leadership, had been determined by a special conference of the London Labour Party in October 1980 in which Livingstone's speech had been decisive on transport policy. The manifesto focused on job creation schemes and cutting London Transport fares, and it was to these issues that Livingstone's administration turned. One of the primary manifesto focuses had been a pledge known as Fares Fair, which focused on reducing London Underground fares and freezing them at that lower rate. Based on a fare freeze implemented by the South Yorkshire Metropolitan County Council in 1975, it was widely considered to be a moderate and mainstream policy by Labour, which it was hoped would get more Londoners using public transport, thereby reducing congestion. In October 1981, the GLC implemented their policy, cutting London Transport fares by 32%; to fund the move, the GLC planned to increase the London rates.
The legality of the Fares Fair policy was challenged by Dennis Barkway, Conservative Conservative leader of the London Borough of Bromley council, who complained that his constituents were having to pay for cheaper fares on the London Underground when it didn't operate in their borough. Although the Divisional Court initially found in favour of the GLC, Bromley Borough took the issue to a court of appeal, where three judges - Lord Denning, Lord Justice Oliver and Lord Justice Watkins - reversed the previous decision, finding in favour of Bromley Borough on 10 November. They proclaimed that the Fares Fair policy was illegal because the GLC was expressly forbidden from choosing to run London Transport at a deficit, even if this was in the perceived interest of Londoners. The GLC appealed this decision, taking the case to the House of Lords; on 17 December five Law Lords unanimously ruled in favour of Bromley Borough Council, putting a permanent end to the Fares Fair policy. GLC transport chairman Dave Wetzel labelled the judges "Vandals in Ermine" while Livingstone maintained his belief that the judicial decision was politically motivated.
Initially presenting a motion to the GLC Labour groups that they refuse to comply with the judicial decision and continue with the policy regardless, but was out-voted by 32-22; many commentators claimed that Livingstone had only been bluffing in order to save face among the Labour Left. Instead, Livingstone got on board with a campaign known as "Keep Fares Fair" in order to bring about a change in the law that would make the Fares Fair policy legal; an alternate movement, "Can't Pay, Won't Pay", accused Livingstone of being a sell-out and insisted that the GLC proceed with its policies regardless of their legality. One aspect of the London Transport reforms was however maintained; the new system of flat fares within ticket zones, and the inter-modal Travelcard ticket continues as the basis of the ticketing system. The GLC then put together new measures in the hope to reduce London Transport fares by a more modest amount, 25%, taking them back to roughly the price that they were when Livingstone's administration took office; it was ruled legal in January 1983, and subsequently implemented.
GLEB and nuclear disarmament:
Livingstone's administration founded the Greater London Enterprise Board (GLEB) to create employment by investing in the industrial regeneration of London, with the funds provided by the council, its workers' pension fund and the financial markets. Livingstone later claimed that GLC bureaucrats obstructed much of what GLEB tried to achieve. Other policies implemented by the Labour Left also foundered. Attempts to prevent the sale-off of GLC council housing largely failed, in part due to the strong opposition from the Conservative government. ILEA attempted to carry through with its promise to cut the price of school meals in the capital from 35p to 25p, but was forced to abandon its plans following legal advice that the councillors could be made to pay the surcharge and disqualified from public office.
The Livingstone administration took a strong stance on the issue of nuclear disarmament, proclaiming London a "nuclear-free zone". On 20 May 1981, the GLC halted its annual spending of £1 million on nuclear war defence plans, with Livingstone's deputy, Illtyd Hamilton, proclaiming that "we are challenging... the absurd cosmetic approach to Armaggedon." They published the names of the 3000 politicians and administrators who had been earmarked for survival in underground bunkers in the event of a nuclear strike on London. Thatcher's government remained highly critical of these moves, putting out a propaganda campaign explaining their argument for the necessity of Britain's nuclear deterrent to counter the Soviet Union.
Social liberal policies:
"Arguing that politics had long been the near-exclusive preserve of white middle-aged men, the GLC began an attempt to open itself to representations from other groups, principally from women, the working-class, ethnic minorities and homosexuals but also from children and the elderly. This was a real break from traditional politics as practised centrally by both major parties... and it attracted hostility from all sides."
Historian Alwyn W. Turner, 2010.
A social liberal, Livingstone's administration advocated measures to improve the lives of disadvantaged minorities within London, including women, the disabled, homosexuals and ethnic minorities, who together made up a sizeable percentage of the city's population; what Reg Race called "the Rainbow Coalition". The GLC allocated a small percentage of its expenditure on funding minority community groups, including the London Gay Teenage Group, English Collective of Prostitutes, Women Against Rape, Lesbian Line, A Woman's Place and Rights of Women. Believing these groups could initiate social change, the GLC increased its annual funding of voluntary organisations from £6 million in 1980 to £50 million in 1984. They provided loans, most notably to the Sheba Feminist Publishers, coming under a barrage of press criticism, who claimed the press' works were pornographic.
In July 1981, Livingstone founded three groups; the Ethnic Minorities Committee, an organisation with a budget of £2.9 million, the Police Committee, and the Gay and Lesbian Working Party. 11 months later, in June 1982, a Women's Committee was established. Believing the Metropolitan Police to be a racist organisation, he appointed Paul Boateng to head the Police Committee. Considering the police a highly political organisation, he publicly remarked that "When you canvas police flats at election time, you find that they are either Conservatives who think of Thatcher as a bit of a pinko or they are National Front."
The Conservatives and mainstream rightist press were largely critical of these measures, considering them symptomatic of what they derogatarily termed the "loony left". Claiming that these only served "fringe" interests, their criticisms often exhibited racist, homophobic and sexist sentiment. A number of journalists fabricated stories designed to discredit Livingstone and the "loony left" in the eyes of the electorate, for instance claiming that the GLC made its workers drink only Nicaraguan coffee in solidarity with the country's socialist Sandinista government, and that Haringey Council leader Bernie Grant had banned the use of the term "black bin liner" and the rhyme "Baa Baa Black Sheep" because they were perceived as racially insensitive. Writing in 2008, BBC reporter Andrew Hosken noted that although most of the Livingstone GLC administration's policies were ultimately a failure, its role in helping to change social attitudes towards women and minorities in London remained its "enduring legacy".
Scandal: Republicanism and Ireland:
Invited to the Wedding of Charles, Prince of Wales, and Lady Diana Spencer at St Paul's Cathedral on 29 July 1981, Livingstone - a republican critical of the monarchy - wished the couple well but turned down the offer, remarking that he intended "to pull back from ceremonial functions in order to concentrate on the work for which the group had been elected." The refusal was leaked to the press, who were further enraged when he permitted Irish republican protesters from the H-Block Armagh Committee to hold a 48-hour vigil and fast on the steps of County Hall throughout the wedding celebrations, during which they launched 100 black balloons over the city. His administration supported the People's March for Jobs, a demonstration of 500 protestors against unemployment who marched to London from Liverpool, Llanelli and Huddersfield, allowing those involved to sleep in County Hall for two nights in May and catering for them. Costing £19,000, critics argued that Livingstone's regime was illegally using public money for their own political causes. The GLC orchestrated a propaganda campaign against Thatcher's government, in January 1982 erecting a sign on the top of County Hall - a building clearly visible from the Houses of Parliament - stating the number of unemployed in London. Initially set at 326,238, it was updated every month as a reminder of the high levels of unemployment in Thatcher's Britain. Later that year, he caused further press controversy when he stated that to a certain extent, "everyone is bisexual", at the Harrow Gay Unity Group on 18 August.
Becoming estranged from the publishers of the London Labour Briefing, in September 1981, Livingstone began production of weekly newspaper, the Labour Herald, co-edited with Ted Knight and Matthew Warburton. The Labour Herald was published by Astmoor Litho Ltd, a press owned by a Trotskyist organisation known as the Workers Revolutionary Party (WRP), who had financed it with funding from the Arab socialist governments of Libya and Iraq. Livingstone became an ally of the WRP's leader, Gerry Healy, a controversial move among British socialists, many of whom disapproved of Healy's violent nature and criminal past; Livingstone maintained that he had "a straightforward commercial relationship" with Healy and that he published through the WRP because they offered the cheapest rate. In 1985, the WRP ousted Healy as their leader after he was exposed as a sexual predator; the Labour Herald subsequently folded.
"This morning the Sun presents the most odious man in Britain. Take a bow, Mr Livingstone, socialist leader of the Greater London Council. In just a few months since he appeared on the national scene, he has quickly become a joke. But no one can laugh at him any more. The joke has turned sour, sick and obscene. For Mr Livingstone steps forward as the defender and the apologist of the criminal, murderous activities of the IRA."
The Sun lambasts Livingstone after his support for Irish republicanism.
A supporter of Irish reunification, Livingstone had connections with the left-wing Irish republican party Sinn Féin and on 21 July, met with Mrs Alice McElwee, the mother of an imprisoned member of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA), Thomas McElwee, then taking part in the 1981 Irish hunger strike. Mrs McElwee had originally been invited to speak to the London Labour group on the situation of the hunger strikers by GLC councillor Andy Harris, a member of the Labour Committee on Ireland, and Livingstone took the time to privately meet with her. That same day, Livingstone publicly proclaimed his support for those prisoners on hunger strike, claiming that the British government's fight against the IRA was not "some sort of campaign against terrorism" but was in fact "the last colonial war." He was heavily criticised for this meeting and his statements in the mainstream press, while Prime Minister Thatcher claimed that his comments constituted "the most disgraceful statement I have ever heard." He would soon after meet with the three sons of Yvonne Dunlop, an Irish Protestant who had been killed in McElwee's bomb attack, on their visit to London.
On 10 October, the IRA bombed London's Chelsea Barracks, killing 2 and injuring 40, including 23 soldiers. Denouncing the attack, Livingstone informed members of the Cambridge University Tory Reform Group that it was a misunderstanding to view the IRA as "criminals or lunatics" because of their strong political motives and that "violence will recur again and again as long as we are in Ireland." The mainstream press criticising him for these comments, The Sun labeling him "the most odious man in Britain". In response, Livingstone held a press conference, proclaiming that the press coverage had been "ill-founded, utterly out of context and distorted", reiterating his opposition both to the IRA's attacks and to British rule in Northern Ireland. Anti-Livingstone pressure mounted and on 15 October he was publicly attacked in the street, being sprayed with red aerosol paint by members of The Friends of Ulster. In a second incident, Livingstone was attacked by far right skinheads shouting "commie bastard" at the Three Horseshoes Pub in Hampstead. Known as "Green Ken" among Ulster Unionists, Unionist paramilitary Michael Stone of the Ulster Defence Association plotted to kill Livingstone, only abandoning the plan when he became convinced that the security services were onto him.
Livingstone agreed to meet Gerry Adams, Sinn Féin President and IRA-supporter, after Adams was invited to London by Labour members of the Troops Out campaign in December 1982. The same day as the invitation was made, the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) bombed The Droppin Well bar in Ballykelly, County Londonderry, killing 11 soldiers and 6 civilians; in the aftermath, Livingstone was pressured to cancel the meeting. Expressing his horror at the bombing, Livingstone insisted that the meeting proceed, for Adams had no connection with the INLA, but Conservative Home Secretary Willie Whitelaw banned Adams' entry to Britain with the 1976 Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act. On 26 and 27 February 1983, Livingstone visited Adams in his constituency of West Belfast in Northern Ireland, receiving a hero's welcome from the local republican community. In July 1983, Adams finally came to London on the invite of Livingstone and MP Jeremy Corbyn, allowing him to present his views to a mainstream British audience through televised interviews. On 26 August, Livingstone was interviewed on Irish state radio, proclaiming that Britain's 800-year occupation of Ireland was more destructive than the Holocaust; he was publicly criticised by Labour members and the press.
Courting further controversy, during the Falklands War of 1982, during which the United Kingdom battled Argentina for control of the Falklands Islands, Livingstone stated his belief that the islands rightfully belonged to the Argentinian people, but not the military junta then ruling the country. Upon British victory, he sarcastically remarked that "Britain had finally been able to beat the hell out of a country smaller, weaker and even worse governed than we were." Challenging the Conservative government's militarism, the GLC proclaimed 1983 to be "Peace Year", solidifying ties with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) in order to advocate international nuclear disarmament, a measure opposed by the Thatcher government. In keeping with this pacifistic outlook, they banned the Territorial Army from marching past County Hall that year. The GLC then proclaimed 1984 to be "Anti-Racism Year". In July 1985, the GLC twinned London with the Nicaraguan city of Managua, then under the control of the socialist Sandinista National Liberation Front. The press also continued to criticise the Livingstone administration's funding of volunteer groups that they perceived represented only "fringe interests". As Livingstone biographer Andrew Hosken remarked, "by far the most contentious grant" was given in February 1983 to a group called Babies Against the Bomb, founded by a group of mothers who had united to campaign against nuclear weapons.
Members of the London Labour groups chastised Livingstone for his controversial statements, believing them detrimental to the party, leading Labour members and supporters to defect to the Social Democratic Party (SDP). Many highlighted Labour's failure to secure the seat in the Croydon North West by-election, 1981 as a sign of Labour's prospects under Livingstone. Some called for Livingstone's removal, but Michael Foot's Trotskyist assistant Una Cooze defended Livingstone's position to her boss. Television and radio outlets welcomed Livingstone on for interviews; described by biographer John Carvel as having "one of the best television styles of any contemporary politician", Livingstone used this medium to speak to a wider audience, gaining widespread public support, something Carvell attributed to his "directness, self-deprecation, colourful language, complete unflappability under fire and lack of pomposity", coupled with genuinely popular policies such as Fares Fair.
Abolition of the GLC: 1983-1986:
"Whatever the long-term achievements of Livingstone's administration, there is no question that its aggression towards the government and the Establishment ultimately spelled doom for the GLC. In the eyes of the government and the media, Livingstone started badly and got worse. Within eight months, he was in deep crisis and within two years, Margaret Thatcher had started the wheels in motion for abolition. Such was the backlash by judges, civil servants, politicians and journalists that Livingstone failed not only in the key objective of bringing down Thatcher but also in implementing many of his policies. It would lay Livingstone open to the allegation that he had laid the GLC at the sacrificial altar of his ambition."
Biographer Andrew Hosken (2008).
The 1983 general election proved disastrous for Labour. Obtaining their worst results since the Second World War, much of their support went to the Social Democrat-Liberal Alliance, while Thatcher entered her second term in office. Accepting this loss, Foot stepped down to be succeeded by Neil Kinnock, a man Livingstone considered "repellent". Livingstone publicly asserted that Labour's electoral failure was due to the leading role that the party's capitalist right wing had played under Foot's leadership. In order to gain the support of the nation's working class, he argued, the party had to promote a socialist program of "national reconstruction", overseeing the nationalisation of banks and major industry and allowing for the investment in new development.
Considering it a waste of rate payer's money, the Conservative government was keen to abolish the GLC and devolve control to the Greater London boroughs, stating its intention to do so in its 1983 electoral manifesto.Secretary of State for Employment Norman Tebbit, lambasted the GLC as "Labour-dominated, high-spending and at odds with the government's view of the world"; Livingstone commented that there was "a huge gulf between the cultural values of the GLC Labour group and everything that Mrs Thatcher considered right and proper." The government felt confident that there was sufficient opposition to Livingstone's GLC administration that they could abolish the entire body: according to a MORI poll undertaken for the Evening Standard in April 1983, 58% of Londoners were dissatisfied with Livingstone, compared with 26% satisfied with him.
Attempting to fight the proposals, the GLC devoted £11 million to a three-pronged campaign led by Reg Race focusing on press campaigning, advertising and parliamentary lobbying. The campaign sent Livingstone on a £845,000 party roadshow conference, in which he successfully convinced the Liberal and Social Democratic parties to oppose abolition. Using the slogan "say no to no say", the GLC team publicly highlighted that if the Conservative's proposals were passed, London would be the only capital city in Western Europe without a directly elected body. The GLC campaign proved successful, with polls indicating majority support among Londoners for retaining the Council, and on 29 March 1984, 20,000 public servants held a 24-hour strike in support. The government nevertheless remained committed to the cause of abolition. In order to become law, the bill had to have three readings in each of the Houses of Parliament, and could have been defeated if it was voted down in any of the six readings. The third and final readings took place on 28 June 1984, passing the Local Government Act 1985 with 237 votes in favour and 217 against. The GLC was formally abolished at midnight on 31 March 1986.
Member of Parliament:
Member of Parliament for Brent East: 1987-2001:
Livingstone stood for Parliament in the 1987 general election, winning a seat in the north-west London constituency of Brent East. He replaced Labour MP Reg Freeson. Freeson had retained his seat at the 1983 general election, but was deselected in 1985 after a bitter struggle, described as "political 'murder'" in his Guardian obituary, and replaced as Labour candidate in Brent East by Livingstone.
In his maiden speech to Parliament in July 1987, Livingstone used parliamentary privilege to raise a number of allegations made by Fred Holroyd, a former Special Intelligence Service operative in Northern Ireland. Despite the convention of maiden speeches being non-controversial, Livingstone alleged that Holroyd had been mistreated when he tried to expose MI5 collusion with Ulster loyalist paramilitaries in the 1970s and the part Captain Robert Nairac is alleged to have played. He also voiced Colin Wallace's allegations of MI5 dirty tricks levelled at Harold Wilson, part of what became known as the "Wilson plot".
In September 1987 he was elected to the party's National Executive Committee, although he lost this position two years later; he regained it in 1997 beating Peter Mandelson in what some interpreted as a rebuke to Tony Blair. He was re-elected MP in the general election of 1992, with a 6% swing to Labour in his Brent East constituency. Besides serving in the Commons, Livingstone held a number of other 'odd jobs' during this period, including game show contestant and host, after-dinner speaker, and restaurant reviewer for the Evening Standard. In 1987, he published his autobiography-cum-political tract, If Voting Changed Anything They'd Abolish It.
Mayor of London:
First mayoral term: 2000-2004:
Livingstone was again re-elected in the 1997 general election, in which Labour was returned to power with Tony Blair as Prime Minister. Among Labour's proposals was the establishment of a Greater London Authority which was to be a strategic body: unlike the GLC the Greater London Authority would not provide any services to Londoners directly. The new Greater London Authority would be headed by a directly elected mayor, who would be watched over by a 25-member Assembly.
Despite having earlier criticised the specific proposals for a new London-wide authority, Livingstone was widely tipped for the new post of Mayor. The mayoral election was scheduled for 2000, and in 1999, Labour began the long and trying process of selecting its candidate. Despite Blair's personal antipathy, Livingstone was included on Labour's short list in November 1999, having pledged that he would not run as an independent if he failed to secure the party's nomination. William Hague, then-Leader of the Opposition taunted Blair at Prime Minister's Question Time: "Why not split the job in two, with Frank Dobson as your day mayor and Ken Livingstone as your nightmare?"
Labour chose its official candidate on 20 February 2000. Although Livingstone received a healthy majority of the total votes, he nevertheless lost the nomination to former Secretary of State for Health Frank Dobson, under a controversial system in which votes from sitting Labour MPs and MEPs were weighted more heavily than votes from rank-and-file members. The methods used to select the Mayoral candidate were thought to have been designed to stop Livingstone.
On 6 March, Livingstone announced that he would run against Dobson as an independent, confirming speculation that he would renege on his earlier pledge. He was suspended from the Labour Party the same day and expelled on 4 April. Tony Blair said that Livingstone as mayor would be a "disaster" for London; he later said he was wrong in that prediction.
The result of the election was a Livingstone victory: Dobson, who it was alleged, had been pressured into running by the party leadership, unsuccessfully based his campaign on claims that Livingstone was an egomaniac, and the Conservatives remained becalmed after their catastrophic national defeat in 1997. Livingstone came out ahead in the first round of balloting with 38% of first-preference votes to Conservative Steven Norris's 27%; Dobson finished third, with 13% of all first-preference votes - just ahead of Liberal Democrat Susan Kramer, with 12%. Under the supplementary voting system employed for the election, only the votes cast for Livingstone and Norris were considered in the second round, where Livingstone won with 58% of first- and second-preference votes, versus 42% for Norris.
Livingstone continued to sit in parliament, as an independent (having had the Labour whip withdrawn), until standing down at the 2001 general election.
In March 2002, while still independent, Livingstone was accused of "cronyism" by some Labour party members in the London Assembly after he had appointed six officials as special advisers at a salary level which seemed to them excessive, and a maneuver to help his chances of being re-elected. Livingstone denied the allegations and stated the appointments were a "necessary efficiency drive."
Second mayoral term: 2004-2008:
Main article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_mayoral_election,_2004
Livingstone applied for readmittance to the Labour Party in 2002 but was rejected. In November 2003, however, rumours emerged that the Labour Party would allow Livingstone to rejoin, just ahead of the 2004 London mayoral election. Opinion polls consistently gave a poor showing to Labour's official candidate, Nicky Gavron, and many in the party leadership (including Tony Blair himself) feared that Labour would be humiliated by a fourth-place finish. In mid-December, Gavron announced she would stand down as the Labour candidate in favour of a 'unity campaign,' with Gavron as Livingstone's deputy, with Labour's National Executive Committee voting 25-2 to pave the way for Livingstone's readmittance. The deal hinged on a 'loyalty test' administered by a special five-member NEC panel on 9 January. The panel recommended that Livingstone be allowed back in the party. The move towards readmittance came amid considerable opposition from senior party members, including Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown, Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, and former party leader Neil Kinnock. In a ballot of Labour Party members in London, Livingstone was overwhelmingly endorsed as the Labour candidate for the 2004 Mayoral election.
Livingstone was re-elected Mayor of London on 10 June 2004. He won 36% of first preference votes to Conservative Steven Norris's 28% and Liberal Democrat Simon Hughes's 15%. Six other candidates shared the remainder of the votes. When all the candidates except Livingstone and Norris were eliminated and the second preferences of those voters who had picked neither Livingstone or Norris as their first choice were counted, Livingstone won with 55% to Norris's 45%.
Post-mayoral career: 2008-2012:
Main article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_mayoral_election,_2008
"Obviously everyone respects the decision of the electorate. But it is already clear that Boris Johnson's Tory regime is one of decline in London: economic decline, social decline, cultural decline and environmental decline. This is the real root of the incompetence his administration has shown in its first two months in office. I believe this will become increasingly obvious and therefore I will use the normal methods of democratic debate to convince electors that the previous policies were successful and the new ones will fail."
Ken Livingstone (2008)
Livingstone sought re-election in 2008, but was defeated by Conservative candidate Boris Johnson on a night that saw a huge swing against Labour right across Britain. Once first and second votes were taken into account Johnson had 1,168,738 votes, Livingstone 1,028,966 - a margin of 139,772 votes or just over 6% of those who voted.
Speaking immediately after the count, Johnson paid public tribute to his defeated rival, praising "the very considerable achievements of the last mayor of London" and describing Livingstone as "a very considerable public servant". Johnson went on to say "You shaped the office of mayor. You gave it national prominence and when London was attacked on 7 July 2005 you spoke for London." Johnson also spoke of Livingstone's "courage and the sheer exuberant nerve with which you stuck it to your enemies" and expressed a desire that the new Conservative administration could "discover a way in which the mayoralty can continue to benefit from your transparent love of London".
Livingstone acted as a stand-in presenter on London talk radio station LBC 97.3's Jeni Barnett for a week beginning on 30 June 2008. In July 2008 he announced his intention to run again for the office of Mayor of London at the next mayoral elections and signalled his intent to organise a "progressive alliance" of political parties (such as the Labour Party and the Green Party of England and Wales), trade unions and interest groups to defend the progress which was made during his terms as Mayor and to prepare for the next mayoral elections.
On 28 August 2008, it was announced that Livingstone would be an adviser on urban planning to Caracas, Venezuela. He acted as a consultant on the capital's policing, transport and other municipal issues. Livingstone was appointed by Hugo Chávez to advise officials and mayoral candidates in Caracas, in order to help transform the city, which journalist Rory Carroll described as suffering from, "Gridlocked traffic, a crumbling centre, hillside slums, horrific murder rates, corrupt police and inept local government". Livingstone reckoned that in twenty years a "first-world city" can be made out of Caracas, stating, "I have a very extensive network of contacts both domestically and internationally which I will be calling on to assist in this." No decision on a salary was announced, although he mentioned that, "The whole cost of this trip has been paid for by the government of Venezuela and as an unemployed citizen I would not be able to pay for my own fare otherwise." The appointment follows on from the controversy surrounding the deal brokered by Livingstone in February 2007 for the Greater London Authority and Transport for London to provide advice to Venezuela in exchange for cheap fuel to help with bus subsidies. The deal was later overturned by new mayor Boris Johnson, and Livingstone offered his services to Chávez so that Venezuela gets the "advice that we promised". Livingstone played down any accusations that his close relationship with the Venezuelan President was controversial, "unless you believe American propaganda", while a spokesperson for Johnson said, "Ken Livingstone is free, as a private individual, to offer his advice and services to whomever he wants."
From September 2009 to early 2011, when he chose not to continue, Livingstone was a presenter on the Iranian state-sponsored international news channel Press TV of a book review programme Epilogue; the last of Livingstone's seven pre-recorded episodes was broadcast in March 2011. He came under criticism for his association with the network.
On 17 March 2010, Livingstone appeared on a platform with Cambridge's Green Party Parliamentary candidate, Tony Juniper, and prominent environmental campaigner and former Green Party co-Principal Speaker Jonathon Porritt, at the Emmanuel United Reformed Church in Cambridge. He has courted controversy for this appearance with the Cambridge Labour Party for his apparent support of Tony Juniper, who was dubbed as a possibility to steal the Cambridge seat at the 2010 General Election. Livingstone said that he would be 'delighted' to see Juniper elected, though stopped short of announcing his endorsement of him.
In July 2010, he was a speaker at the Durham Miners' Gala. In his speech he praised the culture of the working class retained in the Gala, and suggested it should have been brought to London during his time as Mayor. He also used the speech to attack spending cuts by the new coalition government, claiming they were not necessary.
In April 2011, Livingstone announced than his second memoir would be published the following year by Faber & Faber, who were rumoured to have paid him around £90,000 for it.
2012 mayoral contest:
In August 2011, Livingstone caused some controversy when he jokingly claimed that the coming mayoral election was "a simple choice between good and evil. I don't think it has been so clear since the great struggle between Churchill and Hitler", before going on to joke that "Those who don't vote for me will be weighed in the balance come Judgment Day. The Archangel Gabriel will say, 'You didn't vote for Ken Livingstone in 2012. Oh dear, burn for ever.'" Conservative MPs and right wing media outlets immediately condemned the comments, branding them "crass" and in "incredibly poor taste".
In September 2010, Livingstone criticised the public spending cuts announced by the recently elected Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government, which he stated amounted to £45 billion a year for London alone, and were "beyond Margaret Thatcher's wildest dreams" as well as threatening to result in widespread division and poverty across the capital.
During the 2012 campaign, Ken Livingstone wept during a campaign broadcast which began with him stating, "We've all seen party political broadcasts before but this one's a bit different. It's a political broadcast on behalf of ordinary Londoners." In the broadcast, ordinary Londoners appeared to be urging him to win the mayoral election. There were reports in the media that the people featuring in the broadcast were not a cross-section of London voters but were hired actors and hand-picked Labour activists. Livingstone's aides said the allegation was untrue, although acknowledging that the participants were recruited by an advertising agency, were speaking scripted lines and were paid expenses. A statement from the Livingstone campaign read: "Everyone who appears in Labour's party political broadcast is an ordinary Londoner backing Ken on 3 May. No actors were used in the broadcast." It was claimed that Ken Livingstone had already seen the broadcast before it was publicly aired and the spontaneity of his emotions were called into question. Some of his political opponents suggested that his tearful display was "a stunt". A spokesman for Livingstone confirmed that he had seen the video before his emotional viewing at the campaign launch.
On 4 May 2012 Livingstone was defeated in the London 2012 Mayoral Elections by the incumbent Mayor, Boris Johnson. There was only a difference of 62538 votes between the 2 candidates with Livingstone receiving 992,273 votes and Johnson receiving 1,054,811 votes. Livingstone criticised bias in the media and declared that he would be bowing out of politics.
One of Livingstone's challenges as Mayor of London was dealing with the city's aging transportation infrastructure. Despite conflict over appropriate funding schemes and engineering challenges to modernising both the London Underground and the city's bus system, an Association of London Government survey, conducted by MORI towards the end of Livingstone's first term in 2004, suggested growing public satisfaction with public transport, with buses in particular being seen as more frequent and reliable.
In accordance with his pre-election pledge, bus fares were frozen for four years, but then the cash fares on buses more than doubled while Oyster (see below) fares stayed the same. The purpose of this was to increase uptake of the Oyster card. Passengers not paying in cash greatly increased the speed and reliability of bus services. Livingstone also removed the famous Routemaster 1950s buses from routine service on 9 December 2005, claiming it was because the new buses were wheelchair-accessible, although several of the old buses are used on shortened "heritage routes". There was some question over the legality of using the old Routemaster under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 as the Routemasters were inaccessible for wheelchair users. They were also impractical for the elderly and parents with prams due to the amount of steps compared to modern low-floor buses. The amount of deaths and serious injuries resulting in people falling down the stairs, falling off, or failing to get on, these open platform buses reduced to zero. In tandem with the removal of Routemaster buses, Livingstone oversaw the introduction of articulated buses in London, which were swiftly nicknamed "bendy buses". They initially caused concerns after a series of fires, and were the subject of debate during the following Mayoral election campaign over claims of potential danger to cyclists. The new buses were nicknamed "free buses" due to the high rate of fare evasion, and Transport for London estimated that their abolition would save £7.4 million in unpaid fares.
Livingstone introduced and has been a strong proponent of the Oyster card smartcard ticketing system for London's public transport network introduced in 2003. In late 2005, Livingstone proposed large fare increases for on-the-spot tickets across the Tube and bus network to encourage regular travellers to use the automated Oyster system, to reduce queuing at Underground stations and to avoid delays in conductorless buses as drivers issue tickets. The plans, although ratified by the GLA and introduced in January 2006 were condemned by those who argued that the increases would increase the cost of travelling in London to tourists and others who do not travel regularly. Civil liberties groups have expressed concern over the way in which Transport for London is able to track the movements of passengers using the Oyster card system. Livingstone moved to make all bus journeys free for passengers under the age of 18 enrolled in full-time education who travel with an Oyster card and introduced initiatives to enable visitors to buy an Oyster card before arriving in London.
One of the key points of conflict between Livingstone and the Labour Party had been the proposed Public-Private Partnership (PPP) deal for the London Underground. Livingstone had run in 2000 on a policy of financing the improvements to Tube infrastructure by a public bond issue, which had been done in the case of the New York City Subway. However the Mayor did not have power in this area at the time as the Underground operated independently of Transport for London. The PPP deal went ahead against his wishes in July 2002, but it did not diminish Livingstone's desire to re-join Labour. Metronet, one of the winners of the contract for PPP, subsequently went into administration in July 2007. It was subsequently bailed out by the UK Government at a cost of £2 billion.
Main article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_congestion_charge
Livingstone introduced the London congestion charge with the purpose of reducing traffic congestion in central London. Since being introduced the charge has been controversial, though Transport for London states that traffic has fallen by 20% within the charge zone since the scheme began. One reason for the controversy is that whilst the scheme has been lucrative for its private-sector operator, Capita, some critics argue it has failed to raise the promised levels of funding for public transport as costs eat up the revenue.
However, its apparent success in reducing congestion has led to similar schemes being proposed in other major cities such as New York.
In November 2003, Livingstone was named 'Politician of the Year' by the Political Studies Association, which cited his implementation of what the association called a 'bold and imaginative' congestion charge scheme.
Livingstone and his team won the right for London to host the 2012 Summer Olympics, lobbying the then Government of the United Kingdom to enter the bid. He described his primary motivation in a speech at St Martin-in-the-Fields church as being to extract government funds to develop the east end of London, neglected for over thirty years.
Ken Livingstone has been called "an environmentalist, a leftist, a lover of newts," and has made a significant effort to reduce London's impact on the environment. He began by creating the London Hydrogen Partnership and the London Energy Partnership in his first term as Mayor of London. The Mayor's Energy Strategy, "green light to clean power," commits London to reducing its emissions of carbon dioxide by 20%, relative to the 1990 level, by 2010. However, he does support the Thames Gateway Bridge in East London that Friends of the Earth say "would bring few benefits to the local people and lead to more traffic, more noise and air pollution and an increase in climate-changing emissions". In October 2007, London Councils stated Livingstone had gone back on his promise to chair the developing London Waste and Recycling Board, and to provide £6 million of funding for the project, because "the government had failed to provide him with absolute control of the Board."
In June 2007, Livingstone criticised the planned £200 million Thames Water Desalination Plant at Beckton, which will be the United Kingdom's first, calling it "misguided and a retrograde step in UK environmental policy", and that "we should be encouraging people to use less water, not more."
Reaction to 7 July 2005 London bombings:
Wikisource has original text related to this article:
London Mayor's Statement of 7 July 2005
At the beginning of July 2005 Livingstone was in Singapore, shepherding London's bid for the 2012 Olympic Games through the decision-making of the 117th IOC Session. On 7 July London was bombed in four co-ordinated attacks, and Livingstone responded with an address that ended:
Finally, I wish to speak directly to those who came to London today to take life. I know that you personally do not fear giving up your own life in order to take others - that is why you are so dangerous. But I know you fear that you may fail in your long-term objective to destroy our free society and I can show you why you will fail. In the days that follow, look at our airports, look at our sea ports and look at our railway stations and, even after your cowardly attack, you will see that people from the rest of Britain, people from around the world will arrive in London to become Londoners and to fulfil their dreams and achieve their potential. They choose to come to London, as so many have come before because they come to be free, they come to live the life they choose, they come to be able to be themselves. They flee you because you tell them how they should live. They do not want that and nothing you do, however many of us you kill, will stop that flight to our city where freedom is strong and where people can live in harmony with one another. Whatever you do, however many you kill, you will fail.
Livingstone defended the police after the mistaken killing of a Brazilian man, Jean Charles de Menezes, who police believed was a suicide bomber.
In 2001 Livingstone revived the free anti-racism Music festival now called Rise: London United. He believes that this, along with other anti-racist policies, is why London has seen a 35% decrease in racist attacks.
In September 2005 Livingstone came out in support of placing a statue of Nelson Mandela, the former President of South Africa, on the north terrace of Trafalgar Square. Livingstone said "There can be no better place than our greatest square to place a statue of Nelson Mandela so that every generation can remind the next of the fight against racism." He was highly critical of the Planning and City Development Committee of Westminster City Council who refused planning permission.
In 2008 Livingstone's race advisor Lee Jasper resigned after allegations of misuse of public funds. Jasper was later cleared of the charges, but was heavily criticised in a report by the district auditor. Simon Woolley of Operation Black Vote has said the 2008 Mayoral campaign has seen the media pursue a "wholly disproportionate" focus on Jasper, Doreen Lawrence (Livingstone supporter and mother of Stephen Lawrence), and others.
Apology for London's role in the transatlantic slave trade:
On 23 August 2007, at 12 noon, Mayor Ken Livingstone formally apologised for London's role in the transatlantic slave trade. In a bicentennial day memorial event, he also called for the 23 August to be named as a national day for remembrance in the UK for the "horrific crime against humanity of the transatlantic slave trade." He went on to make the following tearful speech and formal apology:
"It is because it is the anniversary of the biggest slave revolt in history, that UNESCO officially marks this day, the 23 August, the anniversary of that outbreak in Haiti, as slavery's official remembrance day. This is why we, in London, call for it to be the annual slave memorial day. We are therefore here to initiate London's annual slavery memorial day, and call for the establishment of a national, annual memorial day. In 1999, Liverpool became the first major British slaving city to formally apologise. The Church of England soon followed suit. In March I invited representatives of London's institutions to join the City of Liverpool and the Church of England for formally apologising for London's role in this monstrous crime. As Mayor, I offer an apology on behalf of London and its institutions for their role in the transatlantic slave trade."
Rejecting the idea that it is not possible to "meaningfully apologise for something a former generation did," Livingstone emphasised that London and by implication the rest of the developed world still profited enormously from the assets accumulated in the slave era, adding "It was the racial murder of not just those who were transported but generations of enslaved African men, women and children. To justify this murder and torture black people had to be declared inferior or not human. We live with the consequences today."
Religious and other festivals:
Livingstone hosted a Jewish Hanukkah ceremony at City Hall in December 2005. He said he intended this to be an annual occurrence. On 17 March 2002 Livingstone introduced an annual Saint Patrick's Day festival to London to celebrate the contributions of the Irish to London, with around 250,000 people annually turning out for this. On 28 October 2006 he helped organise the first ever "Eid in the Square" in Trafalgar Square, in commemoration of the Eid ul-Fitr festival which marks the end of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting.
Same-sex civil partnerships:
In 2001, Livingstone set up Britain's first register for same-sex couples; while falling short of legal marriage rights, the register was seen as a "step towards" such rights. Legal status was later passed by the government through the Civil Partnership Act 2004.
Cronyism and corruption allegations:
In December 2007, the Evening Standard published news of an investigation into grants worth £2.5 million paid to organisations in which Ken Livingstone's adviser Lee Jasper was involved. An independent report into the affair by District auditor Michael Haworth-Maden in July 2009 found no evidence of "misappropriation of funds" but noted "significant" gaps in financial paperwork. The auditor reproached Jasper for his failure to declare interests to the "standards expected" and called for administrative improvements at the Greater London Authority.
2004 tube drivers' strike:
Shortly after his re-election in 2004, Livingstone urged tube drivers of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) to cross picket lines rather than join a strike over pay and conditions following a dispute with the new management. This call led the general secretary of the RMT, Bob Crow, to resign in protest from the board of Transport for London. Amongst those who criticised Livingstone for this was the Respect candidate for Mayor, Lindsey German.
Remarks about foreign policy:
In 2004 during that year's London mayoral election, Livingstone was quoted on The Guardian's website as saying: "I just long for the day I wake up and find that the Saudi Royal Family are swinging from lamp-posts and they've got a proper government that represents the people of Saudi Arabia." He was criticised for his comments. Simon Hughes, the Liberal Democrats mayoral candidate, said the remarks were "deeply unhelpful, offensive and inappropriate".
In a March 2005 commentary in The Guardian he accused Israel's prime minister Ariel Sharon of being a "war criminal", citing his alleged personal responsibility for the Sabra and Shatila massacre in 1982 and accusations of ethnic cleansing.
On 20 July 2005, Livingstone made the following comments in a BBC interview about the role of foreign policy as a motivation for the London bombings of two weeks earlier:
"I think you've just had 80 years of western intervention into predominantly Arab lands because of the western need for oil. We've propped up unsavoury governments, we've overthrown ones we didn't consider sympathetic. And I think the particular problem we have at the moment is that in the 1980s ... the Americans recruited and trained Osama Bin Laden, taught him how to kill, to make bombs, and set him off to kill the Russians and drive them out of Afghanistan. They didn't give any thought to the fact that once he'd done that he might turn on his creators. A lot of young people see the double standards, they see what happens in Guantanamo Bay, and they just think that there isn't a just foreign policy."
Later in the interview he stated, about the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza Strip:
"Under foreign occupation and denied the right to vote, denied the right to run your own affairs, often denied the right to work for three generations, I suspect that if it had happened here in England, we would have produced a lot of suicide bombers ourselves."
Right-wing commentator Mark Steyn described the interview as Livingstone "artfully" attempting "to draw a distinction between Muslim terrorists blowing up his own public transit (which he didn't approve of) and Muslim terrorists blowing up Israeli public transit (which he was inclined to be sympathetic to)."
In November 2003, Livingstone made headlines for referring to US President George W. Bush as 'the greatest threat to life on this planet,' just before Bush's official visit to the UK. Livingstone also organised an alternative 'Peace Reception' at City Hall 'for everybody who is not George Bush,' with anti-war Vietnam veteran Ron Kovic as the guest of honour. In 2004 he referred to Bush as "the most corrupt American president since Harding in the Twenties". In July 2007 Livingstone stated that Prime Minister Gordon Brown needed to explain to Bush "that US governments need to return to a realistic view of the world. The US is the world's single most powerful country, but much weaker than the rest of the world put together. The attempt by one country to unilaterally impose itself on the rest of the world is not only undesirable but simply won't work."
At a 2 January 2009 London press conference featuring celebrities announcing opposition to Israel's launch of the Gaza War, Livingstone called for the European Union and the UK to bring home their ambassadors to Israel to express disapproval for the "slaughter and systematic murder of innocent Arabs".
Livingstone said he was "appalled" that Osama bin Laden had been shot dead by US Special forces "in his pyjamas" and "in front of his kid," and that the values of a western democracy would have been best demonstrated if Bin Laden had been put on trial and his words challenged.
Venezuelan oil deal:
In February 2007, Ken Livingstone signed a deal with Venezuela to provide cheaper oil for London buses. In return, the Greater London Authority was to advise Venezuela on recycling, waste management, traffic and reducing carbon emissions. This deal came under criticism from the London Assembly Conservatives including Richard Barnes, who stated that the "money would be better directed at the poor of Venezuela". Prices were reduced by 20%; following this, half-price bus travel became available to Londoners on income support. Livingstone stated the plan "rises on the suggestion of President Hugo Chávez and builds on the work his government is doing around the world in tackling the problems of poverty," and also said, "This will make it cheaper and easier for people to go about their lives and get the most out of London. The agreement... will also benefit the people of Venezuela, by providing expertise in areas of city management in which London is a world leader." The deal was discontinued in September 2008 by incoming mayor Boris Johnson.
Dispute with embassies over payment of congestion charge:
A dispute with the US Embassy in London over payment of the London Congestion Charge escalated on 27 March 2006 when Livingstone criticised the Embassy's decision not to pay. The Embassy argued that the charge is a form of taxation, not a charge for a service, and diplomats and their staff are therefore exempt under the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. Embassy officials have never paid the charge, which was instituted in 2003. Livingstone, however, alleged that the decision was made by Robert Tuttle, who took up the post of Ambassador in July 2005. Livingstone described Tuttle as "one of George Bush's closest cronies and a big funder of his election campaign" and said he was trying to "skive out of paying like some chiselling little crook".
Germany stopped paying the charge in 2005, Japan followed in 2006, and in 2007 France, Russia, Belgium, and 50 other missions followed suit when the zone extended to their missions' locations (Iran, Sweden and Syria continue to pay the charge). Asked about Japan's refusal to pay in a March 2007 interview on LBC Radio, Livingstone responded, "I think there are several problems with Japan that we could go on about here. Admitting their guilt for all the war crimes would be one thing. So if they've not got round to doing that, I doubt they're too worried about the congestion charge." London's Japanese embassy responded that their government had already apologised for previous war crimes.
Meeting with Islamic Cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi:
Livingstone became involved in a major dispute with Peter Tatchell, who had previously supported him, when he invited the Islamic scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi to a conference on the wearing of the hijab by female students in July 2004. The conference was called following the French law on secularity and conspicuous religious symbols in schools, which particularly affected Muslim girls. Peter Tatchell, who had stood as an independent Livingstone supporter in the 2000 elections, strongly criticised the invitation because of al-Qaradawi's support for "female genital mutilation, wife-beating, the execution of homosexuals in Islamic states, the destruction of the Jewish people, the use of suicide bombs against innocent civilians and the blaming of rape victims who do not dress with sufficient modesty". Livingstone defended the invitation on grounds of Qaradawi's eminence as "one of the most authoritative Muslim scholars in the world today" who "has done most to combat socially regressive interpretations of Islam on issues like women's rights and relations with other religions". He also published a dossier giving a rebuttal to Tatchell.
According to Le Monde diplomatique, Livingstone had requested a report to inform himself on al-Qaradawi before his visit. After reading the study, he concluded "nearly all of the lies distorting al-Qaradawi's statements came from the MEMRI institute, which pretends to be an institute of objective research. However, we found out that the MEMRI had been founded by a former Mossad officer, who systematically distorts not only al-Qaradawi's statements, but what many other Muslim scholars say. In most of the cases, disinformation is total, and this is why I published this study."
Peter Tatchell formed part of a coalition of some London-based community groups which objected to al-Qaradawi, but whom Livingstone refused to meet. The Lesbian and Gay Coalition against Racism issued a statement of support for Livingstone signed, among others, by Ben Summerskill of Stonewall and Linda Bellos, which cited his record of support for gay rights "irrespective of the differing views over his meeting with the Muslim scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi". The row went on for many months, with Livingstone insistent that the mayor of a major diverse city had a duty to maintain close relationships with all faith groups even if he disagreed with some of their views.
In an interview in March 2008, Livingstone stated that he didn't know much about Al-Qaradawi before he came to London and distrusted media reports about him; he also said that he "probably shouldn't" have called Tatchell an Islamophobe. Livingstone and Tatchell have since reconciled, and Tatchell defended Livingstone against accusations of homophobia in February 2012 after he had commented that the Tory Party was "riddled" with homosexuals.
Connection to Socialist Action:
Running as an independent candidate for Mayor in 2000, Livingstone was supported by the Trotskyist group Socialist Action. His decision to appoint members of Socialist Action to his administration during his first term drew criticism in the media. In a January 2008 article that was subsequently spun as revealing a "secret Marxist cell" at the GLA, Atma Singh, a former member of Socialist Action who had been Policy Advisor on Asian Affairs to Ken Livingstone from 2001 to 2007, detailed some of the history and activities of Socialist Action, accusing members of planning a "bourgeois democratic revolution", trying accumulate power and manipulating the Mayor. A subsequent episode of the Channel 4 documentary series Dispatches, "The Court of Ken", presented by journalist Martin Bright, featured Singh and others making these same allegations. The advisers named, including chief of staff Simon Fletcher, deputy chief of staff and director of public affairs and transport Redmond O'Neill, economic adviser John Ross, green adviser Mark Watts and culture adviser Jude Woodward, have refused to state whether or not they are still active as Socialist Action, and a spokesman for Livingstone responded to the charges by referring to Singh's removal from his job for "failure to discharge his duties" and calling Singh "an embittered ex-employee".
Allegations of antisemitism:
Oliver Finegold controversy:
Ken Livingstone was criticised in February 2005 for remarks made to an Evening Standard reporter, comparing him to a Nazi concentration camp guard, after the reporter had tried to interview him following a reception marking the 20th anniversary of Chris Smith's coming out as gay. The reporter, Oliver Finegold, was Jewish and said he took offence at the remarks, but Livingstone refused to withdraw the remark and was subsequently accused of antisemitism. Finegold had an audio recorder running.The Evening Standard decided not to run the story at first but the following transcript of the conversation was published by guardian.co.uk:
Finegold: Mr Livingstone, Evening Standard. How did tonight go?
Livingstone: How awful for you. Have you thought of having treatment?
Finegold: How did tonight go?
Livingstone: Have you thought of having treatment?
Finegold: Was it a good party? What does it mean for you?
Livingstone: What did you do before? Were you a German war criminal?
Finegold: No, I'm Jewish, I wasn't a German war criminal and I'm actually quite offended by that. So, how did tonight go?
Livingstone: Ah right, well you might be Jewish, but actually you are just like a concentration camp guard, you are just doing it because you are paid to, aren't you?
Finegold: Great, I have you on record for that. So, how was tonight?
Livingstone: It's nothing to do with you because your paper is a load of scumbags and reactionary bigots.
Finegold: I'm a journalist and I'm doing my job. I'm only asking for a comment.
Livingstone: Well, work for a paper that doesn't have a record of supporting fascism.
The epithet "German war criminal" and Livingstone's subsequent jibes refer to the Standard's then owners, the Daily Mail and General Trust, which endorsed Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists in 1934. Livingstone also claimed the Standard was guilty of "harassment of a predominantly lesbian and gay event".
After listening to the recording supplied by Finegold, the London Assembly voted unanimously to ask Livingstone to apologise. Livingstone responded by saying "the form of words I have used are right. I have nothing to apologise for." Deputy Mayor Nicky Gavron, herself the daughter of a Holocaust survivor, said of Livingstone: "These were inappropriate words and very offensive, both to the individual and to Jews in London." Some two dozen complaints were referred to the Standards Board for England, the body responsible for English local government standards, which passed it to the Adjudication Panel for England, which has the power to ban individuals from public office for five years.
The Adjudication Panel addressed the case over two days on 13-14 December 2005 and adjourned the hearing for two months. On 24 February 2006, Ken Livingstone was found guilty of bringing his office into disrepute and suspended from office for four weeks, stating that he seemed "to have failed... to have appreciated that his conduct was unacceptable". Livingstone attacked the decision on the grounds that the Adjudication Panel members ought not to suspend a democratically elected official from power, describing their actions as "striking at the heart of democracy". The ban was due to begin on 1 March 2006, but on 28 February, a High Court judge postponed it pending an appeal by Livingstone.
Subsequently the High Court ruled that Livingstone did not bring the office of London mayor into disrepute, the four-week suspension was quashed and the board was ordered to pay Livingstone's estimated £250,000 legal costs. The judge, Mr Justice Andrew Collins, agreed that likening Finegold to a 'German war criminal' was offensive and the comment 'just like a concentration camp guard was 'indefensible', however he added Mr Livingstone had a right to free speech, which 'does extend to abuse'.
Remarks regarding the Reuben brothers:
Livingstone was criticised following a 21 March 2006 press conference at which Livingstone is alleged to have said of David and Simon Reuben -- two Indian-born Jewish businessmen involved in a property development project for the 2012 Olympics -- that "if they're not happy they can always go back to Iran and see if they can do better under the Ayatollahs". The Reuben brothers were born in Mumbai, India and are of Iraqi-Jewish ancestry, rather than Iranian, but have carried out work in Iran. Brian Coleman and other Conservative members of the GLA accused Livingstone of anti-Semitism, while The Guardian and The Times ran leaders accusing Livingstone of anti-immigrant remarks. The Guardian wrote that Livingstone's remarks would "shame a loudmouth pub buffoon", and that "The Reuben brothers have as much right to be in Britain as Livingstone himself", while the Times leader said simply "Ken Livingstone is a fool". Livingstone refused calls for him to apologise for his remarks, stating "I would offer a complete apology to the people of Iran to the suggestion that they may be linked in any way to the Reuben brothers. I wasn't meaning to be offensive to the people of Iran." He also accused Coleman of behaving like the Nazi Propaganda Minister, Josef Goebbels. The Standards Board referred the comments to the GLA's monitoring officer, whose investigation exonerated the mayor.
On 5 October 2006 at the High Court of Justice, Mr Justice Collins overturned the decision to suspend Livingstone, regardless of the outcome of his appeal concerning the breach of standards. The final judgement upheld Livingstone's appeal and stated that the Adjudication Panel had misdirected itself, although the judge stated that the Mayor should have apologised.
'Rich Jews' controversy:
In March 2012, Ken Livingstone made controversial comments during a meeting with prominent Jewish Labour supporters, who then wrote a critical letter to Ed Miliband, dismayed at the remarks. The letter stated that, "Ken toward the end of the meeting stated that he did not expect the Jewish community to vote Labour as votes for the left are inversely proportional to wealth levels, and suggested that as the Jewish community is rich we simply wouldn't vote for him." The letter also mentioned that Livingstone used the words Zionist, Jewish and Israeli interchangeably and did so "in a pejorative manner" that was classically anti-Semitic. Livingstone originally denied he had made the comments and accused critics of "electioneering". However he later agreed to apologise after a meeting with Labour Leader Ed Miliband and the Jewish Leadership Council. A subsequent article by Livingstone in The Jewish Chronicle acknowledged that, "the way the conversation unfolded meant this interpretation was placed on it" and that he regretted his inadequate responses during the meeting.
"Ken never had a very clear political philosophy. Ken never read philosophical books from a political point of view. He had a gut feeling; he was always opposed to exploitation and inequalities in a big way. He had a social conscience and wanted to do something about it. But he saw it within the existing parliamentary and political system. He didn't consider taking up arms against anybody as a way forward or dramatically changing the electoral system. He thought you could persuade and change the Labour Party."
Ted Knight on Livingstone.
Within the Labour Party, Livingstone was aligned with the hard left. Historian Alwyn W. Turner noted that Livingstone's entire approach to politics revolved not simply around providing public services, but in trying to change society itself; in his words, he wanted to get away from the concept of "old white men coming along to general management committees and talking about rubbish collection." Biographer John Carvel, a journalist from The Guardian, remarked that Livingstone's political motivation was a "fundamental desire... for a more participative, cooperative society", leading him to oppose "concentrations of power and... exploitation in all its forms - economic, racial and sexual."
Livingstone describes himself as a socialist. In 2007, he stated that "I still believe one day that the idea that the main means of production are owned by private individuals... will be considered as anti-democratic as the idea serfs could be tied to the land. But I will not be alive when that day comes." Livingstone had always worked towards a unified socialist front on the British left, and disliked the tendency towards splintering and forming rival factions, usually over issues of political theory, among the socialist community. Although rejecting Marxism, throughout his political career he has worked alongside Marxist far left groups and has become involved with the "politics of the street". He has however not worked with those Marxist groups, such as the Socialist Workers Party and the Revolutionary Communist Party, who advocate the destruction of the Labour Party as the way forward for socialism, seeing their beliefs as incompatible with his own.
Livingstone has consistently rejected being defined under any particular ideological current of socialism. Recognising this, in 2000, the former Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock asserted that Livingstone could only be defined as a "Kennist". Livingstone's understanding of politics arises from his studies of animal behaviour and anthropology; rejecting the idea that the human species is naturally progressing (a view advocated by socialists like the Fabian Society), Livingstone instead took the view that human society is still coming to terms with the massive socio-economic changes that it experienced upon the development of agriculture during the Neolithic. Highlighting that a hunter-gatherer mode of subsistence is more natural to the human species, he believes that modern society has to adopt many hunter-gatherer values - namely mutual co-operation and emphasis on human relationships rather than consumerism - in order to survive.
Historian Alwyn W. Turner noted that Livingstone was a "gifted communicator and self-publicist" who was able to stump his opponents using his "mischievous sense of humour". Biographer John Carvel echoed these comments, highlighting that Livingstone had a "talent for public speaking". Biographer Andrew Hosken noted that many of those who had worked with Livingstone had commented on him being an excellent boss, who was "a good delegator, decisive and supportive" as well as being "a friendly and modest colleague."
Although raised into a nominally Christian family, Livingstone renounced religious belief when he was eleven, becoming an atheist. In a 2005 interview he commented that in doing so he had rejected "mumbo-jumbo in favour of rational science." The British Humanist Association identifies him as one of its distinguished supporters. He is known for his enthusiasm for gardening and keeping and breeding newts. He was the first person to breed the Western Dwarf Clawed Frog Hymenochirus curtipes in captivity. Livingstone is a big fan of The Godfather film franchise, stating that the actions of the criminal organisations within the movies are very much akin to the world of politics.
Livingstone married Christine Pamela Chapman in 1973; the marriage ended in divorce in 1982. Around that time he became involved with Kate Allen, now director of Amnesty International in the UK; the couple separated in November 2001. Livingstone and Emma Beal, also his office manager, have a son, Thomas, born 14 December 2002 at the University College Hospital, London, and a daughter, Mia, born on 20 March 2004 at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead. He also has three other children whose existence was only revealed during the 2008 mayoral election. Neither the children nor their mothers have been named in the media, although it is said that "all the children meet up for Sunday lunch - while his former lovers take it in turns to cook". The children were born to two different women while Livingstone was involved with Kate Allen, according to an article by Decca Aitkenhead:
In his memoir, he describes how one was an old friend who was keen to have children but feared she was running out of time. "We had never been involved romantically but I knew her well enough to know she would be a wonderful mother and so I said I would like to be the father of her children." A daughter was born in 1990, and another in 1992. Then another friend said she'd like to have children: "And we agreed to have a baby." Their son was born within weeks of his daughter in 1992.
Livingstone and Beal married on 26 September 2009 in the Mappin Pavilion of London Zoo. They live in North London.
References in popular culture:
In 1990, Livingstone was the first Member of Parliament to appear on the topical panel show Have I Got News For You. For a long time, his first six appearances would stand as the show's record; his current tally is twelve - the most recent being in April 2013 - which is the fourth highest made by anyone on the show. Livingstone also appeared on Lee Mack's team on the panel show Would I Lie To You?.
In 1995, Livingstone appeared on the track "Ernold Same" by the band Blur, taken from the album The Great Escape. Livingstone provided spoken word vocals and was listed as 'The Right On Ken Livingstone.' He appeared at the 2000 Meltdown festival curated by Scott Walker providing vocals during Blur's performance of "Ernold Same".
Livingstone appeared in one of a series of advertisements extolling the virtues of cheese in the 1980s, appropriately endorsing red Leicester. On the other side of politics, Edward Heath advertised Danish Blue. Their respective choices were a result of their parties' official colours - red for the Labour Party, and blue for the Conservative Party.
Ken Livingstone is also the subject of a Kate Bush song called "Ken", b-side to single "Love and Anger" which was written for the episode of The Comic Strip entitled "GLC: The Carnage Continues...".
Text from this biography licensed under creative commons license