Published on 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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5 reader comments

  1. Allan D says:

    “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.”

    It sounds as if Labour are already preparing their excuses for Ken’s defeat. In reality it has nothing to do with money or the lack of it. The fact is that Labour will have nobody to blame but themselves for selecting Ken in the first place as a candidate for the mayoralty of a city which is normally pro-Labour and where Labour currently leads in the opinion polls for Westminster by as much as 15 points.

    Consequently there must be many Labour supporters in the capital who will either stay at home or vote for Boris next May. Voters were willing to vote for Ken when London-wide government was restored in 2000 for sentimental reasons especially after the Tories nominated Archer who was disqualified by the courts.

    Ken and Labour swiftly kissed and made up after the election and voters gave him the benefit of the doubt in 2004 but a third term proved unacceptable as Outer London rose in revolt in 2008. Ken however failed to take the hint. If he doesn’t this time Labour ought to.

  2. Philip says:

    Unfortunately Ken is yesterday’s man & running because he’s got nothing better to do. Oona King would have been much better & stood a far stronger chance of winning.

  3. tommy5d says:

    Labour are currently receiving £5.2m in short money for being in opposition… surely they can’t be that skint?

  4. David says:

    Ken said he was going to run as an independent if not chosen as labour candidate. Better for labour not to split the vote or face the embarrassment of coming third…

  5. ASLEF shrugged says:

    Boris doubled previous totals but the question remains; why? Ken got 200k more votes in 2008 than he did in the previous two elections so it wasn’t Labour voters deserting him. Did the Tory voters from the “Doughnut” rise up to get rid of Ken or did Boris inspire them the way Stephen Norris didn’t?

    If it was an anti-Ken vote will they still feel the same after a four year absence? If it was a pro-Boris vote has he done enough in his term to get their support a second time? Will Ken’s fare cuts change the minds of some commuters fro the leafier parts of London?

    Why Ken? Because he stood and won the candidacy election fair and square.

    Who would you put forward as an alternative candidate? I can’t think of another Labour politician that has such a well perceived link with London. David Lammy, Margaret Hodge, Dianne Abbot? Do you think any of them would beat Ken?

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