Ken Livingstone: I didn't vote Labour at three general elections

My colleague Dan Hodges has a tape of the latest Ken outburst – they’re coming thick and fast now – in which the great statesman suggests that Tony Blair should be prosecuted for war crimes. Ken “opposed the war in Iraq,” you see. More on that later.

Equally interesting, however, was the following: “The gentleman asked what’s wrong with 13 years of New Labour? I never voted for New Labour. I never voted for Tony Blair and I stood against his awful government.”

Ken appears to be saying that he did not vote Labour in the 1997, 2001 or 2005 general elections, when New Labour was firmly what was on offer and Tony Blair was firmly the party leader. That’s pretty remarkable, given that in 1997 Ken was a Labour MP and that in 2005 he was the Labour mayor of London. I’m fairly sure I voted for Blair in 1997 and 2001 – so over the course of the last government, I may have voted Labour more than Ken did!

It wouldn’t, of course, be the only time that Ken has let the Labour Party down. Last year, without even the excuse of Blair, he helped sabotage Labour’s mayoral election campaign in Tower Hamlets, campaigning against the official Labour candidate and for the independent, Lutfur Rahman, expelled from Labour for his links with Islamic extremism.

Part of the reason Ken’s campaign to be re-elected mayor is doing so badly is that many Labour members won’t work for him, hating the way he demands loyalty but fails to give loyalty in return.

 

PS: For the true depth of Ken’s “opposition” to the war in Iraq, I recommend a read of his memoirs – which I’m struggling slowly through at the moment. He opposed the war and Blair so firmly that in late June or early July 2003, at the exact moment when the sexed-up dossier scandal and David Kelly affair were breaking, he privately agreed with Blair’s political secretary, Sally Morgan, to rejoin the Labour Party. (See page 486 of the book.)

He actually rejoined in January 2004, at the precise moment that Iraq was falling apart and the Hutton inquiry brought Blair and Labour to their lowest ebbs. At a time when virtually everyone else in the party was thinking about leaving – and thousands did leave – Ken, probably alone in Britain, was going the other way and ensuring that Labour would win at least one election that year. “Standing against Blair’s awful government?” I think not.

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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.

Boris Johnson: the bendy bus is now just days from death

Ken Livingstone's chariots of fire

Just three weeks to go now until the bendy buses block their last streets, cut up their last cyclists, and make their longed-for final exit from London. Their rather more popular predecessor, the Routemaster, lasted 51 years. The bendy has managed nine. There are now only three bendy routes left – get your fare-dodging in soon – and with poetic symmetry, I’m told that the final day, on route 207, is expected to be Friday 9 December, precisely six years since the last Routemaster left normal service.

Boris’s new RM will enter passenger service in February – on, I can reveal, the 38 route from Victoria to Clapton. Entirely by coincidence, I’m sure, this route terminates virtually on the doorstep of Ken’s most devoted media groupie and diehard bendy-bus fan, the Guardian’s Dave Hill – so he’ll have to pass this symbol of Boris’s London every time he leaves his house!

The demise of the bendies has meant more buses, vastly more seats and increased, often dramatically increased, frequencies for passengers. Understandably, therefore, despite the predictions (hopes?) of Dave and other axe-grinders, the change has worked well. Even in the heritage artefact that is Ken Livingstone’s 2012 election campaign, a pledge to reintroduce bendies has been conspicuously absent. The arrival of the bendy and the demise of the Routemaster was, in retrospect, the beginning of the end for Ken: an early sign that the great rebel had lost his old popular touch.

According to TfL, getting rid of the bendies – including the dramatic frequency increases – has cost, overall, an extra £302,000, an increase of less than 0.3% (there has also been a one-off cost of £2.2 million for the last two routes, the 29 and 207, to break the contracts early.) These extra costs are, says TfL, comfortably outweighed by what they expect to be an annual saving of £7.4 million from reduced fare-dodging.

At the Evening Standard party last week I teased Peter Hendy, the London transport commissioner who is the true father of the bendy bus, about this historic end of an error. Would there be a special ceremony on the 9th, I asked? A sinking, rather than a launch? Hendy thought there would – though he was, alas, not keen on a proposal by Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson to ceremonially blow a bendy up.

Some things about the day we can be fairly sure of. Mourning crowds will not gather for the historic event. Tickets for the last run will not change hands for large sums on eBay. A special bendy heritage service will not be operated for tourists. And given the buses’ history of spontaneous combustion, if Clarkson is willing to pay real money for one, what could be a more fitting end?

Ken Livingstone: his '£800 fare cut' falls apart

Ken Livingstone launched a rather nice campaign video last week publicising his claim that he will cut fares by 5% if elected. “Over the next four years,” he promised, “my fares plan for London transport will save the average user over £800.” There followed a series of heart-warming examples of what you could do with all that moolah – buy 130 chicken tikkas in Brick Lane, 800 portions of chips from Master Fish in Willesden, and so on. In a press release the same day, he went even further, promising the “average Londoner” an £800 saving.

Let’s leave aside, for the moment, Ken’s record of promising to hold down fares before elections – then jacking them up, or secretly planning to do so, as soon as he’s safely re-elected (something he did in both 2004 and 2008). Let’s forget the question of where the money is coming from. Let’s ignore for now whether Ken actually has the power to cut Travelcard fares, which are set in consultation with the rail companies and the Government.

Let’s examine instead the claim that his policy will save the “average Londoner” or the “average user” over £800 over four years. Alas, the fish-fryers of Willesden need not order extra potatoes just yet. Like so many Livingstone numbers, it turns out that the £800 claim is just not true.

Boris’s policy is to raise fares by 2 per cent above the rate of inflation each year until 2015 (and probably in 2016 too.) Ken’s policy, or claimed policy, is to cut fares by 5 per cent in October 2012, freeze them in 2013 and then raise them by the rate of inflation from January 2014 onwards.

The exact amount of money this would save you (if it happened) depends, of course, on what the inflation rate in 2012 and beyond is. Ken, naturally, has assumed that inflation will be extremely high – 3.8 per cent in 2012 – because the higher it is, the better his policy looks. He describes 3.8% as the “Treasury consensus forecast” – in fact, the actual Treasury consensus forecast for 2012 is 2.7%.

Yet even if we use Ken’s exaggerated inflation figure as the basis of our calculations, it turns out that only a small fraction of Londoners, or even of TfL users, will save more than £800 under his policy. And the average saving will be far less.

For a start, of course, a very substantial minority of Londoners seldom or never use public transport. They walk, they cycle, they drive, or they take taxis. They will save nothing, or almost nothing.

Even if we confine the claim to the average public transport user, it’s not true. Thirty-seven per cent of bus users – under-18s, pensioners, the blind and the disabled – travel free of charge. Five per cent of Tube journeys are also made by people travelling free. None of these users, of course, would save anything under Ken’s policy either.

Even if we are super-kind to Ken, and confine our calculations merely to the average London public transport user who pays fares, it is still not true. The claim of over £800 average savings is still a substantial exaggeration.

In fact, even in the hugely unlikely event that inflation averages 3.8 per cent a year for the whole of the next four years, the only Londoners who will save more than £800 over that time under Ken’s policy are those people who commute every day by rail or Tube from the outer suburbs and who hold the three most expensive possible tickets you can buy – annual Zones 1-6, 1-5 or 1-4 Travelcards.

These people will save between £800 and £1200 (in the furthest suburbs) but they account for less than 15 per cent of farepaying TfL users, less than 10 per cent of all TfL users and only about 2 per cent of all Londoners. The other 85 to 98 per cent – including period Travelcard users in zones 1 to 3, all One Day Travelcard users, bus pass users, Oyster pay as you go users and rail single ticket buyers – will save less than £800, usually much less.

An annual bus pass user, for instance, will save a total of £423 over the four years, little more than half the amount claimed by Ken. If inflation averages 2.7 per cent rather than 3.8, the saving falls to just £385, or £1.85 a week.

If you live near, say, Master Fish in Willesden, and commute on a zones 1-2 Travelcard, you will save between £605 and £664 over the four years. That is £2.91 a week. And these are the most intensive users, those with season tickets. People who use the service less intensively will clearly save even less. (The calculations are shown below.)

Once again, I find myself thinking that Ken’s would-be Exocet could turn into a winner – for Boris Johnson. Ken’s most crippling weakness is his dishonesty. Both in 2008 and now, his issue and character scores (competence, being in touch with ordinary people, etc) were those of a candidate who should have been ahead. The reason that he was, and is, behind Boris is that people do not trust him. “Honesty in fares” could actually be quite a good manifesto line for Boris, reminding people of all their doubts about Livingstone.

 

Annual bus and tram pass (assuming 2.7% inflation)

                                    Boris plan       Ken plan         Saving in year (Jan-Jan)

Jan 2012                    764                  764

Oct 2012                    764                  726                  £10 (Oct-Jan)

Jan 2013                    800                 726                  £74

Jan 2014                    838                 746                  £92

Jan 2015                    877                  766                  £111

Jan 2016                    918                  787                  £98 (Jan-Oct)

Total saving Oct 2012- Oct 2016                   £385

 

Annual bus and tram pass (assuming 3.8% inflation)

Boris plan       Ken plan         Saving in year (Jan-Jan)

Jan 2012                    764                  764

Oct 2012                    764                  726                  £10 (Oct-Jan)

Jan 2013                    808                 726                  £82

Jan 2014                    855                 754                  £101

Jan 2015                    905                 783                  £122

Jan 2016                    957                  813                  £108 (Jan-Oct)

Total saving Oct 2012- Oct 2016                   £423  

 

Zones 1-2 Travelcard (assuming 2.7% inflation)

Boris plan       Ken plan         Saving in year (Jan-Jan)

Jan 2012                    1192                1192

Oct 2012                    1192                1132                £15 (Oct-Jan)

Jan 2013                    1248               1132                £116

Jan 2014                    1307               1163                £144

Jan 2015                    1368               1194                £174

Jan 2016                    1432               1226               £156 (Jan-Oct)

Total saving Oct 2012- Oct 2016                   £605

 

Zones 1-2 annual Travelcard (assuming 3.8% inflation)

Boris plan       Ken plan         Saving in year (Jan-Jan)

Jan 2012                    1192                1192

Oct 2012                    1192                1132                £15 (Oct-Jan)

Jan 2013                    1261                1132                £129

Jan 2014                    1334               1175                £159

Jan 2015                    1411                1220               £191

Jan 2016                    1493               1266               £170  (Jan-Oct)

Total saving Oct 2012- Oct 2016                   £664

 

Zones 1-3 annual Travelcard (assuming 2.7% inflation)

                                    Boris               Ken                 Saving in year (Jan-Jan)

Jan 2012                    1392               1392

Oct 2012                    1392               1322               £18 (Oct-Jan)

Jan 2013                    1457                1322               £135

Jan 2014                    1525               1358               £167

Jan 2015                    1597                1395               £202

Jan 2016                    1672                1433               £179 (Jan-Oct)

Total saving Oct 2012- Oct 2016                   £701

 

 

Zones 1-3 annual Travelcard (assuming 3.8% inflation)

Boris               Ken                 Saving in year (Jan-Jan)

Jan 2012                    1392               1392

Oct 2012                    1392               1322               £18 (Oct-Jan)

Jan 2013                    1473                1322               £151

Jan 2014                    1558               1372                £186

Jan 2015                    1648               1424               £224

Jan 2016                    1744                1478                £200 (Jan-Oct)

Total saving Oct 2012- Oct 2016                   £779

 

 

 

Zones 1-4 annual Travelcard (assuming 3.8% inflation)

Boris               Ken                 Saving in year (Jan-Jan)

Jan 2012                    1704               1704

Oct 2012                    1704               1619                £21  (Oct-Jan)

Jan 2013                    1803               1619                £184

Jan 2014                    1908               1681                £227

Jan 2015                    2019               1745                £274

Jan 2016                    2136               1811                £244 (Jan-Oct)

Total saving Oct 2012- Oct 2016                   £950

 

 

Zones 1-4 annual Travelcard (assuming 2.7% inflation)

                                    Boris               Ken                 Saving in year (Jan-Jan)

Jan 2012                    1704               1704

Oct 2012                    1704               1619                £21 (Oct-Jan)

Jan 2013                    1784                1619                £165

Jan 2014                    1868               1663               £205

Jan 2015                    1956               1708               £248

Jan 2016                    2048               1754                £220 (Jan-Oct)

Total saving Oct 2012- Oct 2016                   £859

 

Attacking the Tube unions is a progressive act

Will automated Tube trains solve London Underground's problems?
Will automated Tube trains solve London Underground's problems?

A second leaked “confidential document” (aka press release) emerged this week about TfL’s plans for driverless Tube trains, revealing that they could begin as early as 2015. Someone is clearly testing the waters. Good.

It’s an idea I’ve been pushing for three years, since I went to Paris and saw how they’re automating an entire existing Metro line, their oldest and busiest (they already have one new-build driverless line). It greatly improves the service – machines deliver a more regular and consistent service than people; extra trains can be brought out at the push of a button if there are sudden spikes in demand. It is also by far the simplest way to deal with London’s second greediest, most reactionary group of employees (after bankers): the Tube drivers.

The pointlessness of dealing with them any other way was made clear last month. On October 3, the Tube drivers were given a pay deal of an immediate 5 per cent pay increase, backdated to April, plus guaranteed above-inflation pay rises for the next four years. It takes their salaries to £45,000 at once (backdated for the last seven months, in fact) and to perhaps around £52,000 by 2015. This is for 35 hours a week of extremely easy, if boring, work, with almost seven weeks’ holiday a year. They have also been given extra bribes of up to £1,200 to not strike (ie, do their jobs) during the Olympics.

Two days later, on October 5, they announced a further ballot for strike action.

I think, from conversations with some of the key people involved, that the talk of driverless trains is fairly serious, and it could form an important part of next year’s Mayoral election campaign. How will the public react? On one hand, the Tube unions are highly unpopular and attacking them is clearly a progressive action.

Their principal victims are London’s working poor, who must pay the highest fares in Europe to fund the drivers’ lifestyle, and lose a day or two’s pay (or even their jobs) whenever there’s a strike, in the cause of further enriching an already highly privileged group of employees.

Like the Fleet Street printers of old, the Tube drivers have shown little understanding of just how far they are stretching our patience, how much  they are pricing themselves out of work – or of the technological tsunami that threatens to sweep them away. The icing on the political cake is that Ken Livingstone, inevitably, has aligned himself with the forces of reaction and can truthfully be presented as a client of the Tube unions, two of whom have funded his campaign.

On the other hand, the worry will be whether the public in any way buys the unions’ claims that safety is at risk. It isn’t, of course: driverless trains are safer than traditional ones, because the platform edges are normally gated and the Underground’s principal source of deaths and serious injuries, people falling under trains, cannot happen. Even without gates, the DLR has been running driverless trains for 24 years without notable safety difficulties.

The way to overcome safety concerns (if they exist) is to announce that, as on the DLR, every train will still carry a member of staff. But instead of sitting locked away in a cab where they are of no help to anyone, they will walk through the train offering information, security and assurance to passengers. They will no longer, however, be able to stop the service by withdrawing their labour.

Ken Livingstone says Tories should 'burn in hell for all eternity'

Ken: not such a cuddly old charmer now (Photo: AFP)

I’ve been away doing the day job, so I’ve only just caught Ken’s latest  outburst. At a meeting in Hammersmith and Fulham earlier this week, Labour’s cuddly old charmer told one H&F councillor, Peter Graham, that if there was “any justice,” he and all his 30 Tory colleagues would “burn in hell and your flesh will be flayed [by] demons for all eternity.”

And what has consigned these spawn of Satan to Ken’s fiery furnace? Well, it seems that they are proposing to redevelop a council estate. How good it is to know that someone aspiring to lead us has such a finely-developed sense of proportion.

Ken still rather touchingly sees himself as the “serious” candidate. But in the last five months alone, he’s called Boris Johnson’s chief of staff a war criminal, compared Boris himself to Hitler and confessed (voluntarily!) to his own role as chief sperm donor and stud stallion to the free-thinking women of North London. (Anyone who voted for Boris would also “burn forever,” you might remember.)

The only demons here are those in Ken’s own head. And the only thing burning right now is surely his election campaign. It’s a meltdown, and it’s starting to feel almost unkind to talk about it.