Why Ken lost

May 5, 2012 9:00 am

It’s over. Another four years of Boris Johnson in London. A second mayoral defeat for Ken Livingstone. Far narrower than many predicted (myself included), but a defeat all the same.

You all know the reasons why Ken Livingstone lost – and that most of them are laid at his door.

Why, oh why, did he think he could get away with such complex tax affairs that left him open to accusations – credible accusations – of tax avoidance? Ken, with his track record of pronouncements on the taxes of the rich, should have been looking to maximise his payments, rather than the opposite.

Likewise his treatment of the Jewish community was at best cack handed and at worst deeply unpleasant. I won’t dwell on that – I’ve already written about that at length.

Both went to the core of what killed Ken’s chances on the doorstep. People didn’t like him enough, and worse, they didn’t trust him enough. They trusted Boris Johnson more. They trusted. Boris. Johnson. More.

In policy terms, Ken’s campaign on transport costs was correct, and spoke to Londoner’s concerns about the cost of living squeeze. But crime – a key issue particularly in the outer London boroughs that Ken needed to win – was introduced as a secondary issue, too timidly, and in the end seemed sidelined. I had almost forgotten about Ken’s crime policies until I saw them on an election day leaflet. Too late.

Much like Ken’s valedictory speech as he bowed out of elected politics.

It was more humble, more honest and more human. It was the tone that Ken should have sought to project throughout the campaign.

It was too late.

  • http://twitter.com/bencobley Ben Cobley

    Spot on.

  • derek

    Seems a tad to simple @Mark but hey, did a large element of the labour vote go blue for the day? Lets hope the Liverpool reds get one over the Chelsea blues today.

    • John Dore

      Are you bonkers?….. Liverpool all the way.

  • john Reid

    Ken said of the ’11 election’s he’s fought he’s lost 3′ (the 1983 election for parliament plus the 2008 and 2012 Mayoral ones), Technically he campagined for the Labour candidate in The Mayoral Election For Tower Hamlets in 2010 When in Very small letter he said Vote for the Labour candidate their under something about voting for the independent candidate for Your second Choice in Large Letters, so that’s A forth eelction he lsot when he backed the Labour candidate there.

  • Marianne

    I’m surprised you’re not mentioning the massive campaign by the Evening Standard to get Boris in, with relentless negative coverage against Ken every single day. Ken’s tax affairs aren’t that complicated – lots of people run tax through a business, but with an onslaught of negative press (not all unjustified, but most of it) he never stood a chance. This is a massive loss for London, which paves the way for BoJo as next leader of the Conservatives. 

    • PaulHalsall

      I think that a loss by Boris, especially on a big pro-Labour day, would not really have harmed Boris’ political position.

      He probably is the most likely next leader of the Tories, but then again, the Tories might feel that having two  Eton and Oxford-educated descendants of fairly recent royalty would be  a bit much for the electorate to swallow.

    • http://twitter.com/gonzozzz dave stone

      Can’t see Johnson becoming the next leader of the Tories, home secretary (shadow!) perhaps – but I’d put my money on Liam Fox for leader.

      • derek

        Or the other Liam?

        • http://twitter.com/gonzozzz dave stone

          You could be onto something. He has all the qualifications except membership – and I’d happily pay that for him.

      • John Dore

        Liam Fox has as much chance as a part of my anatomy that I am particularly fond of. Boris is pre ordained. He will finish this mayoralty and be given a safe seat at the first opportoonitee. Boris will be leader for the election after 2015 and you can take that to the bank.

        Moreover, the power of Boris’s personality is formidable, he has a Churchillian air to him that the wider electorate like.

        • AlanGiles

          Boris Johnson Churchillian? That’s an insult to a great man.  Johnson is more Bertie Wooster.

          • MonkeyBot5000

            Last time I checked, Boris hasn’t tried to use chemical weapons to control the natives.

            Churchill did so I’m not convinced he’s that great.

          • Bill Lockhart

             I don’t think you can judge the historical use of weapons through the lens of modern sensitivities. Moral revulsion against chemical weapons is comparatively recent and is still not universally shared. Submarines were regarded as immoral during WW1 whilst both sides used chemical munitions. And to be fair to Churchill, his suggestion regarding Mesopotamia included the key phrase

             ” It is not necessary to use only the most deadly gasses: gasses can be
            used which cause great inconvenience and would spread a lively terror
            and yet would leave no serious permanent effects on most of those
            affected.”This was in 1920. CW were banned by treaty in1925.

          • MonkeyBot5000

            To be honest, the chemical weapons aren’t the bit that bothers me the most – it’s using the military against civilians who refuse to bow to the empire’s will.

            Your quote shows that they were discussing an act of terrorism – one which they would have roundly condemned if someone else had tried to do it to the British.

            We have the same double standard now – our enemies use “terror” whilst we use “shock and awe”, but if you’re on the receiving end, they both look pretty similar.

        • http://twitter.com/gonzozzz dave stone

          “Boris is pre ordained.”

          That’s not political comment, that’s misplaced religious fervour.

        • MonkeyBot5000

          We like the concept of Boris and it’s funny to watch him be mayor, but I really doubt that he’d make it as prime minister.

          Running someone else’s city is one thing, running my country is another thing entirely.

    • MattWales

      It was not the evening stardard what lost it. It was Ken. His tax hypocracy, his Qaradawi hugging, his Jew baiting and his Tower Hamlet antics.

      It is not everyone else’s fault but Ken, the Labour vote in a Labour bastion just didnt want to show for him.

      • John Dore

        Matt, you are right the excuse jockeys will call it the Standard, but ken gave them the stories to write about.

        Crap decision, crap candidate, crap result.

  • Kenwood

    He’ll blame the Jews regardless …..

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-Homfray/510980099 Mike Homfray

    Its one election out of many – and is clearly a personality contest. One good reason for opposing mayoralties, and thankfully the electorate did so in all but one place .

    Perhaps we can go back to some real politics now, and on that score, it shows some reasonable progress for Labour.

    • John Dore

      This is about the South, go away and find a thread about the North.

  • trotters1957

    Give some credit to Johnson. He’s becoming a very clever politician.
    He has no idea about policy but his affable bungling anti-politician persona ticks some boxes at the moment for the public.
    I doubt any other Labour politician would have got anywhere near winning this election.

    • PaulHalsall

      I agree that anyone who was to beat Johnson would likely have to have had a strong and publically attractive personality, but Johnson succeeded even while swimming against a pro-Labour electorate in London.

      I think Mark is write.  It was Ken’s taxes which were disastrous – or at least bad enough as an issue to have prevented the extra 1.5+% of voters he needed to vote for him.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-Homfray/510980099 Mike Homfray

      The public in London. NOT up north – he is despised here

      • John Dore

        Will you get off London threads, we dont want you on them.

    • MattWales

      I disagree, looking at the London assembly votes there were a lot of people unhappy with the way the conservatives were running London, those votes however didnt translate into Livingstone votes because of his unfortunate baggage.

      Boris isn’t superman, even again Ken this was a close run thing. 

  • MattWales

    It is good that Ken’s kind of politics, particulary his treatment of the Jewish community and cozying up to clerical fascists like Qaradawi was rejected in London yesterday, if a shame it wasn’t rejected by more.

    It is time people like him were pushed out of progressive left wing parties and towards the lunatic fringe represented well by Respect.

    In all a good day for Labour all around

    • jonathanmorse

      It wasn’t good for Labour. We didn’t win that many seats – enough to protect Ed M, not as much as would enable hin to win the GE. It moves Labour to being a soft Tory but why bother elect it party just as you would want.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-Homfray/510980099 Mike Homfray

        eh? We won over 850 seats – which was above expectations. Given the difficulties in Scotland, it was very good indeed.

        Sure, still more to win, but a very good set of results overall

      • MattWales

        It was a good day, not a fantastic one but considering the problems the public seems to have with Ed – and lets face it we all have our misgivings – it was a good day.

        There is still a hell of a lot of work to do to prepare for when those Tory stay at home votes come out at the GE.

        • John Dore

          I dont think the Tories will come out.

    • AlanGiles


      In all a good day for Labour all around”

      If you say so, Matt, but it was not a good day for some of the poorer Londoners, who would have been better off for a reduction in public transport fares, youngsters from poorer homes, who would have received a version of EMA, and some of Livingstone’s other policies.

      What has struck me today on LL has been the selfishness of a section of the party – including, if you will allow me to say so, yourself.

      They wanted Livingstone to lose because he represents “old” Labour as opposed to new. A Johnson victory was a price worth paying for that – even if it meant that the very poorest Londoners – the sort of people  Labour was set up to help – suffer for it.

      • John Dore

        Alan,  you obviously dont live in London. I am so happy Ken lost, my council tax bill is high enough without him and he would have sent it to the moon. Its the only way to pay for services.

        • AlanGiles

          Don’t I?

          I am afraid you are wrong. I live in outer London (Havering and Redbridge constituency)

          Sorry to disappoint you

          • John Dore

            My mate lives in Seven Kings and I have mates in Romford, Ilford, East Ham, Green Lane and more.

            So I guess you were happy with cheaper tube in favour of higher council tax.

  • Eastender

    A simple look at the results suggests this sort of narrative is not quite right. Labour got 41.2% in the assembly vote the Tories 33.0%. On first preferences Ken got 40.3% Boris 44.1%. So while there were a few folk who voted Labour but not Ken there were significant numbers of non Labour non Tories who voted for Boris. That is why he won. 

    To speculate; this was not because of his policies (what are they?) but because of the persona he has cultivated, the colourful buffoon, almost an anti politics politician who voters (if they could be bothered) y felt they could trust because he wasnt really”one of them politicians” whilst Ken clearly is very much a politician. We know this is not true but that is not the point. Whoever Labour put up was going to struggle against this and the ins and outs of crime policy are neither here nor there.

    Yes there were errors made in the campaign and it is arguable that Ken was the best candidate but would it have made any difference in the end?

  • jonathanmorse

    Now we know how the Tories will fight Ed Miliband at the next election. Will we learn? I doubt it.

  • jonathanmorse

    If he wasn’t avoiding tax but paying his wife a fair income, with tax savings a coincidence, surely that’s a good thing? We talk about fairness with women but paying them a wage doesn’t seem part of it.

    Also if she pays NI then she gets benefit and pension rights. I’d like us to oppose Tory suggestions of increasing the delay/wage you pay NI on the basis that it deprives the employee of contribution based benefits. If you want to make taking a job easier a tax allowence would be just as good and probably simpler to implement without depriving the emplyee of those benefits. Of course it would help if Labour had people in its policy making team who had any experience of work at anything like the conditions most of us have to endure.

  • jonathanmorse

    No chance of Ken for Labour leader?

    • John P Reid

      Its A good day for Labour as we’ve got 850 extra Councillors, A couple of months before the 83 election Harriet Harman won a by election, then In 1983 we rushed to power….

    • John Dore

      Why there is an equally useless Multi Culti Metropolitan Useless person there already.

      • John Dore

        Oh and here is a video that sums it up.

  • jonathanmorse

    The media always edit Labour politicians speeches until they retire, so that only then do we find they’re as likeable as Boris. See also 2 Jags, the Postman, Dave Miliband.

  • Daniel Speight

    Mark unless you are at least prepared to mention the assorted Blairite back-stabbing then it becomes dishonest. Just talking about Livingstone’s problem with the Jewish community isn’t enough. There was a campaign orchestrated against Livingstone because of his position on the Middle-East and then he was attacked again because of his welcoming of some Muslim preacher who was anti-gay. (Note that nobody said, or had the courage to say that Livingstone was anti-gay or antisematic.)

    There were supposedly ‘Labour’ people taking turns telling Londoners not to vote for Livingstone and some going as far of saying they would vote for Johnson. The Labour Party should take a stand against this. Kinnock took on the Militant entryists so maybe Ed Miliband should take on these people who have done far worse. If they do this to Livingstone, what might they do to Ed Miliband in 2015. We know they were throwing knives at him earlier in the year, both on LL and on labour-uncut.

    None of this excuses Livingstone’s hypocrisy over tax, but the turncoats inside the party combined with some of the most negative campaigning seen so far in Britain is a warning for Labour’s future election chances.

    • derek

      Wise words Daniel like those wise words from Tony Benn’s article, what about the policies Ken was standing for?

    • jaime taurosangastre candelas

      By your standards, Ken should never have been allowed to stand as a candidate.  Three weeks after he was selected in September 2010 he was openly campaigning for Lutfur Rahman.  He had also previously been expelled for standing as an Independent, against Frank Dobson.  You have to wonder who on earth thought he was a good candidate.  Of course, I know that he was chosen by an electoral college, so clearly some people did, but what is the point of the Party HQ if it can not occasionally step in to put right an obviously poor choice, particularly if within 3 weeks he is openly parading his disloyalty?

      I do think it likely that many people chose not to vote for him as he is a hypocritical person over taxes, because his policies were mathematically nonsense, and because of his support for corrupt and torturing dictators, regimes and radical Islamists, even if others fell for Boris’ particular charm and likeability.

      • http://twitter.com/gonzozzz dave stone

        “what is the point of the Party HQ if it can not occasionally step in to put right an obviously poor choice,”

        You’re having a laugh – you want democracy suspended whenever it produces an outcome that you’d describe as “poor choice”?

        It doesn’t bear thinking about…

      • Ian Stewart

        The whole idea that two wrongs make a right, particularly over the loyalty questions concerning Livingstone and his detractors is a silly one. I would have thought that we all learned that in play school. 
        Johnson’s victory will be cheered by every dodgy landlord, every tax-dodging plutocrat, every corporate lobbyist.
        what we need to do now in London is build upon the very real gains we have made in the Assembly, and work to win in 2015 and 2016. What we really do not need is a circular firing squad.
        http://clemthegem.wordpress.com 

    • aracataca

      This sounds right Daniel. Of course EM is going to be subjected to negative, unpleasant and personal abuse in 2015

  • jonathanmorse

    When I was young Ken was fighting for gay rights, blacks and irish catholics when everybody new the catholics and IRA were the same thing and gays and blacks were a threat to society. Now it’s fashionable to be pro gay, blacks and the nonsense over the Catholics is seen for what it is, but we still remember Ken was wrong about something. Then the media goes at him over his tax affairs, his alledged anti-Semitism and being pro-Muslim. I don’t believe he’s anymore pro-Muslim than he was pro-Irish Catholic – he may have a problem with Israel but not with Jews in general. Unfortunately in Labour today if you’re not a Zionist you’re anti-Semitic and to our enemies in the media, being accepting of Muslims is the same as being pro Sharia for the British courts.

    Ken is where Labour should be. Unfortunately we’ve been hijacked by a right wing faction that’s as dangerous as Militant ever was, and should be dealt with in the same way, if only because their loyalty is to Murdoch and the Mail before us, if only because they work for them or want to work for them. They’re not Blairites, Blair believed in what works and what we need to do to win – a rapid rebuttal unit for example, not a Brownite cave-in unit, they are media people who live and like being part of that life.

    • MattWales

      Nonsense. This would have been fair enough had Ken not specifically refered to ‘Jews’ but he has. You can’t hide this behind an ‘Israel’ smoke screen.

      His pro gay sentiments also seemed to  desert him in his embrace of not your average Joe Muslim but hardline cleric nutjobs like Qaradawi – who in no uncertain terms wants gays killed.

      The hijacking of Labour has not been by the right but by by a bourgeois clique determined to move the focus off the working classes and towards an agenda based on their often ill informed world views.

      It is this that could break Labour as a UK wide force for social and political change for the improvement of the working class.

    • Bill Lockhart

       ” I don’t believe he’s anymore pro-Muslim than he was pro-Irish Catholic”

      Nor do I. I think he cynically panders to the groups which he thinks will benefit his career.  His respectful accommodation with fascistic homophobic mysogynist Islamists proves this beyond any doubt.

  • jonathanmorse

    If it’s now personality politics, showbusiness, how can we win with Ed Miliband?

  • Politique

    The Modern Day Labour Party.
    Apathy has created the outcome and results that have given Labour a boost. This should be welcomes sparingly.
     
    Nobody doubts that Labour has gained. Complacencey should not rule the day. Many candidates have been elected in areas that justify the statement between a pig and rosette. Lets not forget those genuine community activists that failed in target  seats where the importance  or concentration on election were with those where wins were expected. Same candidates, little choice….same old labour.
     
    Internall Labour to change drastically.
     
    Labour has the right candidates in the wrong place, the wrong candidates in the right place and the wrong candidates in the wrong place.
     
    NEVER the right candidates in the right place.
     
    The Mayoral system is unpopular with voters and Labour needs a rethink. If it campaigns for the Mayoral model or writes this in its manifesto, it will be a big mistake.
     
    This is the story of Ken Livingstone.

  • mattystiles

    “complex tax affairs ”
    Setting up a limited company is hardly complicated.  This wasn’t an offshore company was it?  You could argue that the Milibands are also guilty of avoidance in their property dealings. 

  • http://twitter.com/Jailhouselawyer John Hirst

    The answer to why Ken lost is that he got less votes cast for him than were cast for Boris Johnson the winner.

  • Taburke

    Ken lost, it is a sad day for him and a desperate day for London.
    The main reason Ken lost was that inner London voters (presumed to be mainly ‘natural’ Ken supporters) stayed at home, disaffected and alienated from the democratic process. 
    This was compounded by the sabotage of certain Labourites who told their staff and constituency members NOT to campaign for Ken, hoping to rid this particular banquet of the spectre of socialism.
    Congratulations, you got what you wanted, meanwhile, we Londoners will suffer from the policies of Boris and his cohorts. 4 years of under-investment, rising fares, fewer public services and worsening crime.
    Thanks, thanks a bunch.
    Kinnock said “You don’t play politics with peoples lives”, you did during this campaign, may your god forgive because I certainly will not.

  • Bill Lockhart

    Glad to see that Labour beat “Respect” in a council by-election in Tower Hamlets to maintain a majority there. Perhaps the politics of hatred and sectarian appeasement are on the wane.

  • http://twitter.com/sarah035 Sarah

    I can’t say it as well as the people below (or above!)…. but you can’t discount Charles Clarke (and the rest) , and certainly not the Standard. I think it was a win for Boris as much as a Labour loss- and not as bad a one as I expected.
    I did some leafletting at my local station, often alone.  I have moved from  a marginal seat to one that is very safe………. so I understand the area wasn’t a priority, and the local branch is not as active as the old one, where the MP and everyone else worked tirelessly. If they all had done that, it could have been a different story…………….
    The real Ken was always there for those who wanted to know………… 1983 ish Ken welcomed students and young people (as I was then) into County Hall to talk about those minority interests, Cruise (missiles), I think it was, or could have racism, or any of the other crazy ideas mentioned here. The one that had my hall mates really rolling about the kitchen was lead in petrol, who would have thought of petrol without lead poisoning children in playgrounds…

  • Labour member, London

    History may be kinder to Livingstone (just as to Gordon Brown) than the current reactions suggest. At his best he was a visionary socialist politician, especially in the 1980s, with the common touch who managed to triumph despite the most vitriolic press campaigns that tried so often to destroy him. It is a tragedy that Labour does not quite know what to do with its talent, witness also George Galloway, and probably most of all, Tony Benn – who at least served as Secretary of State and party chairman.

    It is sad that Livingstone goes out on this note. His first term as elected mayor was also very impressive. If he went off the rails in his later career he is certainly not the first politician to do so, nor the last. But, taken as a whole his has been a remarkable career, and at best he was an inspiring figure.

    Labour needs now to find ways of developing talent and provide ways for people to come up through the party into leading positions in ways other than a degree in politics and then onto becoming a special advisor, pps, or whatever. That can only really happen with a redemocratisation of the party. Politics is more than a job.

  • MonkeyBot5000

    Ken’s campaign on transport costs was correct…

    It always makes me laugh when I hear people complain about transport in London. Whenever I go to see clients in London I’m impressed by how cheap and easy it is to use public transport.

    The last time I went, the tube line was closed on my way back so I left the station and saw a bus stop right outside with an easy to read timetable. I got on the bus, showed them my train ticket and didn’t have to pay anything. I still got to Kings Cross in time to catch my train.

    Outside of London, we have private monopolies whose fuel we subsidise and yet they still crank up their prices when oil goes up despite the fact that our taxes are used to cover the increase in cost to the company. Because of that, I have to drive to the train station 2-3 times a week (and pay for parking) so that my 12-hour days don’t become 14-hour days.

    I’d love to see Labour campaigning to bring the quality of public transport in the rest of the country up to the standard that people in London take for granted.

  • AlanGiles

    Instead of another day of Livingstone bashing on LL, perhaps it would be better to look at some of the antics of current ministers:

    http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/318425/Tory-sneers-at-disabled 

    This is the sort of human excrement we should be targetting

    • Bill Lockhart

      Bit early on a Sunday for your moronic incontinent hatred, isn’t it

      • AlanGiles

        Talking of morons, Bill – good morning to you too.

        So you think it is perfectly OK for Smith to rub these peoples noses in their misfortune do you?

        If you feel like that you are obviously as rotten as him.

        • derek

          LoL @Alan, Bill has an identity problem.  

          • AlanGiles

            How anybody could defend Duncan-Smith, failed party leader, failed minister and failed human being is beyond my imagination.

            Bettsygate should have finished the little creep off long ago.

          • derek

            Well said again @Alan, the man is a disgrace.

          • Spotify

            Where’s Bill’s other half GuyM?

    • D. Hanlon

      So nobody’s allowed to mention Ken’s unpleasant comments about London’s Jews are they? Just in case it offends the precious far-left?

      Perhaps there wouldn’t be as much Livingstone-bashing if he wasn’t such a deeply flawed candidate.

      • AlanGiles

        Ms/Mr Hanlon. It has been mentioned, several times and at great length both on LL and Labour Uncut. For several weeks – and the last few days again

        I find it fascinating that everybody wants to continue to go on about a now retired politician, when, if you cared to click the link I put above you will see that there is a current government minister inflicting extra humiliation on a group of vulnerable people – but doesn’t that matter?

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