Ken takes a chance to relax

EXCLUSIVE The former Mayor of London is biding his time before attempting to take back power, but he s enjoying himself along the way. Times reporter ROXANNE BLAKELOCK talked to Ken Livingstone, at his home in Cricklewood, about Boris Johnson, soc

EXCLUSIVE

The former Mayor of London is biding his time before attempting to take back power, but he's enjoying himself along the way.

Times reporter ROXANNE BLAKELOCK talked to Ken Livingstone, at his home in Cricklewood, about Boris Johnson, socialism, gardening and Gordon Brown.

"For the first time in my life I don't have to get up and be somewhere by nine o'clock. It's like being on holiday.


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"The garden looks better after years of neglect but I'm doing nothing with the house until I've finished the autobiography."

Mr Livingstone keeps himself occupied by attending meetings on climate change, raising money for the Labour Party and appearing on radio and TV shows.

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Asked about Prime Minister Gordon Brown's fate, he said: "The moment Alan Johnson took his position, it was over. Hazel Blears started it on Wednesday and it was snuffed out by Friday.

"No-one has had more differences with Brown than me but I have no interest in joining a coup against him if you end up with something worse.

"Brown has handled the economic crisis better than any other Western leader. He has broken borrowing limits and pumped money into the economy, but I was totally opposed to his economic policies at the beginning of the Labour Government.

"Over the years we fall in and out with politicians. There are no real party friendships in politics.

"There are just times when circumstances are against you in this game, but the reason we got smashed with the EU elections is because MPs exploited the expenses system in a wholly unacceptable way.

"I'm less angry about the Tory who asked for money for the duck house than those who claimed for mortgages. At least he cared about the ducks.

"Half those people who vote BNP are racist. Half are just angry with the Government."

He is determined to renew the Ken v Boris fight for mayor in 2012.

Mr Livingstone said: "It's the second best job in British politics. It's good for Boris to think he's got a struggle coming.

"I regret not being Prime Minister. I've missed my time with that. The CIA wouldn't let me anyway.

But at least I've now got time to grow potatoes in the garden so I could always fend for myself under barbarism.

He has plenty of thoughts about his successor as mayor: "Somewhere around the age of four or five years, Boris realised he could get away with all this shambolic charm, and people fall for it.

"Boris has cancelled every transport plan that he wasn't contractually obliged to keep and stopped everything that won't come about while he is mayor.

"He is not doing anything for the future. He is just coasting on the work I started.

"Boris thinks that people like Boris should run the world and we should all be grateful."

After all that he has had to do, Mr Livingstone still considers himself to be a socialist.

"What changes are not your core beliefs but the way of managing and better explaining things.

"Things that were viewed as revolutionary in the 1980s are not now, like having lesbians and black people in the police force.

"There wasn't a single reporter in Fleet Street who was black or openly gay and there were no women at the top. So all our policies on the GLC were being reported through the prism of the bigotry of Fleet Street."

roxanne.blakelock@archant.co.uk

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