Ken Livingstone: this is what brain-death looks like

I continue to be astonished at Ken Livingstone’s utter determination to repeat, almost word-for-word, the messages that lost him the last election. Gas-guzzler charge – check. Defence of Lee Jasper – check. As one Labour blogger says, after hearing him at a hustings, it’s like he’s been cryogenically frozen.

Last week came the latest creaking heritage replica from the Ken playbook. During the 2008 campaign, he and Labour colleagues repeatedly claimed that Boris Johnson would cut the Freedom Pass – an obvious lie, since the Mayor of London has no power over the pass (it is run and funded by the London borough councils, not City Hall.) Of course, no such cuts have happened, and the scope of the pass has in fact been extended.

Now, Ken is making the exact same charge against his opponent for the Labour nomination, Oona King – even though her transport manifesto pledges to “defend the Freedom Pass” and states explicitly that “there will be no reduction in the scope or scale of the Freedom Pass while I am Mayor.”

Could the words “scope or scale” provide wriggle room for means-testing, something which she’s been accused of contemplating at a couple of the hustings? No, says King in an email to supporters: “Claiming that I favour a means test for the Freedom Pass… is simply not true….If the Freedom Pass is cut [by councils or the Government] I will fight to find the money to replace the lost funding.” Unwisely, perhaps, she goes on to say that if the Mayor had to step in to rescue the scheme, and if there was no money at all in her budget to fund it, then there could be cuts for the wealthiest pensioners – but it’s clear that that describes an eventuality which even the Con-Dem government has explicitly promised will not happen.

It is noticeable over the last few days that even Ken’s little helpers in the blogosphere have not taken this one up, and a claim needs to be pretty rocky for that not to happen. Botoxing up this wizened old smear is yet another sign of the Ken campaign’s complete intellectual brain-death.

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