Ken Livingstone memory suffers from Sun-stroke

I always love Ken’s attempts to blame Boris Johnson for absolutely everything that’s gone wrong in the world, from global warming to the death of Shergar. Now, game as ever, the old boy is trying to drag City Hall’s despised blond gauleiter into the News of the World hacking affair.

In the last 48 hours, the Kenster has issued no fewer than three press releases excoriating Boris over the hacking story. He’s even been down to the pavement outside Scotland Yard to record a special denuciation video, available at the evocative URL of codswallop.

“Boris Johnson had at least two meals with Rebekah Brooks, one dinner and one lunch with James Murdoch, and one dinner with Rupert Murdoch,” stormed Ken in one release. It was, he said, a sign of his “dire judgment…the full extent of his relationship with News International and how much the phone-hacking story was discussed between them must be revealed.”

Senior politician has meals with News International executives – surely unprecedented, and not something, of course, that any Labour politician has ever done? And though the Met, of course, failed shamefully in the hacking probe, isn’t its investigation of specific crimes an operational matter of the kind that Boris has no jurisdiction over – and has in the past been fiercely attacked for interfering in?

The other problem, alas, is that Ken has forgotten to “reveal the full extent” of his “relationship with News International.” Let us take, for instance, this heart-warming column from The Sun on 19 February last year – seven months after The Guardian first broke the hacking scandal.

“You used to be able to go to the cinema without taking out a second mortgage,” said a certain man-of-the-people columnist. “Last week I took my two smallest kids to the cinema in London and had to shell out £23 just for the three of us to get in.” True, only too true. There was a showbiz par (“Four years ago I had the good luck to work with Girls Aloud in Shanghai”), a policing item (“Trevor Kavanagh was right to damn bent cop Ali Dizaei in Monday’s Sun”)  and even some political analysis about guess who (“the only people Boris has put himself out for are the bankers.”)

This particular celebrity, according to the Factiva database, has had no fewer than 26 bylined articles in News International newspapers since the hacking scandal broke in July 2009. In the autumn and winter of 2009/10, he was a regular standby columnist, appearing every few weeks. In the 1990s, he was an even more regular columnist for The Sun.

This celebrity has, in short, taken much more from Rupert Murdoch than a couple of free lunches – more than enough to pay for a few cinema tickets, no doubt. In 2008, he was even given space in The Sun to defend himself against the “frame-up” of a certain Lee Jasper.

The name of this celebrity columnist? Ken Livingstone. Would that, I wonder, be the Ken Livingstone who condemns Boris Johnson for having a relationship with News International, or a totally different one?

PS: More Ken Sun columns in the days ahead. These gems of popular journalism should not be denied a wider audience.

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