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Ken Livingstone tells MP who questioned his defence role to seek "psychiatric help"

The former London mayor lashed out at the Labour MP Kevan Jones who has spoken openly about his mental health problems and suffering from depression.

A classy start to the former London mayor and world's most divisive newt enthusiast Ken Livingstone's new role in the Labour party. Having just been appointed to lead a review into Labour's defence policies, Livingstone hit out in a deeply insensitive outburst at one of his critics in the party.

Kevan Jones MP questioned Jeremy Corbyn's decision to put a famously anti-nuclear politician in charge of reviewing Labour's stance on replacing Trident, saying, "I'm not sure Ken knows anything about defence. It will only damage our credibility amongst those that do and who care about defence."

This triggered Livingstone's offensive outburst to the Mirror:

“I think he might need some psychiatric help. He's obviously very depressed and disturbed.

“He should pop off and see his GP before he makes these offensive comments.”

Three years ago, Jones spoke about his mental health problems in parliament, explaining how he had been suffering from deep depression. He calls Livingstone's comments "gravely offensive not just personally but also to the many thousands who suffer from mental illness", adding that "offensive statements like this just reinforce the stigma about mental illness".

It took a few hours, but Livingstone has finally apologised for his comments.

Livingstone denies that he was aware of Jones' history of depression, claiming he hadn't heard of the MP before now, and initially refused four times to retract his comments:

Speaking on the BBC's World at One, Livingstone gave a decidedly confused and half-hearted apology:

"I had no idea that he had any mental health issues, otherwise I never would have said it. If he's upset, I'm sorry. But he can't blame me - he was the one who came out and attacked me and questioned my competence to do this job . . .

"I grew up in South London; if someone was rude to you, you were rude back to them. I didn't get to Eton and get all that smarmy charming education, I'm afraid."

An odd defence, considering Jones went to a comprehensive school in Worksop. But then defence isn't Livingstone's strong point.

This semi-apology came after a spokesperson for Corbyn urged Livingstone to apologise:

"Jeremy is incredibly concerned that people with mental health problems shouldn't be stigmatised. He has worked with Kevan in the past on this issue and is impressed by his bravery in speaking out on his own mental health issues. Ken should apologise to him straight away."

And Labour's shadow mental health minister Luciana Berger also condemned Livingstone's comments:


He has landed in further hot water with his assertion that shadow defence secretary Maria Eagle is "mad" for backing Trident renewal, adding, "anyone who wants nuclear weapons is mad". This was before his tweeted apology. In the same interview, which was with ITV, he said "this guy [Kevan Jones] shouldn't pick a fight with people and then start whimping around".

But there is one person defending poor old Ken! And that person is George Galloway. Yep.

 With a helpful picture attached.

I'm a mole, innit.

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You may call me a monster – but I'm glad that girl's lemonade stall got shut down

What's wrong with hard-working public servants enforcing perfectly sensible regulations?

Who could fail to be moved by the widely shared tears of a five year old whose innocent lemonade stall was brutally shut down by evil bureaucrats? What sort of monster would not have their heartstrings tugged by the plaintive “I've done a bad thing” from a girl whose father tells us she “just wanted to put a smile on people's faces”?

Well me, actually.

There are half a million cases of food poisoning each year in the UK, and one of the reasons we have stringent controls on who can sell food and drink, especially in unsealed containers, is to try to cut those figures down. And street stalls in general are regulated because we have a system of taxation, rights and responsibilities in this country which underpins our functioning society. Regulation is a social and economic good.

It’s also pretty unfair to criticise the hard-working public servants who acted in this case for doing the job they are no doubt underpaid to do. For the council to say “we expect our enforcement officers to show common sense” as they cancelled the fine is all very well, but I’m willing to bet they are given precious little leeway in their training when it comes to who gets fined and who doesn’t. If the council is handing out apologies, it likely should be issuing one to its officers as well.

“But these are decent folk being persecuted by a nanny state,” I hear you cry. And I stand impervious, I’m afraid. Because I’ve heard that line a lot recently and it’s beginning to grate.

It’s the same argument used against speed cameras and parking fines. How often have you heard those caught out proclaim themselves as “law-abiding citizens” and bemoan the infringement of their freedom? I have news for you: if you break the speed limit, or park illegally, or indeed break health and safety or trading regulations, you are not a law-abiding citizen. You’re actually the one who’s in the wrong.

And rarely is ignorance an excuse. Speed limits and parking regulations are posted clearly. In the case of the now famous lemonade stand, the father in question is even quoted as saying “I thought that they would just tell us to pack up and go home.” So he knew he was breaking the rules. He just didn’t think the consequences should apply to him.

A culture of entitlement, and a belief that rules are for other people but not us, is a disease gripping middle Britain. It is demonstrated in many different ways, from the driver telling the cyclist that she has no right to be on the road because she doesn’t pay road tax (I know), to the father holding up his daughter’s tears to get out of a fine.

I know, I’m a monster. But hooray for the enforcers, I say.

Duncan Hothersall is the editor of Labour Hame