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   Anasayfa arrow Medyadan Seçmeler arrow Ken: The Ups and Downs of Ken Livingstone by Andrew Hosken
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Yazar SIMON JENKINS-Sunday TİMES, April 20, 2008   
26-04-2008

DISLOYAL AND UNFAITHFUL SERVANT

SIMON JENKINS

Ken Livingstone, for eight years the mayor of London, thinks the best guide to politics is Mario Puzo's The Godfather. It is, he says, "a much more honest account of how politicians behave than any self-justifying rubbish spewed out in biographies and textbooks." He particularly loves the mafioso being executed for trying to kill his boss who cries, "Tell Mike it was only business."
This might tell us all we need to know about the ethically challenged Livingstone. But The Godfather was for grown-ups. Andrew Hosken's Ken is 433 pages of infantile double-crossing, cheating and play-acting in a political fifth form, redeemed only by the subject's puckish flashes of selfawareness. When so charged, Livingstone shrugs and remarks that he has always "loved meetings and plotting". He dances a constant jig, Dick Whittington and his newt.

 
Had it not been for the total decay of British civic democracy in the 1960s and 1970s, Livingstone would have been a footnote in the comical-tragical history of London's loony left. Instead, thanks to Margaret Thatcher and then Tony Blair, he was elected to public office not once but twice on the most sweeping franchise in Britain.

 
Hosken appears alternately mesmerised and appalled by his subject, honouring Neil Kinnock's maxim that the only people who like Livingstone are those who don't know him. He was an adept swimmer in the murky swamp of the metropolitan left. He admitted to being an insecure teenager, shy and uninterested in girls or football, keen only on lizards. Pop psychology finds such people easy prey for the cod discipline of fundamentalism, whether religious or political.

 
The ideology to which Livingstone took most naturally was ambition. Apart from working briefly in a laboratory and some half-hearted teacher training, he never did a job and was soon living and breathing political activism on the public purse. He was elected to Lambeth Council at the age of 25 under the patronage of the Trotskyite Ted Knight, who led the council to financial ruin. Two years later, he contrived to represent successively Hackney, Camden and Brent, joking that his election-night speeches would involve thanking the people of "wherever I am".

 
Disloyalty and treachery became the hallmarks of Livingstone and his circle. He undermined Reg Goodwin, his party's London leader in the 1970s, and declared that the left's job was "to leave Thatcher but get Callaghan first". Whether he was a communist or a Trotskyite was immaterial (Kinnock called him merely a "Kennist"), but to this day he has kept around him a tight-knit Marxist cabal from a group called Socialist Action (now getting six-figure salaries from London's taxpayers). Livingstone's first putsch was against Andrew McIintosh, the leader of the newly elected Labour GLC (Greater London Council) in 1981. The butchery was done within hours of the election by manoeuvres that would have made Robert Mugabe blush. The hapless deputy leader, Illtyd Harrington, was jeered as a "miserable old git" and told he could stay on if he became "the acceptable face of [Livingstone's] extremism".

 
County Hall, the GLC's headquarters, became a lightning rod for lunacy. The chauffeurs were dropped but not the booze. Fares were slashed, the IRA entertained, Sandinista coffee was served and male portraits turned to the wall for looking down women's bosoms. A women's committee was formed, its chairwoman remarking later, "We had no end of flipping money. We all went on spending sprees." The committee got through £29m in five years, including £800 to "Babes Against the Bomb". Livingstone told the citizens of London that "Everyone is bisexual" to justify some grant or other.

 
It was the nadir of British politics. Labour nationally was appalled, and would have rid itself of Livingstone had Thatcher not rescued him by abolishing the GLC. He became overnight a defender of London democracy and champion anti-Thatcherite. "We turned a left-wing nut into a folk hero," admitted Patrick Jenkin, the Tory environment minister. The GLC duly abandoned any pretence of civic responsibility, and taxed and spent until its death in 1986. It blew £50m alone on publicity attacking Thatcher.

 
Knowing he would soon be out of a job and eager to enter parliament, Livingstone moved like a piranha across the metropolis and fastened on Reg Freeson, the hapless Brent East MP, ousting him as he had ousted McIintosh. Freeson's widow says to Hosken simply, "I detest that man." Arriving in parliament, Livingstone abandoned his safari jacket, employed a style consultant and contrived to avoid tax (legally) through a corporate shelter. By 1997 he is asking Blair for a job and is most upset when refused.

 
Blair now paid Livingstone the same compliment as had Thatcher. The master of political charisma failed to see an even more cunning practitioner. Rejected by Labour, Livingstone took a calculated risk and in 2000 stood for elected mayor of London as an independent, winning and later humiliating Blair into welcoming him back to the Labour fold for his re-election in 2004.

 
Hosken does not offer a sophisticated analysis of Livingstone as mayor and his book, wretchedly without an index, is useless as any record of London government. It vaguely classifies the mayor's deeds as successes and failures, betraying its bias in regarding as successes anything involving reckless extravagance. Livingstone blew £1 billion a year on buses, hundreds of millions on more police and yet more hundreds of millions on the Olympics. He reneged on a pledge not to increase the congestion charge and to retain Routemaster buses. Of the latter he said that "only some ghastly dehumanised moron" would abolish them, and then abolished them. He recruited Bob Kiley, a highly paid transport chief from New York, but failed to outmanoeuvre Gordon Brown on Tube privatisation and failed to confront its management, soon reducing both the Tube and the roads to chaos. He was putty in the hands of the developer/architect lobby, which funded his campaigns in the confident hope of planning permissions for high buildings.

 
The book is littered with quotes from those who worked with Livingstone, deploring his treachery, incompetence and general ignobility. This is sad because, like Blair, he was given an extraordinary licence by the electorate and, like his current opponent, Boris Johnson, he could be genuinely funny and skilled at engaging with an audience. There is not much new in this book. The details of his left-wing allies, partners and children were known— and I think he is entitled to privacy over the last. What Hosken conveys is rather an overwhelming purposeless ennui. A man who has riddden on the coat-tails of an already prosperous city and has no cause but self-aggrandisement has been around long enough.

 
Thanks to an oversight in the London government act, Livingstone can stand for a third term as mayor, an option unknown in most direct-election regimes. He himself thought there should have been a term-limit, arguing in 1998 that "corruption tends to flourish the longer an incumbent is able to hold on to power". He never spoke a truer word and, needless to say, reneged on it. As the mafioso said, it was only business. Available at the Sunday Times BooksFirst price of £14.39 (inc p&p) on0870 165 8585

 
SIMON JENKINS
Ken Livingstone, for eight years the mayor of London, thinks the best guide to politics is Mario Puzo's The Godfather. It is, he says, "a much more honest account of how politicians behave than any self-justifying rubbish spewed out in biographies and textbooks." He particularly loves the mafioso being executed for trying to kill his boss who cries, "Tell Mike it was only business."

 
This might tell us all we need to know about the ethically challenged Livingstone. But The Godfather was for grown-ups. Andrew Hosken's Ken is 433 pages of infantile double-crossing, cheating and play-acting in a political fifth form, redeemed only by the subject's puckish flashes of selfawareness. When so charged, Livingstone shrugs and remarks that he has always "loved meetings and plotting". He dances a constant jig, Dick Whittington and his newt.

 
Had it not been for the total decay of British civic democracy in the 1960s and 1970s, Livingstone would have been a footnote in the comical-tragical history of London's loony left. Instead, thanks to Margaret Thatcher and then Tony Blair, he was elected to public office not once but twice on the most sweeping franchise in Britain.

 
Hosken appears alternately mesmerised and appalled by his subject, honouring Neil Kinnock's maxim that the only people who like Livingstone are those who don't know him. He was an adept swimmer in the murky swamp of the metropolitan left. He admitted to being an insecure teenager, shy and uninterested in girls or football, keen only on lizards. Pop psychology finds such people easy prey for the cod discipline of fundamentalism, whether religious or political.

 
The ideology to which Livingstone took most naturally was ambition. Apart from working briefly in a laboratory and some half-hearted teacher training, he never did a job and was soon living and breathing political activism on the public purse. He was elected to Lambeth Council at the age of 25 under the patronage of the Trotskyite Ted Knight, who led the council to financial ruin. Two years later, he contrived to represent successively Hackney, Camden and Brent, joking that his election-night speeches would involve thanking the people of "wherever I am".

 
Disloyalty and treachery became the hallmarks of Livingstone and his circle. He undermined Reg Goodwin, his party's London leader in the 1970s, and declared that the left's job was "to leave Thatcher but get Callaghan first". Whether he was a communist or a Trotskyite was immaterial (Kinnock called him merely a "Kennist"), but to this day he has kept around him a tight-knit Marxist cabal from a group called Socialist Action (now getting six-figure salaries from London's taxpayers). Livingstone's first putsch was against Andrew McIintosh, the leader of the newly elected Labour GLC (Greater London Council) in 1981. The butchery was done within hours of the election by manoeuvres that would have made Robert Mugabe blush. The hapless deputy leader, Illtyd Harrington, was jeered as a "miserable old git" and told he could stay on if he became "the acceptable face of [Livingstone's] extremism".

 
County Hall, the GLC's headquarters, became a lightning rod for lunacy. The chauffeurs were dropped but not the booze. Fares were slashed, the IRA entertained, Sandinista coffee was served and male portraits turned to the wall for looking down women's bosoms. A women's committee was formed, its chairwoman remarking later, "We had no end of flipping money. We all went on spending sprees." The committee got through £29m in five years, including £800 to "Babes Against the Bomb". Livingstone told the citizens of London that "Everyone is bisexual" to justify some grant or other.

 
It was the nadir of British politics. Labour nationally was appalled, and would have rid itself of Livingstone had Thatcher not rescued him by abolishing the GLC. He became overnight a defender of London democracy and champion anti-Thatcherite. "We turned a left-wing nut into a folk hero," admitted Patrick Jenkin, the Tory environment minister. The GLC duly abandoned any pretence of civic responsibility, and taxed and spent until its death in 1986. It blew £50m alone on publicity attacking Thatcher.

 
Knowing he would soon be out of a job and eager to enter parliament, Livingstone moved like a piranha across the metropolis and fastened on Reg Freeson, the hapless Brent East MP, ousting him as he had ousted McIintosh. Freeson's widow says to Hosken simply, "I detest that man." Arriving in parliament, Livingstone abandoned his safari jacket, employed a style consultant and contrived to avoid tax (legally) through a corporate shelter. By 1997 he is asking Blair for a job and is most upset when refused.

 
Blair now paid Livingstone the same compliment as had Thatcher. The master of political charisma failed to see an even more cunning practitioner. Rejected by Labour, Livingstone took a calculated risk and in 2000 stood for elected mayor of London as an independent, winning and later humiliating Blair into welcoming him back to the Labour fold for his re-election in 2004.

 
Hosken does not offer a sophisticated analysis of Livingstone as mayor and his book, wretchedly without an index, is useless as any record of London government. It vaguely classifies the mayor's deeds as successes and failures, betraying its bias in regarding as successes anything involving reckless extravagance. Livingstone blew £1 billion a year on buses, hundreds of millions on more police and yet more hundreds of millions on the Olympics. He reneged on a pledge not to increase the congestion charge and to retain Routemaster buses. Of the latter he said that "only some ghastly dehumanised moron" would abolish them, and then abolished them. He recruited Bob Kiley, a highly paid transport chief from New York, but failed to outmanoeuvre Gordon Brown on Tube privatisation and failed to confront its management, soon reducing both the Tube and the roads to chaos. He was putty in the hands of the developer/architect lobby, which funded his campaigns in the confident hope of planning permissions for high buildings.

 
The book is littered with quotes from those who worked with Livingstone, deploring his treachery, incompetence and general ignobility. This is sad because, like Blair, he was given an extraordinary licence by the electorate and, like his current opponent, Boris Johnson, he could be genuinely funny and skilled at engaging with an audience. There is not much new in this book. The details of his left-wing allies, partners and children were known— and I think he is entitled to privacy over the last. What Hosken conveys is rather an overwhelming purposeless ennui. A man who has riddden on the coat-tails of an already prosperous city and has no cause but self-aggrandisement has been around long enough.

 
Thanks to an oversight in the London government act, Livingstone can stand for a third term as mayor, an option unknown in most direct-election regimes. He himself thought there should have been a term-limit, arguing in 1998 that "corruption tends to flourish the longer an incumbent is able to hold on to power". He never spoke a truer word and, needless to say, reneged on it. As the mafioso said, it was only business. Available at the Sunday Times BooksFirst price of £14.39 (inc p&p) on0870 165 8585

Sunday Times, April 20, 2008
 Dr. Ahmet  Cetinbudaklar'dan alınmıştır 

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