Ken Livingstone: should we hang George Osborne?

As the election nears, Ken’s potty-mouth moments appear to be increasing in frequency. On Monday this week, at a public meeting in the borough of Lewisham, the chair, Val Shawcross, asked the audience for their views about housing policy. Ken came in: “Ask how many people think we should hang George Osborne.” Shawcross: “Well, I’m deliberately not asking questions like that because you never know when there is going to be a journalist in the room.”

I enjoyed the implication that it would be all right to demand the killing of the Chancellor if no journalist were present. But perhaps the most interesting thing is that this particular example of trash-talking comes only about two weeks after the last one, when Ken said that all 31 Tory councillors in Hammersmith should “burn in hell and your flesh will be flayed by demons for all eternity.” In June, Ken called Boris’s chief of staff a mass murderer. In August, he likened Boris to Hitler. Mere hanging is disappointingly lame by comparison. But given the ever-shortening intervals between outbursts, it is perhaps understandable that there will be some fall-off in creativity.

How do we explain this behaviour? How can Ken imagine that it will advance his claim to be taken seriously, or help him to reach beyond his core support? Is it a cry for attention? Is it the pressure of a flatlining campaign? Or does Ken think he’s being funny?

If so, here’s a piece of free advice which Ken will certainly ignore: it’s not a joke if nobody’s laughing.

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