Ken Livingstone's dog-whistle politics

You know what they say: if you want a friend in politics, get a dog. So I was thrilled to learn that, in an effort to make him look more cuddly, Ken Livingstone has acquired a pet, a Labrador called Coco (I cannot confirm rumours that the Guardian’s Dave Hill was also considered for the role.)

Ken’s new canine companion was supplied under a special outreach programme run by the London Development Agency for disadvantaged ex-politicians. It was bred by a “social enterprise” run by friends of Lee Jasper, at the bargain cost to taxpayers of £3 million. In its role as a key world ambassador for our Once and Future Mayor, the dog will be sent to a number of vital international conferences in warm, sunny places, at the further modest cost to taxpayers of £600,000.

I made that last paragraph up, of course. But it’s a taste of the lifestyle joys that await for Coco if its master makes it back to the City Hall kennel in 2012. (And don’t imagine I’m entirely joking – remember that Ken employed his own partner as London’s best-paid personal assistant on a salary of around a hundred grand.)

The arrival of the would-be First Pet does raise two slightly problematic questions. Unusually for a politician, Ken already does inspire blind, dog-like devotion in a number of people. Is it really healthy for him to have more?

And then there’s the awkward issue of the name. Is Coco, as its moniker would suggest, an, ahem, black Labrador? And if so, is that name entirely politically correct?

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