Ken Livingstone wants his job back. In an exclusive interview, he tells Will Hazell why he deserves it.by Will Hazell / March 27, 2012 / Leave a comment
For a man who has spent his career in the Premier League of British politics, Ken Livingstone cuts an understated figure. His sloping shoulders and flat-footed limping gait are certainly not in accordance with the Cameronian guide to political body language, and the open-chested, glad-handing dynamism which that primer espouses. The two-time London Mayor has been a thorn in the side of two figures who have towered over modern British politics—Prime Ministers Thatcher and Blair, and he’s now going for his third run.
Ken lost the mayoralty to Boris Johnson in 2008, having governed the capital for two four-year terms, originally as an Independent when Tony Blair and the Labour Party withheld their endorsement in 2000. After a resounding victory in that election, Blair shamefacedly readmitted Livingstone back into the Labour fold in 2004. It was not the first time the leftwing firebrand had attracted the ire of the most powerful person in the country—in 1986 Margaret Thatcher abolished the Greater London Council of which Livingstone was leader, in large part because of her aversion to his leftist views.
After his defeat in 2008, it was not long before he threw his hat back into the ring for this year’s race, comfortably winning the Labour candidacy for the role in 2010. Until recently he had languished behind Boris in the polls, but a game-changing pledge to cut transport fares by 7 per cent—the so-called ‘Fare Deal’—overturned what had been an 8 per cent deficit last November and put Ken a whisker in front in January. The race is currently too close to call.
Considering the pivotal importance of the Fare Deal to Ken’s bid for City Hall, the Johnson campaign has unsurprisingly gone after it vigorously, claiming that the money for the cuts “doesn’t exist,” that it would be disastrous to essential investment, and that Ken’s claims are nothing less than “fraudulent.” And as Londoners feel the pinch of inflation-busting fares on an overcrowded, ramshackle Tube system, is the Fare Deal really affordable, given the pressing need to upgrade outdated infrastructure? “Oh God yeah. The cost to TfL of cutting the fares is £270m a year,” Ken explains. “That’s three per cent of TfL’s budget,…