I suppose it should come as no surprise to anybody that Ken Livingstone should come across as something of a political dinosaur by the year 2012. He is, after all, a man who stubbornly refused to leave the political scene, even as he watched his views become progressively more and more obsolete over the course of thirty years. Remarkably though, even after his woeful performance as London Mayor for eight years and his subsequent defeat to a man who has already achieved greater progress and reform in the city in less than half that time, today Ken has proven to the world he’s still got plenty more left to give.
By ‘more’, I of course mean more dated, backward, odious viewpoints that are simultaneously fatuous, irrelevant and broadly offensive in modern Britain. Drained and vacuous of any kind of new policy ideas after eight miserable and ineffectual years in City Hall, today Ken treated The New Statesman to a round-tour of some of his personal views and opinions.
On the subject of Thatcher, he described the former prime minister as “Clinically Insane” [in her time in office] and said he would refuse to watch The Iron Lady, saying he, “[does] not want to feel sympathy for her. I feel sympathy for the people whose lives she destroyed.” Naturally, one of her staunchest adversaries was never going to be complimentary. Branding anyone as ‘insane’ with no basis on which to make such a claim is, however, crossing a line even by Ken’s standards.
But it got better. Ken went on to talk about personal matters of his and Boris Johnson’s families. This led into a quip about “…hypocrisy, like some Tory MP denouncing homosexuality while they are indulging in it.” Naturally Ken gave no suggestion to whom, if anyone, he could be referring. One wonders whether this perceived hypocrisy actually happened in the real world or inside his own imagination. However he took this already unusual tone further, saying when pressed on his wording, describing the Tory party as “Riddled with [homosexuality], just like everywhere else is.”
Even ignoring the spectacularly offensive manner in which his comments were worded, this very statement itself is bizarre; why Ken should find it surprising or unusual that gays exist in the Tory party is inconceivable. The Conservative party, like the Labour party, and the rest of the country has moved on a great deal since the 1970s where the rest of his mindset seems still to reside. Why Ken would feel the need to mention that in 21st century Britain an open and inclusive organisation would have gay members speaks volumes about his attitudes, as does the fact that his turn of phrase clearly fails to suggest he sees this as any kind of positive.
I sincerely hope this latest slip of the tongue is the final nail in the coffin for Ken’s run for the Mayoralty, and indeed for his agonisingly endless political career. In the year of 2012, when the London Mayor will come to represent the face of our capital and our country to the watching world, what we need is a man with some charisma and a grasp of reality, not a spectre from the past, dusting off his old political machine while the eyes of the world are upon him.