Ken Livingstone gets duffed up again over links with Murdoch

ken at sun 1There are three polls out tonight which show that Labour is not getting all that much of a boost from the phone-hacking scandal, and has indeed gone down in two out of the three.

ICM for the Guardian has the Tories (37%, no change) in the lead for the first time since March (Labour is on 36%, down 3.) In Populus, Labour has a 5-point lead (39%, down 1) over the Tories (34%, down 5.) YouGov’s weekday series shows Labour on 42%, unchanged and the Tories on 37%, up 1. The main beneficiaries in two of the three polls appear to be the Lib Dems.

What this suggests to me is that voters recognise that, for all Labour’s superior attack, both main parties were snuggled equally deep beneath the duvet with Murdoch and only the Lib Dems emerge with much credit. It’s a lesson that was – once again – thumped home to poor old Ken Livingstone on Monday’s Newsnight.

There Ken got another medium-sized roughing-up for his blatantly opportunistic attempts to blame Boris Johnson for all the evils of Murdoch, even though he was mayor at the time of the hacking and his own links with the Dirty Digger are far, far closer. (My pictures, courtesy of the former Sun journalist Ilana Fox, show the Kenster posing in the paper’s offices at Wapping in his incarnation as a Sun columnist, for which services he personally trousered thousands of  pounds. As Ms Fox says, “being a hypocrite never looked so desperate.”)

ken at sun 2

Not a single paper, not even the Guardian, has taken up Ken’s attacks – with the obvious and inevitable exception of Livingstone’s personal echo, Dave Hill. I thought the days when journalists were in powerful men’s pockets had just come to an end, Dave!

Here’s how it went for Ken on Newsnight.

Gavin Esler: Ken Livingstone, when you were mayor, why didn’t you see some of this coming?

Ken Livingstone: There was no evidence of it. This arises from the Guardian’s expose in 2009.

Esler: But there was closeness between Met Police officers and people at the News of the World going way back to when you were mayor.

Ken: Actually, it looks like going back for many decades. But that actually wasn’t ever an issue, it wasn’t raised. Unlike the current mayor, I did a press conference every week. No-one from the BBC, or the Guardian, or anyone else, came along and said, there’s more to this than meets the eye. What we saw was hacking into the Royal Family, and then in 2007 the people guilty went to prison. At that stage, no-one came to me and said, we think there’s more to this. Had they done so, I would have made certain that it was investigated.

Esler: But wasn’t your relationship with News International too cosy? You wrote columns for The Sun, there’s nothing wrong with that but you did do it, you must have been reasonably close. You also spent £350,000 on a PR company run by Matthew Freud, who’s married to Elisabeth Murdoch!

Ken: We looked for a marketing company to establish offices for London in India and China. They were the most successful bid. I think –

Esler: They just happened to be connected to the Murdoch family.

Ken: The simple fact here you can’t get away from. Rupert Murdoch phoned the four editors of his papers in Britain just before the last mayoral election to make certain they were endorsing Boris Johnson. I think I must be doing something right if Rupert Murdoch bothers to intervene. I think –

Esler: But you found that you had to use, out of all the PR companies on Planet Earth, you had to use one connected to the Murdoch family.

Ken: It was a very good one. And we got £21m of investment from China in the first year after he opened those offices.

PS: Little-known fact about Matthew Freud’s “most successful bid:” according to PR Week magazine, none of the normal roster of PR agencies used by the GLA (the Forster Company, Fishburn Hedges, GCI, Good Relations, QBO Bell Pottinger and Trimedia Communications) was even allowed to pitch for the China deal.

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