Following it as I do from several stops up the St Pancras to Bedford line I obviously miss out on a lot of the ins and outs of London politics, but I do know this, there is very little doubt that Ken Livingstone wants to be Mayor of London again.
As early as July he made it clear that he is serious about running in 2012.
However, he has a number of obstacles, aside from Boris and the London electorate obviously, between him and his ambitions.
The biggest is whether he would be able to secure the Labour Party’s nomination to be its candidate. He is a powerful political operator with a personal power base in some parts of the London Labour Party and political comebacks are possible. However, other parts of the Labour Party have never been entirely comfortable with Ken. Whatever his strengths he won’t be able to avoid the fact that he is the failed candidate from the 2008 election. And I imagine that there will be a strong feeling that Labour, and London for that matter, will have moved on. Ken will be 67 in 2012 and powerful arguments will be made that a fresh candidate would be preferable. (See also Liberal Conspiracy on this.)
It is possible that Ken could secure the Labour candidacy, but I don’t believe it would be certain. If he doesn’t, well, we know that Ken hasn’t been stopped from running before by not being the official Labour candidate.
I believe that Ken Livingstone is one of the most naturally talented politicians in British politics. Yet he is deeply flawed. He had the potential to be a truly great political figure. Winning the London election in 2000 as an independent demonstrated that. As the independent mayor he had a huge opportunity to build a really exciting and powerful progressive coalition involving people of all shades of opinion and all communities across London. Yet he chose not to. His way of operating as Mayor and his decision to return to the Labour Party as soon as it became possible meant that he threw that opportunity away. The “Ken brand” helped him secure his second term. Yet when that brand became tarnished, and he faced a strong challenge from the Tories, he had nothing to fall back on.
Ken talked a lot about “independent politics” and “progressive coalitions”. Yet like a lot of Labour politicians who use that kind of language he wasn’t serious about it. He said the right things but that talk was merely window dressing on top of what he was really interested in – building a political machine that he can use for his own interests.
Whether he gets the Labour candidacy next time or runs as an independent he will need some sort of political organisation and platform to keep him prominent in London politics between now and the election.
Ken is a machine politician and he needs a political machine to operate.
So he is at it again. In November of last year he launched what he called a “new coalition to promote progressive policies in the city” named Progressive London. Saying;
“Progressive London will bring together all Londoners who want their city to lead the world in the 21st century and protect their quality of life at a time when every penny counts.”
“promote the 2012 election bid of one particular person with a strong south London accent, time on his hands, and a burning desire to correct the grave error made by the voters in May.”
On January 24th this “coalition” is hosting a conference details of which can be found on its suspiciously purple website.
I don’t know much about Mike Tuffrey, but I have an enormous amount of respect for Susan Kramer whose judgement is usually extremely sound. So I am somewhat surprised to see that she is endorsing this event. I know people will argue about the importance of engaging in debate and how we should use every available opportunity to get across the Liberal Democrat message. Usually I would agree. But this is so obviously a “re-elect Ken” front, is it wise for any Liberal Democrat to be associating themselves with it?
This content was originally posted on my old Process Guy blog.