Preview: Ken Livingstone:"The world is run by monsters"

Our exclusive interview with the Labour challenger, in tomorrow's magazine.

Our exclusive interview with the Labour challenger, in tomorrow's magazine.{C}

boris ken

Click here to read extracts from Jemima Khan's interview with Boris Johnson

For this week's issue of the New Statesman (on newsstands tomorrow), Jemima Khan interviewed -- on the same day -- both of the leading contenders for the 2012 London mayoral election: the incumbent, Boris Johnson, and the inaugural mayor, Ken Livingstone.

Here are some edited from Khan's breakfast with the Labour challenger.

Ken on Boris:

I think he has real ability, real intelligence, and he just never achieves his potential with it. It is why I think in the end he won't be prime minister . . . I don't think he has really got a solid ideological brain, like [George] Osborne or [William] Hague. It is very hard to find anything in Boris's career that he's serious about. He just loves life too much to really succeed as a politician.

Ken on Thatcher:

Clinically insane.

I am not going to watch it [The Iron Lady]. I do not want to feel sympathy for her. I feel sympathy for the people whose lives she destroyed.

Ken on bankers' bonuses:

In the time I was mayor, I used to do meetings with City bankers and I'd often open by saying, 'This isn't the world I would have created . . .' [Bankers' bonuses are] like penis extensions, among a small league of men - mine is bigger than yours.

. . . The world is run by monsters and you have to deal with them. Some of them run countries, some of them run banks, some of them run news corporations.

Ken on his private life:

We [Boris and I] both have five [children]. I can admit to all mine.

[The public] should be allowed to know everything, except the nature of private relationships - unless there is hypocrisy, like some Tory MP denouncing homosexuality while they are indulging in it.

Pressed by Khan about his use of "Tory MP", Ken responds:

Well, the Labour ones have all come out . . . As soon as Blair got in, if you came out as lesbian or gay you immediately got a job. It was wonderful . . . you just knew the Tory party was riddled with it like everywhere else is.

Ken on News International:

When Murdoch smashed the [print] union I refused to be interviewed by any Murdoch [paper] out there for - let me think, for five years, and then when I realised his empire didn't collapse with my boycott, I recognised I had to give in and go and be interviewed by them.

Ken on what he will do if he wins:

We will restore the 1,700 police jobs that have been lost. We spent all day yesterday locked in a room going through the police budget . . . We have only made two specific pledges - to cut fares, we know we can do it; and to restore police cuts, we know we can do it. The other thing will be cutting top salaries and using the money to give above-inflation pay increases to the lowest-paid.

Ken Livingstone quick-fire questions

How important is it to be liked?
It is nice, but I would rather do what is right than be liked.

Your idea of perfect happiness?
I suppose it's on a beach with a pina colada. Very cheap and tacky.

Your greatest fear?
That humanity is virtually extinct by the end of the century. It's a very real risk with climate change.

Which living person do you most admire?
Living person? I can only admire people who I have never met and are dead - because you know so much about anyone who is alive. The people I really most admire are Robert Kennedy and Franklin Roosevelt. If you know someone, it is very hard to revere them. I mean, how many people revere me, for God's sake?

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
I don't work hard enough. If I had worked harder I might have been prime minister.

What's the trait you most deplore in others?
A love of Boris.

On what occasions do you lie and when did you last lie?
I think I have gone through my entire public career never telling a lie. I have made mistakes but I never knowingly lied. In your private life you do [lie], because you don't want to hurt people's feelings and all that and also you want to protect yourself.

Which living person do you most despise?
There are so many members of the government I could say that about, but I might have to deal with them in a hundred days' time, so I really shouldn't.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?
I am not going to answer that.

If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?
My voice. I would like to sound like James Mason. I reckon if I'd had a better voice I could have been prime minister. It is the most irritating voice in public life.

What is your motto?
I don't believe in any of that nonsense. Get up and work.

When did you last cry?
Oh, whatever silly thing I watched on TV. I can easily lose myself emotionally in absolute Hollywood garbage.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?
When I was at the GLC and we only had a majority of four, the Tories always demanded special sessions, hoping to catch us out. They had a legal power to demand a special session, but I had the legal power to say when it would be - and I always called it on Friday afternoon because a handful of the Tories went to their country estate for the weekend. And then I was reading Suetonius's Twelve Caesars and [Julius Caesar] did exactly the same thing. He convened the senate on Friday afternoons. That is the only thing I can say identifies Julius Caesar with me - we chose the same squalid tactic.

What is your greatest boast?
That I am still here after 30 years of unremitting media hostility.

Click here to read extracts from Jemima Khan's interview with Boris Johnson

Alice Gribbin is a Teaching-Writing Fellow at the Iowa Writers' Workshop. She was formerly the editorial assistant at the New Statesman.

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Tom Watson rouses Labour's conference as he comes out fighting

The party's deputy leader exhilarated delegates with his paean to the Blair and Brown years. 

Tom Watson is down but not out. After Jeremy Corbyn's second landslide victory, and weeks of threats against his position, Labour's deputy leader could have played it safe. Instead, he came out fighting. 

With Corbyn seated directly behind him, he declared: "I don't know why we've been focusing on what was wrong with the Blair and Brown governments for the last six years. But trashing our record is not the way to enhance our brand. We won't win elections like that! And we need to win elections!" As Watson won a standing ovation from the hall and the platform, the Labour leader remained motionless. When a heckler interjected, Watson riposted: "Jeremy, I don't think she got the unity memo." Labour delegates, many of whom hail from the pre-Corbyn era, lapped it up.

Though he warned against another challenge to the leader ("we can't afford to keep doing this"), he offered a starkly different account of the party's past and its future. He reaffirmed Labour's commitment to Nato ("a socialist construct"), with Corbyn left isolated as the platform applauded. The only reference to the leader came when Watson recalled his recent PMQs victory over grammar schools. There were dissenting voices (Watson was heckled as he praised Sadiq Khan for winning an election: "Just like Jeremy Corbyn!"). But one would never have guessed that this was the party which had just re-elected Corbyn. 

There was much more to Watson's speech than this: a fine comic riff on "Saturday's result" (Ed Balls on Strictly), a spirited attack on Theresa May's "ducking and diving; humming and hahing" and a cerebral account of the automation revolution. But it was his paean to Labour history that roused the conference as no other speaker has. 

The party's deputy channelled the spirit of both Hugh Gaitskell ("fight, and fight, and fight again to save the party we love") and his mentor Gordon Brown (emulating his trademark rollcall of New Labour achivements). With his voice cracking, Watson recalled when "from the sunny uplands of increasing prosperity social democratic government started to feel normal to the people of Britain". For Labour, a party that has never been further from power in recent decades, that truly was another age. But for a brief moment, Watson's tubthumper allowed Corbyn's vanquished opponents to relive it. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.