Ken Livingstone and Rupert Murdoch: it really was love

Ken’s attempts to make political capital out of Boris Johnson’s supposed “links” to the evil Murdoch empire are starting to look ridiculous as further evidence emerges that his links to News International were far closer than Boris’s have ever been.

I pointed out last week that Ken has twice had spells as a paid columnist for that great flagship of Murdochian progressive values, The Sun: the second spell came months after the hacking scandal had  well and truly broken. But I forgot to mention that, after his defeat in 2008, he also had a regular column in Murdoch’s unmourned featherweight freesheet, the London Paper.

While he was still Mayor, Ken loved the London Paper, because it was (a) not the hated Evening Standard and (b) never did any actual journalism about him (or anything else.) In the small gaps between items about Amy Winehouse it did, however, run regular pat-ball interviews with Ken and was duly rewarded with vast amounts of advertising by the mayor’s agencies, mostly Transport for London. Some days TfL had three full-page ads in the paper; it seems likely that it only stayed afloat as long as it did through massive injections of City Hall (ie our) money. Just over a year after Ken lost his job, it went the way of the News of the World.

On that sad day, Ken’s chief of staff and campaign manager, Simon Fletcher – by far his closest and longest-serving aide – described Murdoch and his paper as “a good thing for London.” He was undoubtedly a good thing for Ken – but despite what all too many of Livingstone’s supporters think, Ken and London are not quite the same.

One of Ken’s attacks on Boris was that he had had (horrors!) a number of meals with James Murdoch and other News International executives. The brazen hypocrisy of this charge has now been exposed by the Spectator’s David Blackburn, who has gone back through City Hall records to reveal that Ken… had meals with James Murdoch. And the editor of the London Paper, Stefano Hatfield. And attended Rupert’s summer party. And paid Murdoch’s son-in-law, Matthew Freud, £350,000 a year for PR, despite having his own massive in-house PR department (this contract was cancelled by Boris, to Freud’s fury – more about that, perhaps, at a later date.)

As I’ve said before, political claims don’t have to be true – but they do have to be credible. Ken’s claim to be a hammer of Murdoch is about as credible as his claim to be a foe of the bankers, or a holder-down of Tube fares.

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