England won't have 'Red Ken' Livingstone to kick around anymore

Ken Livingstone, the former socialist mayor of London who lost his bid to take back control of the city on Saturday, said to a crowd of supporters that he's done running for elective office.


Unlike his rival, who decided to portray Boris (Johnson, incumbent mayor) as an alien, replete with blue face and deeley boppers. Ken Livingstone has had a wretched campaign. Tax avoidance, anti-Jewish slurs and tears at his own campaign script are not a fitting legacy for a man who at the height of his powers was skilfully and aggressively wielding a larger popular mandate  than any Labour politician in the land.

But in the short term at least, that's what his legacy will be. At the start of last week, senior Labour officials informed Ed Miliband that Livingstone would lose, and began a subtle but concerted effort to distance themselves from their candidate. Tom Watson's "hold your nose" comment wasn't quite the gaffe it was made out to be.

Labour insiders also concede that the manner of Livingstone's selection, rushed through as part of a pre-election deal with Gordon Brown, sat uneasily with the supposed youthful pluralism of "Generation Ed". It's likely that once the dust enveloping City Hall has settled, there will be a review of how the party's candidates are selected.

"This was a personalized contest," said one Labour insider, "There was a Boris  factor, and there was a Ken factor. Boris won in spite of being a Tory; Ken lost in spite of being Labour. But overall, Labour won in London."

Other sources, even some who have little love for Labour's vanquished candidate, lay slightly greater emphasis on Boris's near superhuman powers than Ken's feet of clay. "I know what people think about Ken and his campaign," said one official. "But you have to look at what Boris has achieved. It's remarkable."

Labor is portraying Johnson's win as a fluke - a matter of personalities rather than policies. But Johnson won a million votes in London in 2008 when Livingstone was more popular, although still controversial. And the conservatives are talking up Boris as possible party leader - someday.

But Johnson comes with some of his own baggage and national leadership is not likely. Still, credit must be given to the man who vanquished "Red Ken" Livingstone twice and drove him from electoral politics.

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