Read Ken yet? The former G.L.C. leader, now four months an MP, has just published a book on politics and his career to date. Alan Taylor met M. P. Livingstone.
If he was a comedian — and there are those who think he is— Ken Livingstone could stand in for Tony Hancock. 1 can see him now in his bedsit screaming ‘Mayday! Mayday!‘ into his CB and getting no reaction. He tears at what little is left of his hair, while forefinger and thumb nervously stroke his Chief Constable‘s moustache. In a dustbin on his doorstep an investigative journalist from the Daily Torygraph or the Daily Flail forages among potato peelings and egg shells in the hope of uncovering crumbs to concoct a story. You can see the headline now. can‘t you? ‘Livingstone leaves crusts. Exclusive!‘ Meanwhile a dolly bird from the News of the Sewer strokes his thigh and hopes for a night to remember next sunday. A piece in the Scum describes him as ‘the most odious man in Britain.‘ ‘lfl burped‘. says Ken Livingstone recalling the days leading up to the General Election. ‘it would have made headhnesf But he doesn‘t look the sort of man with digestive problems and even if he did have it‘s odds on he would keep them to himself. He doesn‘t like to talk about himself. only about politics. though he reveals in his first book. If Voting Changed Anything They'd Abolish It (Collins. £12.00). that he‘s pro-newts and a sci-fi buff. Further evidence. according to the hostile Press. of his eccentricity if not incipient lunacy. And what they can‘t find out they make up. ‘Why did you get a vasectomy without telling me?‘ asked his mum. ‘I haven‘t.‘ he said. She had seen it in black and white in a sheet faithless to fact.
He has tried to complain and has sued successfully twice but he regards newspapers as laws unto themselves. their doings unhampered by the ineffectual Press Council: ‘A solidly Establishment body which rushes in quickly to condemn any bad publicity on the Royal family but does everything possible to make it difficult for leftwing activists to get a hearing.
When a member of the public complained about the Daily Mail story in which three psychologists had been misquoted about my mental state. the Press Council decided the story was correct — even though the psychologists denied it completely.‘
Since his days as Leader of the GLC. when the doors ofCounty Hall admitted the weird and the wonderful and grants were given to bodies as diverse as the Gay London Police Monitoring Group and Babies Against the Bomb. Ken Livingstone has steered clear of the Street of Shame whose campaign to vilify him he dignifies as a conspiracy. ‘They will all get their rewards. their knighthoods. their peerages. Mr David English [actually Sir] will one day be Lord English oqutter.‘
Not surprisingly the Mail had so far not reviewed the book. ‘I hear he‘s not amused. That‘s the other thing that gets me. Journalists complain that I‘ve been unfair to them. What a nerve! l bite back in one small. tiny, little [367 page] book which perhaps only a few thousand people will read and they say. “Look here!“ My press adviser at the GLC said. “Forget Fleet Street. let‘s try and get you on television and radio.“ Five minutes with Terry Wogan is worth a thousand editorials. People are much more likely to believe a conversation between you and Terry than they will the papers. Thank God!‘
This has not. however. deterred him from contributing to the papers himself and until he made his maiden speech on 7th July. as the sitting member for Brent East, he scribed a column for the late-lamented London Daily News. So what happened? ‘I was sacked by Murdoch. No Maxwell. Murdwell.’
True to form Livingstone‘s speech upset the protocol of the House by being controversial. At a public meeting four days before the Election Fred Holroyd had been invited to speak and made serious allegations which the numerous journalists tracking Livingstone —
‘like lice on the back of a hedgehog’ — chose to ignore. But not Citizen Ken. Holroyd was once a career soldier and he has no overt Left-wing sympathies. He was recruited by M16 in Northern Ireland in the seventies and ran a series of intelligence operations until he began to query the illegal methods M15 was using. ‘He was a spy,’ said Livingstone in his speech, ‘who realised that the operations of the British Government were counter-productive. He started to object. and was pushed aside for his pains.‘
Livingstone maintains that
. Holroyd has evidence that ex-SAS
Captain Robert Nairac (subsequently murdered by the IRA) was behind various sanctioned killings and involved in the Miami Showband massacre which undermined the fragile ceasefire promoted by the Labour Government of the day. In his speech Livingstone made other allegations. claiming that young boys were buggered by Loyalist politicians in the Kincora home ‘effectively controlled by MIS‘. thus giving the security forces a hold over them.
lfthat‘s true. says Livingstone. then Airey Neave (also a victim of the IRA). one of Mrs Thatcher‘s closest. personal advisers and known to have good contacts within the secret services. must have been aware of what was going on. ‘She’s been the prime beneficiary of treason‘. he says. ‘and people have been covering it up.‘
He wants a full investigation and has two researchers working on a ‘sequel‘ to his speech. But the Government shows no sign ofgiving way. It‘s another instance. says Livingstone. of ‘Thatcher getting away with murder because she‘s a woman. Those men are all so sexist. They’re crippled by it. If Margaret Thatcher was a man the attack on her would have been much more relentless. Ifyou look at the Tory benches they‘re littered with casualties. people she‘s ﬂattened because they can’t c0pe with her being a woman. And there’s a lot of it on the Opposition side too. People pull their punches. Far too often the Labour Party‘s been led by people who couldn‘t remember what sex was. I look at Wilson and Callaghan and I’m not surprised they didn’t raise the issue ofsex in politics; they couldn’t remember the last time they had any.‘
Such outspokenness has, it‘s rumoured, led to him being ostracised in Parliament. Before Murdwell sent him the ‘Dalekish’ note telling him his association with the London Daily News was ‘terminated’, he had inferred in one of his columns that some Scottish and Northern M.P.‘s were spending too much time in the bars and brothels of Westminster ,to the detriment of their Parliamentary duties. Already viewed with suspicion, this did not endear him to those M.P.s whom he must befriend and inﬂuence should he intend to depart from the backbenches.
And in the week before his visit
north the papers had reported on the duel between himself and Bryan Gould, smooth-talking frontman for Labour‘s doomed election campaign. for a seat on the Party’s National Executive Council. It‘s yet another example ofmischief making, says Livingstone. ‘How can anyone dislike Bryan Gould? He’s almost a professional charmer. There’s nothing he says you can disagree with. If he‘d been on the GLC I’d have made certain he was a committee chair.‘
He releases a scalpel-sharp smile, minted by Marlon Brando in The Godfather, a book Ken Livingstone commends to anyone considering a career in politics. His own book. he says, is an attempt to turn us all into activists. ‘Basically what I‘m saying is, “Look how easy politics are.“ Providing you don‘t mind mixing with villains it‘s a great life.‘
Ken Livingstone took his first step
10 The List '18 Sept— 1 Oct-