Here’s some of my story from today’s paper:
The militant rail union leader Bob Crow has threatened to sue Boris Johnson, saying it is “offensive,” “malicious” and “defamatory” for the mayor of London to associate him with Ken Livingstone.
Solicitors for Mr Crow have written to Mr Johnson, demanding a public apology for campaign posters on which the RMT leader’s name appears alongside a picture of Mr Livingstone.
In a “letter of claim” sent under the “pre-action protocol for defamation,” the lawyers say that making the link with Mr Livingstone has “harmed the standing of the RMT as a union” and had “a negative impact on Mr Crow’s reputation among his membership and with the public at large.” In the letter, seen by The Sunday Telegraph, they insist that Mr Crow “has not supported Mr Livingstone’s campaign as Labour candidate” and “disagrees with him” on some issues.
The Johnson posters, displayed on billboards and issued as A5 leaflets, are headlined “Not Ken Again.” They say that Mr Livingstone “wants to come back with his council tax rises, broken promises, cronies, scandals, waste [and] Bob Crow.”
A spokesman for the Johnson campaign said: “We knew Ken was a controversial character. But if even Bob Crow is worried about being associated with him, things must be getting serious.”
Full story here, full legal letter below.
There are two aspects to all this. The first is its pure comedy. Few people can be more hated by Londoners than Bob Crow and his members, currently trousering packages worth up to £61,000 a year (plus seven weeks’ holiday) for a job that could quite literally be done by a machine (the trains on three lines already drive themselves.) But if Crow is right, Ken may be one of those few, even more toxic people. It’s also touching to learn how thin-skinned the RMT hard-man really is. Tell you what, Bob, if you want us to think better of you, why not stop trying to gouge a further £2,000 per driver out of Londoners in much less well-paid and secure work than them, just for the favour of turning up to work during the Olympics?
The second aspect is that this really is starting to look like a rout for Ken among people who should be his supporters. Yesterday, the Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland, a long-term Ken backer, said Livingstone had lost his vote because of his attitude to Jews. On the same day the editor of the influential LabourList blog, Mark Ferguson, wrote a piece strongly criticising the mayoral candidate: “You can win elections with the politics of divide and rule… but you cannot lead a city. You cannot command its respect,” he said.
They join a growing chorus of voices on the left who have publicly criticised Livingstone in the run-up to the election, including the London Labour MPs Jim Fitzpatrick and Rushanara Ali, the Observer columnist Nick Cohen, the former Labour candidate Jonathan Roberts, the Labour activist Rob Marchant, the journalist Martin Bright, and the former special adviser Dan Hodges. Other (leaked) criticism has come from Livingstone’s own campaign staff, including his former campaign director, Hilary Perrin, who was removed last year after saying he could not win if he did not change his ways.
In private, few Labour London MPs or council leaders back Ken with any enthusiasm, or even at all. More London MPs wanted Oona King to be the candidate than him. Some of Ken’s critics will be voting for him, but most importantly of all, of course, up to 31 per cent of Labour’s own voters, according to the polls, will not.
By election day, it’s starting to look like Ken’s core support could be down to Coco the Labrador and the Guardian’s Dave Hill – and I’m even starting to get a bit worried about Dave, whose blog has been ominously silent for days now. Come back and turn things round with a long, rambling analysis piece, Dave! Your candidate needs you!
Here’s the hilarious Bob Crow threat letter to Boris. Never again let it be said that the RMT has given nothing back to London.