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Coffee House

Ken’s gaffe and what it tells us about his campaign

9 February 2012

4:44 PM

9 February 2012

4:44 PM

We now have the first major gaffe of the 2012 London Mayor race and to everyone’s surprise it wasn’t Boris. Ken Livingstone granted an extraordinary interview to the New Statesman, where his comments on the incumbent mayor, Margaret Thatcher and his work ethic have caused a decent stir. However, it is the thoughts on homosexuality in the Conservative Party – ‘the Tory party was riddled with it like everywhere else is’ – that have prompted outrage. He was claiming hypocrisy, but instead came off bitter and twisted.

The pro-Boris politicos are delighted – Ken’s true colours have been exposed, they say, and Labour should deselect him at once. But they shouldn’t overstate the case. Ken has been supporting gay rights for years now, so probably deserves some benefit of the doubt.

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Instead, this latest interview and its provocations are probably just another attempt by Ken’s campaign team to wrestle the spotlight away from Boris, a tactic they have been attempting for months. This spectacularly awful chicken chase video highlights the desperation of the Livingstone campaign:

Compare his comments with Boris’ interview in the same issue, and the difference between the two campaigns is obvious. Boris really doesn’t say much at all, besides lambasting ‘lefty crap’. In fact, Boris has been relatively quiet in recent weeks, despite just 84 days until polling day. Nearly every day, there is an article in the London Evening Standard extolling Ken’s plan to cut fares, increase bobbies on the beat, make cycling safer, or improve the weather. Boris is reduced to a paragraph response shoved at the end.

This laid back approach prompts a question: what is the Johnson strategy? Some might say its complacency, but I reckon its something cleverer. They’re giving Ken enough rope to hang himself.

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