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.


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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Show comments
  • Paul Green

    2 words – PRESS TV !

  • Guru McKenzie

    Sebastian – it’s not a gaffe it’s Triangulation in action

    He is trying to get votes amongst muslim and white working class voters – he can still cound on the vast majority of LGT voters, so the risk is minimal

  • canonalberic

    The Standard really is getting it wrong. Either they are actually supporting Ken or more likely they are trying hard not to alienate their irremedially committed left london payroll dinner party adopt a goat readership.

    Either way they give every impression of serious imbalance and the “evil tories” default mode of their pisspoor diarists etc is like the BBC at its worst.

  • David Jenks

    How was Ken’s remark a gaffe? What on earth is wrong with the remark (as quoted)? It would seem to be true, apart from anything else. I can’t see why anyone gay (like me), liberal-minded or homophobic can object to it.

    Gaffe? No.

  • J H Holloway

    Leninspart supported gay rights because he saw as a lever to use against the Right. Push gay rights up the nose of the trad Right and then stand well-back and pojnt at the reaction.

    Anybody who says ‘riddled with it like everywhere else’ is a old bloke who’s finding it hard not to say what he really thinks. Gay rights were just a tool in Lenin’s kit.

    With ref to Section 28, it took Blur six years to repeal it.

  • TrevorsDen

    Ngen you are an odious little shit.

  • Chris

    It’s a dog whistle to Islamic voters. Perfectly obvious.

  • test

    “This laid back approach prompts a question: what is the Johnson strategy? Some might say its complacency, but I reckon its something cleverer.”

    No, sadly it is just complacency. Complacency and bumbling. Someone really needs to tell him to pull his finger out.

  • MilkSnatcher

    Dear Sylva @6-44pm
    Ken’s pretty picky about which minorities he supports (usually ones in strategic wards). Just ask Oliver Finegold. Or have you conveniently forgotten that one?

  • Sylva Ngen

    Ken`s comment on homosexuality was spot on. labour party stood for the Gay`s right. In 1997 gayism under Tony Blair became open. Everybody could declare his or her sexuality without fear. The opposite happened under Thatcher and Major.

    Tories are all pretenders and want everything to be hidden behind the doors. However some ministerial relationship within this government has proven that. I will not call names but you guys know.

    ken is straight forward and I see no reason for him to appologies for he fought hard to see into Gay freedom.

    labour will always stand by Ken and he is going to be the next mayor for London than that joke in the person of Boris Johnson

  • telemachus’

    Good old Boris
    “Lefty crap” like why should Stephen Hester have a bonus? Ken had vision and foresight and was not just a court jester. Bullingdon Boris has had his hour of glory- let the real politicians take over again

  • Mr Danger 1

    Ken is not homophobic, but he doesn’t mind associating with those who are, like Qaradawi. This interview provides a perfectly good excuse to bring that up.

  • Jeremy

    Sebastian Payne:

    “This spectacularly awful chicken chase video…”

    Unfortunately, what passes for humour on the left is often just hatred and aggression in drag.

  • SilentMajority

    Could it be Ken is seeking support from the homophobic community?

  • Ian Walker

    Ron Atkinson was one of the first football managers in the country to play black players in his first team, and to speak out against racism in the game.

    He didn’t get much benefit of the doubt. Why should Ken?

  • Sebastian Payne

    Apologies on the typo, fixed! I’m sure Ken would promise fair subsidies if he could.

  • toco

    Having returned to its left wing roots with Red Ed, Labour would never deselect Red Ken whatever he says.Last Wednesday evening the Labour elite were all out fund raising for Ken at the excellent Phoenix Palace near Baker Street-those attending and shouting their heads off for Red Ken,included Yvette Cooper,Keith Vaz,Baroness Scotland,Baroness Jay and a clutch of trades union supporters.Prices for the auction including Carling Cup tickets certainly demonstrates Red Ken’s supporters have yet to encounter austerity.

  • In2minds

    “Ken’s plan to cut fairs” – I’m in favour of cutting fairs too. That candy floss is awful.

  • realist brook

    Why does Ken want to cut fairs? Does he want to cut playgrounds as well?

  • Fergus Pickering

    What are these fairs than Ken Livingstone is going to cut? Another lefty killjoy.

  • Chris Miller

    Fares !!!!!