Thursday, March 19, 2009

When Iain Met Ken


My full interview with Ken Livingstone is now online HERE. Here are a few more tasters...

You never seriously believed Boris was a racist, did you?

I had never met Boris. Where would I know Boris? All I had ever seen was Boris being a buffoon on Have I Got News For You. All I can do is believe that the stuff he spent 15 years writing, he might actually believe. Who else in politics has ever used the word 'piccaninnie'? Or 'water melon smiles'? You might know he's a lovely engaging chap because you might have met him. I had never met him. We have still only ever exchanged a few words in passing. I know he was genuinely hurt that people thought he was a racist. He's not a racist in the sense that anyone would make that point, but he shouldn't have written that crap. He can't help himself. I have to be careful about revealing sources, but the thing about Boris is that everyone around him gossips about him all the time. Apparently when he meets foreign mayors with distinctive language patterns, he mimics them almost as soon as they are out of the bloody door! He doesn't mean it in any unpleasant way, but it is very easy for people
to misinterpret that.

Aren't we in the age of pragmatism now, not the age of ideology?

No, you have got to have an ideology to have a framework to construct a strategy about where you're going. People in the centre are, by definition, devoid of ideology. They make what appear to be rational decisions at the time, but are usually too late, and stumble from crisis to crisis. Tell me a centrist leader who has been successful.

You sound like Margaret Thatcher.

I completely disagreed with so much of what she wanted to do but I did respect her because she believed in something and drove towards it. You look at poor old Neil Kinnock, always trying to accommodate the right and keep the left happy. Also, another weakness is that Boris is not a workaholic and you have to be as Mayor. Private Eye does a spoof about me blaming Boris for everything, but I do actually. My office was always pro-active. Boris's failure to act when we had all the snow was symptomatic.

That wasn't Boris's fault. That was Peter Hendy and Transport for London. Hendy was the operational guy in charge. He's the roadblock to reform. If you want to get from a Livingstone transport agenda to a Boris one you have to get rid of Hendy.

A bureaucracy isn't pro-active. The political leader has to call people in, hold immediate meetings, give clear instructions and expect them to be carried out. Hendy says it's nicer working under Boris. Of course it is. I told the bugger what to do, but Boris doesn't. The Tory Party's problem is that Boris is learning from making the same sort of mistakes I made on Lambeth Council at the age of 26. It's like Tony Blair. Blair hadn't run anything before he became Prime Minister. This is very late in the day to work out how you start handling civil servants.

Do you think you mishandled the Lee Jasper issue?

If I had known he had written some salacious emails at the beginning I would have handled it differently. We'd had two investigations by the director of finance at the GLA, two by the LDA auditors, the Assembly went over everything. We have had ten months of police investigation. One or two organisations may have been set up to steal from us but that's a problem everyone in the public sector has got. What there isn't is anything that links Lee Jasper to any criminality. That justified a couple of stories. It did not justify 25 front page leads and 35 double page spreads. They finally got Lee Jasper for something that was contrary to our code of conduct. If you access the emails of everyone on the BBC or any newspaper you'd fi nd something similar.

Why do you keep going back to City Hall? You even attend Mayor's Questions at the Assembly. It makes you look sad.

I was uniquely lucky in that I got to set something up from scratch. Watching Boris come to terms with what I created is absolutely fascinating. I do intend to seek the Labour nomination again and if I am selected, I want to know more about Boris's administration than he does.

People think it's demeaning.

But they're the ones who aren't going to vote for me. In the debates next time I want to be able to hit back at Boris when he's wrong. Because I am there I can say with authority that the Tory group on the GLA are disappointed he is not more right wing. You can see it in their body language. It's a bit like all those Labour lefties who have waited years for a Labour government and then they get Blair! Boris was going to keep the western extension [of London's congestion charge] until they went and sat on him. If he had had more experience he might take more risks and do his own thing.

Have you never been tempted to go back to the House of Commons? You'd stand quite a good chance of succeeding Gordon Brown after a Labour defeat!

That's most probably why they wouldn't let me get a nomination! If I thought I could get to be Prime Minister I would do it, but I don't think so. I would be 70 in 2015. You'd all be saying that this man's too old to be Prime Minister.

You're probably right...

[laughs loudly] Getting back into Parliament? I don't know. Don't you think I am perfectly made for London politics but not for the rest of the country?

I might have said that a few years ago, but not now. But the way you're talking about it, it's almost as if you haven't considered it before and I have just put the thought into your head.

When I left Parliament, people like Diane Abbott said 'no, you must stay and go for the leadership when there's a vacancy'. I thought, no, that could be forever. I have a big, demanding job to do. At the next mayoral election I may still look 45, but at the following general election I may look like a pensioner. And I love the London job. The Labour Party tolerates me because I only get to play with London. If they thought I might get my hands on the whole country I think they would be very serious about stopping me. It's just as well Barack Obama is there now. If I looked like becoming Prime Minister while Bush was in the White House then I am sure I would have had an accident. I believe in a neutralist Britain. I'm what Bill Cash calls a 'Federast'. I believe in the euro, a united Europe. That plays OK in London, but not the rest of the country. I am not in favour of any parental choice in education. You will go to your local school.

That's a pretty bald statement. You've got young kids...

They go to the local school and they will go to the local secondary school.

Even if it's a terrible school and you know it's a terrible school? Surely a parent's duty is to get the best education possible for their kids?

Tom's in his first year at school. In his class there are only three kids who were born in this country, and one of them is called Mohammed. He's doing fi ne because he has parents who read to him and he lives in a house full of books. A school can screw up kids if it's got a bad head who has lost interest and loses control. The home environment is far more likely to screw up kids. The illusion of educational choice has been a disaster for most kids and most parents. So you see, all things considered, I might have some trouble getting elected outside London!

You went out on a limb to support Sir Ian Blair, when you used to have a reputation for being rather anti-Police.

You judge a person by the quality of their enemies, and when you have got the Telegraph and the Mail leading the campaign to get rid of Ian Blair you know he must be doing something right. What they wanted was a good old racist copper.

Oh for goodness sake. You can't seriously think they would like to have a racist head of the Metropolitan Police. Get real.

I do. I think they are racist. The Mail is a deeply racist paper. Just read Flat Earth News . I was shocked. Dacre comes over as a bullying racist thug in the book.

41 comments:

Ian said...

Good to see Ken is as leftie as ever. Arrogant and obnoxious to the last. Apparently any person who calls for limits or rules on immigration is a racist.

One person in 7 doesn't list English as their first language in this country. If it's racist of me to think that 14% of people is rather too high to not have English as a first language, then so be it.

Desperate Dan said...

He's nearly as mad as Gordon. His lack of self-awareness and and his loony belief that he is the only true and legitimate Mayor is awesome.

Simon Gardner said...

Ken: “I do intend to seek the Labour nomination again and if I am selected, I want to know more about Boris’s administration than he does.”

No shock there. But is it really likely that he will be selected. I don’t think so.

Unless they’re terrified he will run as an independent again?

(And he still owes me a fiver from then.)

Simon Gardner said...

And an afterthought, I know it’s exceedingly early but who might be in the running to fight Boris next time? Nobody springs immediately to mind. Maybe Ken will try and see off anyone who looks like a threat?

The London political landscape then will be a lot more promising for a Labour candidate...

Zeddy said...

While I don't agree with him about the child goes to the school the state chooses to put closest to his home, he's quite right about children growing up in a house full of books and with parents who value reading.

I've always thought that a child's educability (what a terrible word!) is far more determined by its parents' attitude to edcuation and reading than by the quality of schools or the social class into which it's born.

The problem is of course that in our parents' generation there was a strong thread in working class culture which venerated education both as a virtue in its own right and as a path out of the lot one has been dealt in life. There's now a growing, sneering contempt for learning among the current working class generation which is scary. And that's without even mentioning the underclass.

no longer anonymous said...

"Apparently when he meets foreign mayors with distinctive language patterns, he mimics them almost as soon as they are out of the bloody door!"

Who doesn't?

davidc said...

aspirational parents i.e. those who wish their children to do better than they did, will resist any removal of parental choice (for what little good it is)until all schools are up to a uniformly high standard which isn't going to happen all the time the mission statement of government is 'equality of access to mediocrity'.

and yes, ken and zeddy both have it right about children growing up in a house full of books and with parents who value reading.

strapworld said...

He criticises Kinnock, yet he is doing the self same things!

If he thought it would get him elected he would agree that all women should wear the burkha!!

The man is a typical nose in the trough socialist. He cannot survive without that trough and that is why he wants it back!

I liken a mayor to a Chairman of a Company or organisation. They have people in positions to do the job. The chairman is there to direct the organisation, set the priorities and vision. To oil the wheels, to facilitate, to assist when help is required. NOT as Livingstone acted.

If you do not allow people to get on with the job, you will never know how good or bad they are.

Boris has learnt from the snow episode and I bet it will never happen again!

As for livingstone's remark about people talking behind Boris' back!! Of course it never happenned to good old Ken did it!!
That was the politics of the schoolyard.

Your excellent interview, iain, has proven that this man is a sad, damp squid!

Jonathan Cook said...

I agree with some of what Ken is saying regarding:

- The crapness of the civil service

- The need to make sure decisions are implemented quickly

- That you need some form of driving ideology and push in a direction (rather than drift in mediocrity like Blair)


Having said that - I now unfortunately have an image of a 1970's Livingstone being all romantic by a fire in a mountain cabin which I could do without....

trevorsden said...

'Ken' has obviously never heard of sarcasm.

If he is looking for racism he should watch the BBC programme about various ethnic 'princes' looking for lurve.

He is of course supremely thick.

His various black advisers were taking the piss out of him knowing he would never allow anyone to enquire about them - oh no, that would be racist.

BTW - it was of course OK for lefties to call Bush a monkey, a chimp (and draw him like one) - but oh dear me we cannot do that with Obama.

Oldrightie said...

People in the centre are, by definition, devoid of ideology.

I agree with his take on "centre" politics. However the left is not ideological but dogmatic. The right is ideological through the passionate belief in the individual's right to freedom from the state.

gordon-bennett said...

A mild enquiry - why is the phrase "watermelon smiles" racist?

Apart from the fact that livingslime says so.

Alex C said...

A 'pretty bald statement', Iain? That seems a bit mean, even disapproving of him as I do.

Desperate Dan said...

"Why is a watermelon smile racist?"

I've never been able to work that one out either. Can we can say "button nose" or "cauliflower ears"? The trouble is some languages have very limited vocabularies and they're usually spoken by people with no sense of humour and limited imaginations so they struggle to make sense of metaphors.

Doug said...

What a d**k! Where are the men in white coats to put a straight jacket on that guy? Let's pray that he never gets the reigns of power again.

WV: dowsy

Conand said...

Oh God, he's still going on about 'piccaninnies'.
In the article Boris was satirizing what PMs in the late British Empire and early Commonwealth might have thought when visiting Africa. It was part of a piece about Blair's failure to engage with the Commonwealth.
It was anti-racist, internationalist and anti-Blair youd've thought Livingstone supported those sentiments.

Some buses in Bristol didn't run for two days because of the snow. As far as I can tell London buses were interrupted for one morning.

Unsworth said...

A man of towering intellect, blinding integrity and perception, clearly.

I have seldom seen a more vivid example of self-deception and delusion. Livingstone (and hence, the ratepayer) was totally stitched up by almost all of those he chose to recruit. They simply ran rings around him. His hard left coterie had him for breakfast.

He's now reduced to this pathetic figure, hovering ghost-like on the fringes of real political life and living on his memoirs. He's the Arthur Scargill de nos jours. A spent force - a sort of Dennis Skinner-lite, without Skinner's gravitas - doing a spot of 'journalism', waiting for the coup de grace.

He really should have had enough sense to bide his time, identify the real openings and then take decisive action. But then he never could resist a challenge or an opportunity to place himself in the limelight.

Thatsnews said...

Dacre comes over as a bullying racist thug in the book.

That's pretty much how Ken Livingstone comes over. Oh, sorry! Anti-Semitism doesn't count, as far as he is concerned, of course!

Scan said...

Looks a good read Iain.

Livingston started off poorly, climbed a shallow gradient...and then tailed off a bit.

He's a bit like Galloway. Whether you think he's a pr*ck or not, he says what he believes and he's cracking entertainment.

Mike Law said...

Ken really has his head up his arse with relation to state education.

By his reckoning if you are a child who is fortunate enough to have bookish, educated parents then that's okay then.

Brought up on a sink estate by parents (or a parent) who don't do books and who were poorly educated, and you go to a shitty school and - no matter how much potential you have - you're fucked.

What a tosser!

Steve Tierney said...

He's actually a smart guy with some good ideas. He's quite right that the home is the first plaec to look for damage to a kid's education.

It's just a shame he's such a (to use an old-fashioned tag) looney leftie. It devalues everything he says.

Wrinkled Weasel said...

You have to have people like Ken in politics.

I can remember when he hung a large plastic sheet across the then GLC HQ, across from the HOC, with the unemployment figures on it.

That was a great idea and it should be revived.

Ken is an object lesson in Political Correctness taken to its logical conclusion. For that alone he is indispensible.

Chalcedon said...

I read all the online papers when I can. i certainly do not find articles in the Daily Mail racist.

Seems like Ken and a few others in New labour will use the smear of racism/racist at the drop of a hat.

Desperate Dan said...

Ken's more into brainwashing than education. Ideas other than his own won't getting much of an airing round the kitchen table.

Lexander said...

Very interesting interview. Thanks.

Martin said...

What a sad sad sad sad old man Livingdead is. He is typical of what is wrong in this Country with politics.

Why doesn't Livingdead try running a business for a few years and see the crap that people have to put up with.

If the people of London vote for this tosser again, they deserve all they get.

Lord Allesley said...

Iain,

The BBC website has the key points from your interview with Ken on it. I note , however, it fails to give any acknowledgement of the source, ie you.

Lord Allesley

Wallenstein said...

Lord Allesley, there's a link in the sidebar to Total Politics (although TP not mentioned in actual text).

Chris K said...

Iain, I take my hat off to you. That's a blisteringly good interview.

And, indeed, the BBC have nicked the story without attributing it to your magazine!

Our Man in Abiko said...

Great interview, and a great subject. You my hate his politics, but Ken tells it like it is. And yes, the Mail is racist. Of course kids should go to their local school. How nice to see a Labour man actually doing what he says.

Iain Dale said...

Thanks for all the positive comments.

On the BBC, we have complained about non attribution and they are adding it in. Victory!

Unsworth said...

Iain

Mannerless as I am, I failed to congratulate you on the interview. Whilst it confirmed my worst beliefs, it did at least do that thoroughly.

Well done, nonetheless.

Simon Gardner said...

Our Man in Abiko said... “And yes, the Mail is racist.”

I should coco. And the rest.

PCP said...

Great interview Iain - you gave him precisely the right amount of rope. What a narcissistic loon, fantasising about his own assassination! My theory about the empty plinth in Trafalgar Square was that Ken was always saving it for himself.

denverthen said...

Great interview. And though he will always be a bona fide lefty loon, I fully agree with him when he talks about devolving power from the centre.

His ideas about the civil service, though, are clearly more informed by Yes Minister than by his quiet though hefty stint in Parliament. Actually, that might not such a bad thing...

I wish the old soak well, but Boris better watch out: it doesn't sound like he's ready to write his memoirs just yet!

Jeremy Jacobs said...

How could you Iain? KL, not welcome in these parts.

happyuk07 said...

Statements like

"The home environment is far more likely to screw up kids. The illusion of educational choice has been a disaster for most kids and most parents." ...

are backed up with no evidence whatsoever.

At least we see more clearly than ever his true colours: a statist that wants government interference in all aspects of our lives.

No wonder Londoners got rid of him.

He comes across as a bitter old fart that still thinks he's in with a shot. Politics is rife with people like him. Has-beens and once-upon-a-times that that need putting out of their misery

happyuk07 said...

Statements like

"The home environment is far more likely to screw up kids. The illusion of educational choice has been a disaster for most kids and most parents." ...

are backed up with no evidence whatsoever.

At least we see more clearly than ever his true colours: a statist that wants government interference in all aspects of our lives.

No wonder Londoners got rid of him.

He comes across as a bitter old fart that still thinks he's in with a shot. Politics is rife with people like him. Has-beens and once-upon-a-times that that need putting out of their misery

Mike Law said...

Iain,

I must also apologise for not congratulating you for conducting a cracking interview - a mark of how good it is, is the passion it draws out in the responses to it.

Good stuff.

BTW. Not yet had the time to write to the editor of TP re the Robin Wales interview; I do intend to do so (and I will keep it brief).

Blackacre said...

Is that his newt tank just behind you? Did you get to see them?

Hey said...

The funny part is that his education proposal would harm the poorest kids.

The US education system has the very rule that he proposes (in most locations). So what you get is selection by property purchase. Your mortgage pays your school fees, and prices for houses in good school districts can be VERY high (the stockbroker belt in Connecticut, the nice parts of Westchester NY, NW suburbs of Chicago). Inner cities and working class areas have dramatically worse schools.

So this education policy drives complete ghettoization and poor kids have no hope but to attend a bad school. School choice allows them to go to better schools.

Choice also discourages the mad rush into super selective districts and reduces opposition to diverse incomes in an area. This creates healthier communities and neighborhoods, so you don't get downward spiralling high streets.