11 Mar 2012

Why did Labour pick Ken?

Just a footnote that a few may have forgotten. As Ken Livingstone has a rough weekend battling questions about his tax affairs, some may be wondering how Labour ended up running him again. Not the obvious “change” candidate, you could argue.

Well quite a few blame the fact that the party is pretty broke and back in 2010, right after the general election,  decided that rather than stick to the expected later timetable for selecting a candidate for London mayor it would instead bring the contest forward to run in tandem with the Labour leadership contest.

It meant saving money the Party didn’t have on postage and electoral services. It also meant there wasn’t much time for the field to widen much and for any other new candidate to get established. The cut-off date for nominations was mid-June 2010, right in the wake of the general election defeat. The only biggish name rival to Ken was former Labour MP Oona King. You can easily imagine a bigger field if Labour could’ve afforded to wait longer.

By the way, in that Labour leadership contest, Ken backed Ed Balls. He’s since praised Ed Miliband’s leadership to the skies but I understand Mr Miliband has had occasion to wonder whether Ken had his heart in the contest. More recently he’s been more impressed but he must have his head in his hands over the tax affairs story. This is a turnout election and it is vital Labour’s activists don’t get disenchanted with the candidate’s money-saving schemes and down tools. More work for MP Tom Watson who, when he’s not trying to bring down the Murdoch empire, is trying to steer the Labour local elections effort on which so much hangs for Ed Miliband. 

Labour’s money situation is still lousy, of course. It estimates that the Tories will out-spend it by a ratio of something like 10 to 1 in London.    

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