Former London mayor Ken Livingstone is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, his family has announced.

A figurehead of the Labour left for more than four decades, the 78-year-old was popular despite being a divisive figure across the political spectrum.

The politician, who lives in Ivy Road, Cricklewood, was MP for Brent East from 1987 to 2001 and served as Mayor of London from 2000 to 2008, narrowly losing to Boris Johnson again in 2012.

His family said in a statement: “Although a previously prominent public figure, Ken is now retired and lives a private life.

"Ken is being well cared for by his family and friends and we ask you for your understanding and to respect his privacy and that of his family."

Known as Red Ken from his days as leader of the Greater London Council, he earned praise for the way he stood up for London after the July 2005 suicide bombings and helped win the 2012 Olympic Games for the capital.

In 2012 he turned down a CBE offered to him in the New Year Honours list for services to the Olympics but rejected it as he believes politicians should not be given honours.

Brent & Kilburn Times: Ken Livingstone as a mayoral hustings was known as Red KenKen Livingstone as a mayoral hustings was known as Red Ken (Image: PA)

In 2017 he was suspended from the Labour Party for saying Hitler was once a Zionist and quit the Labour Party a year later.

Brent North MP Barry Gardiner said at the time that Mr Livingstone had caused “enormous offence and should have apologised”.

Tulip Siddiq MP said the decision not to expel Mr Livingstone was “intolerable” and brings “great shame” on the party.

Former independent Mapesbury councillor Helen Carr told the Times that she was “drawn to defend Ken” because he is regarded “affectionately” in the area as a “silly old sod”.

She said Mr Livingstone was a “hugely controversial figure in UK politics”, posing the rhetorical question: ‘Terrorist sympathiser or freedom fighting comrade?’.

“But to me and the residents of my Ward of Mapesbury,” she added, “he is also a hugely popular and respected neighbour."

He supported the community in backing a campaign to save The Queensbury pub from development, saying it was one of his favourites.

He told this paper: “What is outrageous about it is that the building itself is one of the few nice ones you have in an area which is not teeming with them.

"It is a really nice pub. You get a decent meal, there is a nice garden outside and you can get to or from it easily with the Tube so near."

In 2013 he paid tribute to the late Nelson Mandela saying he was an “amazing man” who helped bring an end to the worst example of racism since Nazi Germany.

“It is very rare for people to change the cause of history in that way,” he said.