In his spare moments between campaigning against the Labour Party and working for Iranian state TV, the World’s Greatest Living Londoner is, I can reveal, standing for election as Labour’s 2012 mayoral candidate. A few weeks ago the Livingstone war machine rolled into Merton, where the South London Guardian’s Omar Oakes takes up the story:
“In my humble opinion, he did not look 100 per cent on form. He was clearly tired, and who can blame a 65-year-old political veteran for not always being on his game, especially now that he is looking after young children.
“But there was one delightful moment when Ken’s eyes lit up like candles – when he started talking about his nemesis – no not Boris! Andrew Gilligan, of course.”
Note for new readers: in 2008, I wrote a series of articles about Livingstone’s senior aide, Lee Jasper, and rather a lot of missing money; Ken blames the articles, rather than the money, for his defeat in the election that year. Oakes continues:
“And the scars of that defeat clearly still show. As we arrived to start our interview at Mitcham tram station, Livingstone started going off on one about this horrible dream he had the previous night, where he wins the London Mayor election and then – just when he is at his happiest – Gilligan is waiting at his home with a knife and tries to murder him.”
Welcome to the Twilight Zone! No word, alas, from Ken about whether I succeeded in my fiendish task – but on present evidence, I can probably leave the job to the voters. Even some Livingstone supporters are worried about last week’s YouGov poll, which put Labour 16 points ahead in London – but Ken and Boris Johnson, in the pollster’s words, “neck-and-neck” in the mayoral race, with Boris ahead on second preferences.
Some Ken partisans have tried to claim that the gap is closing, comparing it with a ComRes poll in October that showed Boris 9 points ahead – or, even more absurdly, with a poll taken right after his election three years ago showing the blond bombshell 16 points clear.
But the first law of psephology is never to compare polls by different pollsters, since they use different methodologies. The only relevant comparison – with the previous London YouGov poll in October – shows that over the last five months, while Labour has gained 8 points in the capital, Ken has managed just a one-point bump: well within the margin of error.
Even after a bad five months for the coalition, and a great deal of Kennish bloviating about genocidal bus fare rises, there has been effectively no change in Livingstone’s position. He also continues to lag, 41-44, among working-class voters: his base, as in 2008, remains the North London Guardianista crowd.
It’s fascinating to see Ken open a window on his deepest desires and desperations – not many politicians would tell a complete stranger about their dreams. And as a mere hack it’s flattering, as well as creepy, to have got so far inside the poor man’s head. Though this is the weirdest one yet, he often brings me up in interviews (the reporters, if they bother to record it at all, have to put a bit in square brackets explaining to their readers who I am.)
But it’s all further evidence of Labour’s awful mistake in choosing Ken as its mayoral standard-bearer. Even the contents of his dreams are trapped in the past.