Lions were led by donkeys in Labour’s London mayoral election campaign

by Atul Hatwal

The phrase was memorably used by Alan Clark to describe the shambolic command of British infantry in the First World War. In the wake of Ken Livingstone’s defeat, ‘lions led by donkeys’, captures the essence of what happened to Labour in London’s mayoral election.

Thousands of Labour activists ordered over the top in the cause of a flawed figurehead, as part of a doomed campaign that the top brass had privately written-off several months ago.

In the carnage of a London loss, where Labour’s candidate under-performed his party’s Assembly vote by 43,480 votes or 5% on first preferences, it can be hard to disentangle the reasons for defeat.

But three distinct reasons stand out: the suicidal candidate selection process, Ed Miliband’s judgement and, of course, the candidate himself.

At the root of Labour’s London problem was a ludicrous decision on the timetable for candidate selection

In the aftermath of the general election defeat in May 2010, while the party reeled, the NEC decided that this was the best time to pick a mayoral candidate – 24 months before the election.

Gordon Brown’s resignation forced the timetable for a leadership election. Running the mayoral selection in parallel was entirely voluntary.

It meant potential candidates from the front bench such as Alan Johnson were unprepared. The selection process was railroaded through just days after the general election, before many MPs could collect their thoughts after a bruising election contest, let alone raise the funds to fight.

It didn’t have to be this way. In 2000 the Labour selection wasn’t concluded till three months before the election, while Boris Johnson only got the nod just seven months before the 2008 election, and that didn’t seem to do him any harm.

But when the NEC made their decision, sanctioned by acting leader Harriet Harman’s team, they knew all of this.

It was part of the charade of democracy Labour frequently conducts on its candidate selections. This was a stitch-up, pure and simple to help Ken Livingstone – the candidate who had been running since he lost the mayoralty in 2008.

It was Livingstone’s pay-off for committing his personal machine in London to the cause of re-electing Gordon Brown at the general election.

His chief of staff, Simon Fletcher ran Labour’s London campaign in the general election and the price of their grandiose and futile promises to deliver gains in London for Brown was a mayoral timetable that virtually guaranteed Livingstone’s re-selection as candidate.

The rushed selection of Livingstone was clearly not Ed Miliband’s fault. He had to accept his party’s mayoral candidate as a fait accompli when he became the leader in September.

But Ed Miliband does not escape culpability.

He failed London just a few weeks after taking office, in October 2010. The occasion was Ken Livingstone campaigning for Lutfur Rahman for mayor of Tower Hamlets, against Labour’s choice, Helal Abbas.

On the face of it, this should have been a simple case. Should have been. The rules are clear. Campaigning for someone against the official Labour candidate means automatic expulsion.

But Livingstone’s calculation was simple. He wanted access to Rahman’s Tower Hamlets vote banks for his own election and Ed Miliband was an ingénue leader with a wafer thin mandate.

Livingstone knew the rule-book. He just decided to challenge the leadership and dare them to expel him.

Ed Miliband blinked. The leader was scared of a battle so early on in his leadership and feared a vote splitting independent Livingstone candidacy, re-running the disaster of 2000 when Livingstone beat Frank Dobson.

Shame. If his advisers had taken the time to look back a bit more carefully they would have seen that 2010 was very different to 2000.

In 2000 Livingstone had been blocked from the Labour selection by the union and MPs section of the tri-partite electoral college, overturning the will of the members whose backing he had emphatically won. When he rebelled, Livingstone had right on his side.

In 2010, Livingstone was publicly campaigning against a Labour candidate having just been selected via a fixed selection process almost egregious as the one which unfairly barred him in 2000. Right was not on his side and as a candidate he was much diminished after his 2008 loss.

Expelling Ken in October 2010 might have prompted an independent candidacy, but so what? Ed Miliband would have seemed a strong leader, Labour would have got a better candidate and London’s proportional voting system would have helped neutralise the electoral impact.

A different Labour candidate would likely have polled in line with the party rather than behind it, and forced Ken into third, harvesting his second preferences.

But in October 2010, Ed Miliband didn’t think it through, took the path of least resistance and just did nothing. It was a critical turning point.

From this moment on, Livingstone ran Ed Miliband, not vice versa. From this moment on, the election was going to be a referendum on Ken Livingstone regardless of Boris Johnson’s record.

Much has been written about the flaws of Livingstone and his performance in the campaign. There’s no need to recount the individual detail of his relations with the Jewish community, his evasions on tax and poor campaign judgements such as the scripted tears.

Suffice to say, in the end, his tendency to dissemble took its toll despite David Cameron and George Osborne’s best efforts to alienate the entire country.

For Labour there is much to be frustrated by in this campaign: mistakes and missteps that could so easily have been avoided. Livingstone’s half-truths and baffling decisions like that blue aliens poster.

But perhaps the most exasperating aspect will only come in the next few days.

Because as sure as night follows day, various members of the shadow cabinet and front bench will make it known that they were never happy with Livingstone’s candidacy.

Only once the race has been run and London is lost, will voices of sanity be publicly raised.

The reality is that virtually none of the parliamentary Labour party ever believed Livingstone would win. At the last count almost 10% of London’s Labour MPs (4 out of 44) couldn’t even bring themselves to vote for Livingstone in the privacy of the polling booth.

More than Ken Livingstone’s disastrous campaign, this hypocrisy, this abject political cowardice by Labour’s senior political figures will be the real travesty.

While members kept delivering leaflets, knocking doors and manning phones, Labour’s leaders acquiesced to living a political lie. They encouraged, cajoled and pressed members into service in a futile cause.

Money was spent, hopes were raised and the bitterness of inevitable defeat was tasted by thousands of Labour activists.

Labour could have won London and saved the capital from four more years of Boris Johnson. The party could have committed its members to work in a campaign that the leadership genuinely believed in.

But instead Labour’s leaders chose to sacrifice the time and effort of members and give up on the future of London to avoid the difficulty of undoing a mistake made in May 2010.

If Labour’s mayoral choice had polled at the level achieved by the assembly candidates, they would now be mayor.

Lions led by donkeys indeed.

Atul Hatwal is associate editor at Uncut


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48 Responses to “Lions were led by donkeys in Labour’s London mayoral election campaign”

  1. Atul there is no doubt that Ken was not a winner, but I am not sure that I felt as an activist that it was wrong time to run the the selection process 2 years ago (though in hindsight I can see it was unnecessary, a year would be enough certainly next time).

    I am not sure your argument really takes into account what a fully fledged fight for the candidacy would have done. Ken would have fought hard and was in a strong enough position to to either damage or beat even a shadow cabinet opponent, the coverage would have been negative and the party viewed as indulging in infighting.

    Ken’s candidacy may have been inevitable even with a later contest, his mistakes on the campaign trail weren’t.

  2. Simon Christopher-Chambers says:

    Blimey you do talk a load of nonsense. There were two simple reasons for Labour’s loss.
    1. Boris
    2. Tax

    Firstly, Londoners pathetically fell for the ‘he makes me laugh’ bumbling Boris routine. A routine that will wear thin over the next couple of years. No where in your rubbish piece do you suggest any credible alternative candidate to Ken. Particularly as this particular election has degenerated into a contest Simon Cowell would have been proud of.

    Secondly, the Govts budget omni-shambles actually turned out well for Boris as it led to a spotlight on Ken’s tax affairs which much of the media enthusiasticically attacked. This confirmed a existing feeling in many that all ‘politicians are hypocrites’ and ‘in it for themselves.’ Ken’s loss Boris gain.

  3. swatantra says:

    Lions led by asses would be more appropriate.
    I had to switch off after the result was announced this morning; just couldn’t stomach Johnsons victory speech as it would have put me off my breakfast. But Ken brought it all on himself It was always going to be a personality contest and Johnson is a past master at it; policies never really got a look in. Ken was always the Dozy Dormouse and Johnson the Mad Hatter rushing around London looking for photo opps. Think, if Ken had been expelled a 2nd time for supporting an Independent candidate as he should have been, we might have won with a fresher face; I say might.
    The only consolation was that that it was a close run thing and Labour did London a favour by getting rid of several Tory timeservers on the London Assembly.
    The good thing is that London Labour will now get a big shake up those that contributed to the defeat thrown out.

  4. Mike Mitchell says:

    Damn straight – enough reason why Ed Miliband needs to go if we are to have any chance of winning the next general election

  5. uglyfatbloke says:

    But apart from Ken, a good night for Labour in Egland, an excellent night in Wales and pretty good night in Scotland too, which was a much harder challenge. The collapse of the Glib-Dumbs and the squeezing of the Tories gave Labour victories all over the country; notably Glasgow. The latter is not altogether a good thing; Glasgow’s Labour group have been simply dreadful – their standards of honesty and comepetence would not be tolerated anywhere in England or Wales. Even so, the decimation of the coalition parties at least means Glasgow Labour has not been forced into an alliance with the Tories.
    That said, although Scotttish results were pretty good, there’s no getting away from the fact that the Gnats actually had a good night as well – largest number of councillors, biggest share of first preference votes. They did n’t have a massive victory like last year, but there are two things to bear on mind. One is that they already have a big lead in general popularity, the other is that they – like the coalition – are in government. Unlike the coalition they have been in power for five years so you would have expected them to lose groung, not gain some (however little). People in Scotland often vote for different parties at different elections, so the gnats are probably just as strong (perhaps stronger) for the next Holyrood elections. There’s s strong case that the gnat vote has firmed-up. A year ago a lot of people voted SNP because they had delivered fairly competent centre-left government rather than becasue of the independence issue. That was propably not the case last Thursday.

  6. Political Realist says:

    This. Every word of it.

    The Tories succeed electorally because they are entirely without sentiment. Thatcher was a multiple election winner, deeply popular with both the party and the base, but was becoming more and more divisive and looked on course to lose in 1992. So the Tory brains trust invited her to consider her future with a revolver and a bottle of whiskey and, when she refused, staged a show trial and public execution. They got a two-for-one: a new, less divisive, leader and the opportunity to show that they were stepping away from her policies (they didn’t, of course, not really, but perception is all). Then when, in the aftermath of 1997, new Tory leaders lost elections, they were immediately defenestrated: never did the Tories try the foolish act of re-presenting a losing candidate to the electorate, saying “yes, I know you rejected him last time, but you were wrong, don’t you see?”

    Contrast with Labour. Candidacies aren’t decided based on the ability to win elections, but rather as the reward for long service, loyal lieutenantship and straight-forward sentiment. Michael Foot is the index case for this — no-one ever believed he would win a general election, probably including him, but he became leader as a reward for a long career in the party. Neil Kinnock in 1992 is another: he’d lost in 1987, so there was no possible chance that as a loser, he would win. Brown is yet another: Blair was becoming a liability, but rather than make a step to a new world, Labour rewarded Brown by launching him on a doomed premiership.

    But the Livingstone example is insane. He lost in 2008. He lost in the face of a campaign by an insurgent, inexperienced Tory whose public image was of an incompetent buffoon. Irrespective of whether you think someone else could have done better over the past four years (which obviously, they could), Johnson has not been a total disaster. Zoe Williams’ notorious piece in the G2 in 2008 now looks absurd, because although Johnson has been many things that are not good, he has been neither evil nor incompetent. So running Livingstone again (saying to the electorate “we think you didn’t mean it last time, so we’re asking again to see if we get a different answer”) was just sentimental madness. This time, Johnson was the incumbent, and had a track record that was not entirely bad: defeating that requires more than pointing to your past history and saying, in essence, “I deserve it for past glories”.

    Candidates have to be able to win. Candidates who have lost will continue to lose. There are no second acts in politics. Livingstone, remember, didn’t lose his role as leader of the GLC at an election, the role was abolished. There was no reason for anyone who didn’t vote for Livingstone in 2008 to vote for him in 2012, and they didn’t. In the face of massive hostility to the Tories, and Labour victories through the whole country, including the GLA, Labour threw away an important election just so they didn’t have to have an awkward “thanks, but here’s your gold watch” with a much-loved but now ineffective retainer. Loyalty to colleagues and members is touching, but the Labour Party has to be loyal first and foremost to its electorate and to the working class. On this occasion (as with Brown) the Labour Party self-indulgently ran the candidate that made their lives easier, rather than the candidate who could win an election and make things better for Londoners. Shame on them.

  7. Political Realist says:

    “Firstly, Londoners pathetically fell for the ‘he makes me laugh’ bumbling Boris routine. A routine that will wear thin over the next couple of years.”

    Describing the decisions of the electorate as “pathetic” is the contempt for democracy that we expect from old Labour dinosaurs, of course. And why will Johnson wear thin over the next couple of years, when it hasn’t over the past four?

    Labour was self-indulgent and weak, so picked a proven loser in order to avoid the short-term problems of running a selection process properly. They then compounded the error by not expelling Livingstone for campaigning against Labour. As night follows day, they lost, and the inadequacy of the Tory campaign is revealed by how narrow that loss was. In pursuit of the mythical Muslim Labour vote (how did that work against Galloway, by the way?) Labour’s candidate prostrated himself in front of all sorts of appalling wife-beaters, child mutilators and terrorist sympathisers, as well as taking money from the Iranian government, in the hope that “community leaders” would deliver sufficient votes.

    Now he’s gone, Labour can try to find a decent politician who is willing to stand for London, rather than dividing it into “communities” and pandering to the ones he cynically thinks he can get best advantage from.

  8. Nils Boray says:

    A very well observed & accurate piece, which I tend to agree with. I do wonder though whether historically we’ll come to see Ed’s avoidance of an early run in with Ken as a strength rather than a weakness ? In the light of the (almost) overwhelming rejection of elected mayors across the rest of the country it could be argued that Mayoral elections will become increasingly irrelevant.

    You could also wonder whether the election of Boris, bucking the trend of Tory decline across the rest of the country, might also sow the seeds of future problems for David Cameron.

    There’s much to commend your version of Ed’s failure here, but I’m not entirely convinced – an early battle with Ken would have been bloody – there’s not guarantee that he’d have come out on top. As things stand, as you point out, there’ll be no shortage of people coming out in the next few days saying they never liked Ken in the first place

  9. swatantra says:

    Hate to throw in a damp squib just at the moment when the Party is euphoric having trounced the Tories and Lib Dems.
    But seeng Diane Abbott and Emily Thornberry spinning like mad for the Party just made me feel a bit uneasy in fact queasy.
    The main problem of ‘Ed’ has not gone away and will rumble on. Ed is not an electable Leader and the sooner the Party deal with that the better. If the London Result shows us anything, its that personality is an mportant factor in winning any election, and regretably Ed has not got it.

  10. william says:

    Political realist.Nicely put.

  11. Felix says:

    “There was no reason for anyone who didn’t vote for Livingstone in 2008 to vote for him in 2012, and they didn’t.”

    Hogwash. I didn’t vote for him in 2008 but did this time and given the result is that much closer this time, it looks like tens of thousands of other people did too. Poltical realist? Can’t even read figures properly.

  12. Norf London Leftist says:

    There is a lot of merit in Atul’s article even though I might not subscribe to all of it. The one thing it reminds me of is our inability or unwillingness to have a proper examination of the abject failure of Gordon Brown’s leadership of the party. I guess too many are compromised by their role in making that happen to want to have that discussion.

    Livingstone’s candidature was an encore of that time as, I fear, is Ed Miliband.

    Miliband could still save himself but only if he is willing to be honest, at least to himself, about what a failure Gordon Brown was and why he was a failure. But, like too many of those who attached themselves to Brown he can see this only in terms of Blair v Brown and not in wider politics.

    Tony Blair was going to go in 2007. The mistake was not TB going, it was replacing him with Brown and his team who seemed to be stuck in 1986 politically.

  13. Herbert says:

    What a load of fluff. Livingstone was only marginally behind at the end (about 8,000 votes out of 2 million) – put that down to i) tax and ii) offending Jewish voters, and there you have it.

  14. John P reid says:

    I’d hardly say Ken had been running since he lost in 2008, In fact of 40 years In Lonodn politics 2011 was the first time he’d gone anywhere outside of the North circular Having Never visited Dagenham or Havering in the previous years, if he was serious about winning he would have admitted this was a mistake in 2008 and Worked hard In havering and Dagenham between 2008 and 2011

  15. Anon E Mouse says:

    What no one here seems able to understand is that the Brits have a humorous side to their character and Boris johnson fits the bill perfectly.

    A buffoon? I do hope so. (Secretly I think he’s playing the role of Boris Johnson though)

    Labour activists just don’t understand the electorate like that type of thing because it’s funny. When Boris Johnson says “Wiff Waff is coming home” it’s priceless.

    Tony Blair had humour and was popular – Stephan Pound, Alan Johnson, Charles Clarke, David Miliband, John Reid – all self deprecating and humorous. And popular.

    Gordon Brown, Ed Miliband, John Prescott, Ed Balls, Harriet Harman – arrogant, pompous, out of touch and unpopular with the public. And in Miliband’s case the PLP and the party members.

    Only 32% turned out to vote in England because of apathy and I can see a Tory landslide if the leadership of Labour remains with Ed Miliband at the helm.

    To dismiss Boris Johnson as a buffoon shows a complete lack of understanding of the very people the Labour Party claims it wants to represent in this country.

    You may not like Boris Johnson but if you don’t get the appeal then give up with politics because you don’t understand how the working classes in this country feel and have no right to lead them. You will represent a serious up your own arse party like Brown did.

    Just grow up or go and join Socialist Worker or whatever because a lack of humour is killing the Labour Party and if I see Andy Burnham or Yvette Cooper looking serious one more time I’m going to scream…

  16. Charles says:

    Felix, you need to look at the actual votes cast. Ken didn’t get any more votes than in 2008, although neither did Boris. Both managed to attract a greater percentage of the first preference vote because third parties on the whole suffered.

  17. frank says:

    This is nonsense from beginning to end, based on fantasy data.

    Ken got 889,918 first preference votes, This compares to 911,204 for the Labour London-wide Assembly vote. Both totals can be seen here

    http://www.londonelects.org.uk/im-voter/results-and-past-elections/results-2012

    The difference was just 0.8% of the total votes cast in each separate ballot, 40.3% for Ken, 41.1% for Labour. Not 5%, as stated.

    21,000 votes was the gap between the two. Given that Johnson was ahead by 82,000 votes after the first round and 63,000 in the second round, the ‘Labour gap’ voters were immaterial to the outcome.

    Without other voters, Ken would have lost in any event.

    The entire piece is, not for the first time, built on a false assertion.

  18. Atul Hatwal says:

    Frank – the comparison in this piece is between votes cast for Labour Assembly candidates and votes cast for mayoral candidate. The 5% represents under-performance against the Lab Assembly total.

    In a mayoral campaign, based on individual personality, to just compare a generic party option with an individual is not a like-for-like match. If Ken had achieved anything like the levels of Con to Lab swings secured by Lab’s Assembly candidates, there would now be a Labour mayor.

  19. John says:

    “More than Ken Livingstone’s disastrous campaign, this hypocrisy, this abject political cowardice by Labour’s senior political figures will be the real travesty.

    While members kept delivering leaflets, knocking doors and manning phones, Labour’s leaders acquiesced to living a political lie.”

    Here’s the real problem. The leadership are, as you say, donkeys,and not one of them will pay for this avoidable defeat. But how do you describe Labour members who knock on doors and lie the public about Ken? How do you describe members who extol Ken, on TV, radio and in print, as a great guy and the perfect choice for London?

    I know elites tend to think that ordinary people are stupid, but really, they’re not. They see this kind of hypocrisy for what it is. And it doesn’t reflect well on the Labour party at all. It contributes to the dismissal of all politicians currently being the public mood.

    For heaven’s sake, speak up about Labour’s scumbags. Condemn them openly, boot them out, and maybe people will trust you a bit more.

  20. James says:

    Wouldn’t it be ironic if the Labour activists in Tower Hamlets sitting on their hands made a significant difference in turnout there? I would love to see those figures

  21. Mike Homfray says:

    Labour should now recognise that we do not benefit from personality contests. We should look towards abolishing this and all other mayoralties. They are unpopular. Better to have a strategic GLA with some teeth, not a boss-politics figurehead with little power

    Also, the idea that Johnson is popular in the north of England is a joke. his is an appeal which doesn’t extend outside the south – everyone here things he is a fool

  22. Mark says:

    Bit of a stretch to blame Ed Milliband for this Atul.

    I’d rather blame the un-named Labour MP (MP for heavens sake) quoted in the Guardian this morning who said he couldn’t vote for Livingstone.

    There comes a time when, if you can’t say anything positive, it’s better not to say anything at all.

    Likewise the journalists like Jonathan Freedland and Nick Cohen. Find something else to write about – or else don’t start whinging the next time Boris uses an expression like ‘piccaninnies’….

  23. Charlie Mansell says:

    A bit of rewriting history here I think?

    1. The London Labour Regional Board worked under the assumption that we would be holding a selection process after the 2010 local elections from at least early 2009. This was common knowledge in the wider party and amongst London Labour MP’s who are represented on the Board, at the time. Are you telling me that MP’s who were interested in this process were not prepared? If so I think you should tell us all who they were?. In the run up to that process there was speculation as to who might run. For example David Lammy was flagged up and Alan Sugar at one stage in 2009. Any serious candidate would have prepared before the General election. Are you seriously telling us that being knackered from a General Election campaign was an excuse for inaction when most of the potential contenders employed staff to do the leg work in preparation? The main reason for an early selection was the increadibly poor contact rate in outer London in 2008 (which made the Lynton Crosby Zones 4-6 ‘doughtnut’ strategy even more effective) and the need to have a focus around a candidate to motivate the troops. If we had not selected early I can tell you now, we would not have the level of contact rate in outer London that we now have and which we can build on in 2014 and 2016.

    2. When the selection occurred David Lammy, a serious potential contender, became Chair of Ken’s selection campaign and I suggest you dig out Ken’s selection campaign leaflet for the endorsements he received from senior London Labour politicians. Ken was rightly viewed as a serious contender as he had outpolled Labour in London in 2004 and 2008. He was therefore electorally credible. The issue of Ken’s vote compared to the Labour vote in general only became an issue when opinion polling started in mid 2011 and it was compared to Labour’s general rise in the polls from late 2010 onward. Once this was an issue, it was our responsibility in the campaign to change that. We failed, but the responsibility for that falls not just to Ken, but to all of us who took part in that campaign. In the end we might hate Boris, but he was genuinely popular in his own right and was the incumbent Mayor. I spent months campaigning in the outer suburbs, making over 3,000 phone contacts in my area across 9 wards in the last four months and can personally testify to that.

    3. Tower Hamlets led to frank discussion at the Regional Board, but since it was absolutely clear that Ken had called from a Labour second preference he was not in breach of the rulebook. I assume that if you are going to be consistent you will no doubt be calling for the expulsion of former Tony Blair Advisor and RSA Chief Executive Matthew Taylor and Alex Hilton for their public support for a first preference of Siobhan Benita? I think that your no doubt consistent position would however be counterproductive to maximising the Labour vote in the capital for the next Mayoral elections in 2016!

    Charlie Mansell – London Regional Board Member (Personal Capacity)

  24. Wilma Miller says:

    Do you know what really shocks me as a Glaswegian? The fact that you know how bad Labour is in this city. They are, and have been for years, a byword for cronyism, corruption and total idiocy and nobody does anything about it. Instead, we get photo ops of Johann Lamont and Margaret Curran punching the air in ‘victory.’ It’s just as well the Scottish media has no appetite for exposing the Party up here-they would never have got away with it anywhere else in Britain. I despair.

  25. paul barker says:

    This is all very well but ken wasnt imposed on london labour, he was elected with 2/3rds of the london members votes, standing against a perfectly good candidate with none of kens well-known flaws. What does that say about labour party members ?

  26. Roger says:

    Livingston is a very nasty individual and all England should be glad that he has been consigned to the dustbin.
    It beggars belief that some many people are (a) stupid enough to vote Labour after the destruction achieved in 13 years of Labour misrule and (b) naive enough to see there is no real difference between ANY of the three main parties. The rise of that chancer Galloway’s so called “Respect” party, should be a clarion call to all about the rise of sectarian/racial voting blocks.
    Time for a fresh approach by a party which puts the interest of Britain first and foremost.
    Oh – there is one already – UKIP!

  27. Scary Biscuits says:

    The selection of Ken mirrored the selection of Ed. The latter is also a drag on his party. It is all a piece of the political elite’s contempt of voters.

    As a Conservative, I say please give us a good Labour leader. This will also force the Conservatives to defenistrate Cameron. Then perhaps we can all re-engage with the electorate, the 70% who stayed at home, and return to a less spun, less photoshopped, more honest form of politics.

  28. Roger says:

    Ah – all pre-moderated – no differences allowed here!

  29. david white (@davidwhite020) says:

    Are you a member of the Labour Party Atul? If so don’t you feel any guilt or shame about constantly undermining Labour’s democratically selected candidate for Mayor, and indeed the Party Leader?

    Ken is passionate about London and is a giant of a politician. It is fanciful to suggest that another candidate, Oona King or someone else. could have done better against Boris. Boris had the advantage of first term incumbency and he successfully distanced himself from Cameron. These factors, plus the vicious campaign by some sections of the media against Ken, were the reasons we still have a Tory Mayor.

  30. Mr 0a says:

    Political realist – the most interesting comments I have read for a long time. Real food for thought, thanks.

  31. Gill Gray says:

    My particular concern is that Ken’s failure is a continuation of the problems Labour encountered with the leadership election. While I voted and still (just) support Ed Miliband, it was clear that, like Ken’s selection, something was missing which was the lack of choice. The leadership campaign offered us 5 Oxbridge and 4 SPAD’s – choice? On the mayoral front, Oona was seen as being ‘too lightweight’ – a questionable judgement. Once her candidacy had been dismissed there was no one else. If there had been a full tranche of seasoned, high calibre candidates would that have seen off Ken’s candidacy? At least it would have answered the complaint of activists throughout the campaign that there had been no choice.
    That seems to highlight that we need to go back to basics and create systems that nurtures political talent so well that, when selections occur, we have real choice and calibre alone knocks out old retreads. This will take time so thought needs to be given to the problem now. One way, and not the only one, is to look to the councillor base we have.
    Being a councillor is good in itself. But the position needs to recapture more a role it used to have which was being an apprenticeship for more senior positions. It’s not infallible but a good councillor has the opportunity to learn many skills vital for more senior positions. In the spirit of the times, clp’s need to become more engaged with their communities and to include headhunting suitable councillor candidates from well outside just the membership base. And Labour’s organisation must back this up to the hilt with training and support measures.
    As said, this is not the only avenue open to ensuring a wider, more robust and more representative group from which to select in future. I’ve nothing against SPAD’s but am dead against that being our only choice. Similarly, when ‘choice’ means selecting a retread it is time to go back to old basics.

  32. dagenham dave says:

    There is still a left-over problem from the Blair years in the Labour party in Westminster, and that is unquestioning obedience. Let’s not forget that only one Labour MP, Robin Cook, has the balls to stand up to the leader in the run-up to to the Iraq war. It is the same here, the MPs just did not stand up for their own views or principles. While they continue to be mere slaves of the leader, the Labour party has a big problem.

  33. uglyfatbloke says:

    Wilma is so, so right. Glasgow Labour is a m,ile away from the sort of thing we should expect from a Labour group…cronies, crooks, coke and the benefits of an embarrasing degre od sucking up from the Scottish media – especially the BBC and the Herald. In fact, Scottish Labour as a whole is pretty much an embarrasment. Worth noting that the aspirational working class vote in Scotland is now firmly embedded with the Gnats, likewise the left-leaning middle clas vote (which in Scotland is most of the middle class). There will be a price to pay for Lamonts cosying-up with the tories and the glib-dumbs but nobody seems to be thinking about that.
    Glasgow Labour has been saved by STV and the fact that the unioist vote is now coalescing around Labour – a lot of tory unionists voted labour on thusday, but they won’t vore for Ed in a Westmister GE. The coalition looks less secure now than ever, so a GE before 2015 is not unlikely. Ed would probably be able to maintain Labour’s lead in England and Wales and secure a majority, but at the moment it would probably be at the cost of losing about 15-20 seats in Scotland since FPTP would now favour the gnats – also the Scottish Gilb-Dumbs stand to lose all of their Westmisnter seats except Orkney and Shetland – and maybe NE Fife if Ming Campbell stands again…net result? About 30 SNP MPs, possibly making them the 3rd party at Westminster unless there is a miracle recovery for the Glib Dumbs…which seems pretty dubious to me. I’not convinced that the Glib-Dumbs are totally finished yet, but their prospects are bleak.
    Labour had a good election result in Scotland, but the fact is that the gnats are still aking progress, despite being in government for 5 years and despite the hositlity of the media includig the BBC and STV. The gnats are not invulnerable, but there needs to be a massive reappraisal of policy regrading Scotland if they are to be stopped in their tracks and only Labour can do that. The main thrust should be the economy – starting with Full Fiscal Autonomy. There is nothing very difficult about that since it already exists for the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. The first unionist party to embrace FFA will make fantastic progress in Scotland if only becuase it is what most people actually want – the current Scotland Bill is just totally inadequate…like putting an elastoplast on a brokne leg.

  34. Norf London Leftist says:

    The Channel Islands and the Isle of Man aren’t part of the UK. That’s the point uglyfatbloke.

    What people want is “full fiscal autonomy” – aye right. They talk of nothing else.

  35. john p Reid says:

    Simon- Boris vote fell by 405,000 since last time, It’s show people didn’t think highly of him, Kens vote also fell by 70,000, that shows some laobur supoprters couldn’t bring themselves to vote for him

  36. Ottokring says:

    I think that there is something that should be more worrying than whether “it was Ken wot lost it” or not.
    The 1st Pref vote for Ken remained virtually unchanged between 2008 and 2012.
    BoJo’s was down 73,000.
    Both their 2nd prefs were down approx 35,000.
    Possibly you could be charitable and said that Siobhan Benita’s votes would have gone to Ken ( 83,000 ) which may have cost him the competition.

    The real story is that turnout was down from 45% to 38 %, which is back to 2004 levels.

    Basically the point I’m trying to make is that you could have stuck a red rosette on a monkey and he would have got the same score. Ken could not capitalise on the swing against Boris ( or the “novelty has worn off” factor). Instead of going to the Labour candidate it went to the “stay-at-home” one. The people who did vote, would have voted in this way, regardless of who stood.

    I don’t think Oona King would have done much better.
    Kate Hoey on the other hand ….

  37. Clint Spencer says:

    Mike Homfray you are deluded. Also you are a hypocrite, why are you reading threads on the south and on a Blairite blog? We dont want you here. Go back to Labourlist with your weirdo friends.

  38. Chris Matheson says:

    Great combeback Clint. I am from the north and not a Blairite. Can I come on here please?

    Anyway to the substance. The problem with this article is that it could have been written, might have been written, before the election actually took place, such has been the sniping from this site throughout the process and the decision by those on the right off the party not to support Livingstone almost publicly.

    I don’t like the bloke but he was the Labour candidate. That should be enough, because if you don’t vote for him then then the only other possible outcome is a Tory victory by default. Are some of you saying that you would rather the Tories win the election?

    Well yes, I think you some of you are: because you now have another agenda to pursue which is to attack and undermine the Labour leadership. You would rather have Labour fail thannwin with a leader you don’t support. Bonkers.

  39. “At the last count almost 10% of London’s Labour MPs (4 out of 44) couldn’t even bring themselves to vote for Livingstone in the privacy of the polling booth.”

    And therein lies the problem. Not with Ken, not with his campaign, but all the turncoat Labour hierarchy (and I am including the author of this nonsense article) who failed to not only back but openly undermine the Labour party candidate. Alan Sugar, Matthew Taylor, Alex Hilton, Tom Watson even Harriet Harman et al are responsible for another four years of Boris.

    I can only echo the comments made above about this disingenuous piece by Atul Hatwal, who fibs about figures and attempts a Blairite rewriting of facts old Joe Stalin would have been proud of.

    Thank you Ken, for all you’ve done for both London and Socialism. You did us proud! Shame the same couldn’t be said for others…

  40. Clint Spencer says:

    Chris Matheson and Paul Nelson, you should read LabourList, that is the Labour site for the blinkered. You get sense on this site, the information you dont like, because for everything good there is usually something bad and our job is to maintain the good and work on the bad. Notice the Spam question? Thats right Blair.

    In my view the biggest issue labour has is tribal sheep mentality. No room for apologists in my view, thats how the leadership and the likes of Ken control the party with scant disregard for the greater good.

    I advocate a breakup of the party, your lot to go with your own socialist blinkered everything is always great mentality and everyone else to go in another direction with a real world agenda.

    Now go away.

  41. Across London Ken won 890,000 votes and Labour in the Assembly won 911,214 (using the List figures).

    The difference of 22,000 votes is just 0.96% of those who voted in the Mayoral election.

    In percentage terms, Labour in the Assembly election won 41.1% whilst Ken achieved 40.3% in the first round of the Mayoral election – a gap of just 0.8%.

    Even when you break it down seat by seat the result is similar. Overall in 5 seats Ken was either narrowly ahead of Labour (as was the case in 4 seats) or the difference was effectively zero; in 4 other seats Labour’s lead over Ken was below or around 1% ; in 4 seats it was around 2% and in one seat it was around 3%.

  42. resistor says:

    Surprise surprise.

    Has Blairite Atul Hatwal made up his statistic? I see he provides no numbers or sources for his 5% claim. The numbers are here.

    http://labourlist.org/2012/05/the-evidence-shows-no-kenlabour-gap/

    ps does he agree that Dan Hodges’ support for Boris and his celebration of Ken’s defeat with Tory smear merchant Lynton Crosby should lead to his expulsion from the party?

  43. Atul Hatwal says:

    Paul N – As I said earlier in the comments, the accurate comparison is not between Ken and the generic London-wide Labour vote, but the Assembly vote. The mayoralty is after all a vote for an individual not a party list. Comparing like with like, Ken under-performs the Labour Assembly candidates by over 43,000 votes. This means his total is 5% less than the Assembly and this equates to a 2% shortfall in the race.

    More broadly, just step back and think – with the Tories doing all that they are, with so much going so wrong, when Assembly candidates were regularly securing 9% swings – why couldn’t Labour’s mayoral candidate?

  44. Clint Spencer says:

    “More broadly, just step back and think – with the Tories doing all that they are, with so much going so wrong, when Assembly candidates were regularly securing 9% swings – why couldn’t Labour’s mayoral candidate?”

    Because the selection of Ken was a stitch up, because he was flawed and the public knew it. A chimpanzee would have polled better than Ken.

  45. Judy says:

    Pedantry corner note, here. I’m sure you wouldn’t want to give the notorious Tory reprobate and womanizer the late Alan Clarke credit for a brilliant epithet he never invented. “Lions led by donkeys” was the comment of WWI German General Ludendorff on observing the incredible courage of British & Commonwealth common soldiers dying in their tens of thousands on the battlefields of the Western Front.

    Incidentally, too many commenters here seem to me to see Livingstone’s use of anti-semitic slurs and embrace anti-semitic hate preachers as really an issue between him and the Jewish community. But surely racism of every kind is something we should all be adamantly opposed to, and use of it by politicians of every kind roundly and unequivocally condemned. In fact, should any political party tolerate a politician who is ready to use unmistakeably anti-semitic smears and slurs, specially against a minister of a Labour government?

    Had David Milliband replaced Livingstone as London Mayoral candidate after deselection for the Lutfur Rahman endorsement, he would have stormed home as elected Mayor.

  46. crosland says:

    “Thank you Ken, for all you’ve done for both London and Socialism. You did us proud! Shame the same couldn’t be said for others”…

    like employing his wife and cronies out of public funds,avoiding tax,working for iranian tv,abusing communities

    i also note the poster ignoring how ken sucked up to the city when he was mayor-then doing his usual u turn

    why cant some posters see ken as the opportunist he is,he is not some messiah figure

  47. Clint Spencer says:

    “why cant some posters see ken as the opportunist he is,he is not some messiah figure”

    because they are the dumb F tribal troops that morons like ken and Ed need to get elected.

    Labour is broken until these out of touch lot are silenced in favour of reality. The Tories are about to crucify Cam and the Eds and their like (Ken) need the same treatment. I want to see real politicians who know they may stumble as fast as they rise, not this bunch of jobs for life lot who take ineptitude and the apparatchiks for granted..

  48. Mellie Agon says:

    The actual difference between Livingstone’s vote and Labour’s was just 0.8% of the total votes cast, not 5% as claimed here. Ken Livingstone gained 889,918 first preference votes, compared to 911,204 for the Labour London-wide List Assembly vote, 40.3% for Ken, 41.1% for Labour.

    The difference in votes cast for Livingstone in the Mayoral election and for the Labour List in the Assembly elections was just 21,000 out of a constituency of 5.8 million.

    There is no other Labour candidate who could have done remotely as well as Ken Livingstone, and it’s telling that the author doesn’t dare put a specific name forward. The very close result shows that if the campaign had focused on the ways in which Livingstone would defend Londoners from Tory austerity instead of putting on chicken suits, he could clearly have won.

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