Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
  2. Media
18 November 2015

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.

By media mole

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.”

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A weekly dig into the New Statesman’s archive of over 100 years of stellar and influential journalism, sent each Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
I consent to New Statesman Media Group collecting my details provided via this form in accordance with the Privacy Policy

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.