Ken had one of his angry moments yesterday – watch that blood pressure! – over Boris Johnson’s interview in the Sun. “Look at Pret a Manger. If you’ve been to one recently, how many Londoners served you?” asked Boris. “Why are young [Londoners] not taking up those jobs? How can we help them? That is the key problem for our economy. Let’s talk about the work ethic. I don’t want to stigmatise young people because many of them do have the aptitude. But we need to face up to these issues. In some cases it can come down to the fact that the jobs are there and people need to have the energy to go out and get them.”
Livingstone seized on this rather gently-worded statement as a contemptible betrayal of London’s abandoned youth. Boris was “calling Londoners workshy and lazy,” stormed the Kenster. He was “out of touch about how hard it is to find work.”
But what’s this I see, from the Evening Standard of 14 May 2007? “In seven years I have only been served coffee once by a born and bred Londoner,” complained one prominent London politician. “People [from London] have been left so far behind that they get sacked from jobs because they turn up late in the morning. They have grown up their entire life in a house where nobody gets up before midday.” (Hat-tip to Lib Dem Voice’s Mark Pack.)
The person responsible for this rather more direct attack on London’s workshy and lazy was called Ken Livingstone. Could they by any chance be related?
I sympathise, of course, (takes out onion) with Ken’s own experience of how hard it is to find employment, in a particularly tough job market for embittered old lefties. But if I were his careers adviser, I’d stress the importance of presenting a consistent work history.
For instance, if you’re going to apply for your next job by attacking evil bankers for destroying the world, it doesn’t look good if pesky journalists can turn up pieces you wrote while you were mayor praising the “light regulation” of the City as the “cornerstone of London’s success” and promising to defend the bankers “against any challenges.” (For those without the Sunday Times paywall, it was from their issue of 17 December 2006.)
If you’re applying for that same job by branding your rival a “pickpocket” for raising Travelcard prices by 20.7%, you’d better make sure that you didn’t raise Travelcard prices by almost exactly the same amount.
And if you’re after the crusty vote, it might be as well not to take diametrically opposed positions on the Occupy London protest within a fortnight. On 20 October, Ken told the Camden New Journal: “I wouldn’t occupy the streets. It’s just not something I would do and I’m not going to tell people to do something I wouldn’t do myself.” By 31 October, however, the temptation of another shot at the mayor had overcome him: he was attacking Boris’s call for the protestors not to, er, occupy the streets as “wildly misjudged” and telling City Hall that it had “a duty to accommodate” them.
For Livingstone, there are clearly two kinds of fare rises, encomia for the City, condemnations of the workshy, etc: his (good) and Boris’s (very, very bad.) And there are two kinds of Ken: the mayor grappling with the real problems of running London and the candidate prepared to say anything to anybody, or indeed different things to different people, if he thinks it’ll win him votes.