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June 5, 2011

Ken’s loose tongue could lose him the mayoral race.

If I wrote a new blog-post every time Ken Livingstone said something offensive or moronic, I’d have no time to do anything else. What’s more, Ken, rather than Boris, would become this blog’s primary focus, which was never the intention. That said, some of the things he says are so offensive or so moronic, that they really deserve to be highlighted. His comments on Eddie Lister, Boris’ Chief of Staff, fit both those categories.

Lister, you might remember, was appointed just recently, after the tragic early death of Sir Simon Milton. He has a proven track record in local government of keeping council tax down while delivering high-quality services. As leader of Wandsworth Council, he combined a four-star Audit Commission rating for excellence with the country’s lowest council tax bills and top resident satisfaction ratings. You get the idea – he’s brilliant at his job, and an excellent person for Boris to have on board at City Hall. He isn’t really the kind of person you’d typically compare to a perpetrator of genocide. Except that’s exactly what Ken Livingstone did earlier in the week.

When discussing the news that Lister’s former council might make a charge for the use of a playground, Ken called Lister “the Ratko Mladic of local government”. Mladic, lest we forget, was recently arrested after 16 years on the run – he is accused of genocide and, specifically, the massacre of at least 7,500 Bosnian Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica in 1995. The comparison is as absurd as it is insensitive. Perhaps we should ask the relatives of those killed if they think the treatment their sons, brothers, husbands and fathers received was akin to being asked to pay a small fee to use a playground?

Anyway, in itself, Ken’s comment is utterly risible, and should really – as with most of the things he says – be ignored. But I wonder if we can draw a broader point from his latest bout of senselessness. I wonder if it is exactly this kind of comment – the insensitivity, the derangement, the coldness, the wild delusion, the out-of-touch views, the arrogant belief that anyone with a differing approach is comparable to a mass murderer, the thoughtless loose tongue – that will ultimately see Ken fail in his bid to regain the mayoralty.

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