Peter Hain on Ken Livingstone
I’ve written a review today of Peter Hain’s autobiography Outside In on the Left Foot Forward website (published yesterday), saying what a good read it was, and what an interesting person Hain is. I’ve also said that he is something of a conviction politician, which is good to see, and that clearly he was in it for changing the world, not careerism – which in spite of how you see his politics, or whether you agree with them, is noble at least.
On the 20th of January he was clearly delighted that Ken Livingstone was leading Boris in the opinion polls for the mayoral election. He said on twitter:
Great London/Ken poll wipes smile off smug Tory faces and caps off great week for Labour
In his book he did mention that in not supporting Ken for Mayor, Tony Blair’s New Labour control freakery was one example of the mistakes which led to Labour losing supporters (p.212).
But elsewhere (pp.159-60) he had this to say about Ken, which I love:
…I wanted to be effective, to be able to make a real difference. And that meant learning what not to do from Ken Livingstone … he seemed to go out of his way to make enemies, for instance on one occasion gratuitously insulting Labour MPs from northern England by falsely implying that they spent their evenings either drunk or in brothels.
Further in that chapter (p.185) he told the story of when Tony Blair asked him to be a whip in 1995, despite the fact there was much “suspicion” about him.
Blair, according to Hain, explained:
how he would have wanted to bring Ken Livingstone in too, but that Ken’s behaviour had never permitted that. ‘I may not have liked everything you have said or written, Peter, but you have never been aggressive or personalised your criticisms like Ken has.’
Ken as a whip – imagine that. Rumour has it that Ken recently grassed on the Labour whip when back in the nineties they were encouraging MPs to claim a second-home allowance as supplementary to their wages.
If Ken’s behaviour had been better, he could have stopped that, theoretically.
Still, great intervention by Hain. It’s a great read.