Let’s get this out of the way quickly; Ken Livingstone has run one of the worst mayoral campaigns, not just of this year but out of any of the four run since 2000. His victories in 2000 and 2004 were based on what he could do for London and its citizens. This year he spent more time avoiding questions about his tax status and crying at videos which he had already seen before rather than debating the issues. His supporters in the video seemed to be interested in important issues, why wasn’t he?
However, being exasperated with Ken Livingstone is a consistent experience with anyone who has followed his career and is one of his supporters. He has been a consistent presence within London’s political system; working on councils, as an MP and also on the Greater London Council (GLC). His work as head of the GLC saw him stand him against the cuts implemented under Thatcher and made sure that fares stayed low.
His two terms as Mayor of London saw the introduction of lasting changes to the city that we now take for granted. The congestion charge and the Oyster card are now two of London’s permanent institutions and it’s impossible to imagine London without them even though, in terms of stature, they’re not exactly the Tower of London or Portobello Market.
Many of his achievements such as promoting multiculturalism have been obscured by his tendency to shoot his mouth off and get himself into trouble. He has come under fire for remarks about Britain’s foreign policy, certain parts of the Jewish community and George W. Bush, calling him, ‘the greatest threat to life on this planet.’ It’s remarks like this that leave you slapping your forehead and screaming, ‘Just get on with running the city!’
You may not follow his strain of politics or even be completely against what he stands for. But this is a man who loves his home city. Anyone who saw him speak after the 7/7 bombings in 2005 will have seen someone truly hurt by what had gone on and with a determination that those who came to end life should not succeed in tearing apart a city that is founded on tolerance. Boris Johnson may be an eccentric but so is Ken. The difference between them is that Ken is the eccentric on the side of most of us, not just a select few.
Image by Amplified2010 courtesy of Flickr