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August 28, 2011

Ken Livingstone to be replaced by Trevor Phillips?

There’s an article over in the Mail that suggests Ken Livingstone “faces murmurings within Labour that he should step aside in favour of Equalities boss Trevor Phillips”. A supposed source within the party said “Ken is too old, too gaffe-prone and too far behind in the polls” to win.

This isn’t the first time that a change of candidate has been suggested – respected Labour blogger Hopi Sen recently proposed replacing Ken with David Lammy or Stella Creasy. However, as disastrously as his campaign has gone so far, I’m pretty sceptical that anyone senior within Labour is seriously considering replacing Ken. His campaign’s already in full swing, and a late change would be both embarrassing and an acknowledgement that Labour are struggling to find a way to beat Boris.¬†And anyway, his age, gaffes and lack of popularity were as much issues before they selected him as they are now. Indeed, Ken is another fine example of Labour’s recent habit of selecting a clearly unsuitable candidate (think Gordon Brown, Ed Miliband etc.) before realising the error of their ways a matter of months later.

Having rejected the main premise of the Mail’s speculation, what actually interested me more was the reference to Trevor Phillips. It reminds me of a particularly unsavoury affair during Ken’s time as mayor. Having fallen out with Phillips over the role of multiculturalism in modern Britain, Ken said that he should “join the BNP”, and boycotted an important conference on race relations. A year or so later, there were calls for an independent inquiry into claims that Ken and Lee Jasper had used public money to run a slur campaign against Phillips as he progressed towards¬†chairmanship of the new Equality and Human Rights Commission. The entire affair smacked of pettiness, division, plotting and grudge-bearing – all terms virtually synonymous with the Livingstone mayoralty.

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