Ken Livingstone and recent controversies – a defence


8:45 am - March 9th 2012

by Sunny Hundal    


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Yesterday, Labour member Jonathan Roberts wrote a angry open letter to Ken Livingstone accusing him of “relentless cynicism”, “negativity” and “hypocrisy” in politics.

Naturally, wingnuts from the right-wing blogosphere exploded all over their computer screens in joy and blogged it.

Naturally, I keep getting asked by right-wingers on Twitter for my opinion on that and tax-related matters, so I thought I’d deal with this once and for all.

My first reaction goes like this: are you that naive?
Roberts seems to be shocked that politicians say things to please their base during elections. Plus, he seems to be under the delusion that Ken can leave it to the Evening Standard to point out Boris Johnson’s broken promises and hypocrisy. Election campaigns involve negativity – get over it.

He is also factually wrong – a London Mayor can impact EMA provision. And the point about Ken writing some articles while Mayor is moot: the promise is about the future, and at least Ken got stuff done as Mayor.

My second reaction is: if you want to be that pure, maybe party politics isn’t for you?
We rarely get the political leaders we activists want, and they will almost never do everything we want. That is the reality. They have to balance competing interests and sometimes compromise in order to get incremental change through.

As a Labour party member myself, I can cite a looooong list of hypocritical, gimmicky and cynical things Labour did in power. That’s why I couldn’t bring myself to vote for them at the last election. So I sympathise with Roberts’ anger. But once you join a party you have to accept internal democratically made decisions whether you like them or not. If he took those charges to the logical conclusion, he’d have difficulty supporting any political party. Remember Iraq? Phil Woolas? Cash for questions? I would argue Ken’s personal tax affairs don’t really compare.

My third reaction is: what timing do you call this?
There is plenty to criticise Ken for, and I did so regularly during his administration and just after he lost the election. He feted the City and said little about the need to regulate banks then; he was sometimes reluctant on green issues and only signed up because he needed Green AMs to pass his budget; he employed and defended numpties like Lee Jasper. Etc etc.

But he’s the candidate and it makes no sense to throw these charges nine weeks before an election.

My fourth reaction is: you think Boris is better?
Boris complained about cronyism while repeatedly endorsing his mates for top jobs; he attacked Ken for wastage while wasting a half-a-million just for transition and much, much more on pet projects; Boris repeatedly took credit for decisions he never made; lied about police cuts repeatedly.

The charge sheet is so long it beggars belief. Now – I expect right-wingers to ignore all this. But to Labour people I say this: the Mayoral election isn’t about holding your nose, if you follow politics at the GLA closely you’ll realise that Boris is several magnitudes worse than Ken.

He doesn’t just lie and manipulate relentlessly – he is surrounded by cronies who have tried to do more damage than Ken’s mates ever managed.

I don’t have any trouble deciding who to campaign or vote for.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


Point 4,Although there would have been more police under Ken, it shows how bad that some of these labour party supporters belive Ken is, that they’d sooner see someone dreadfull like boris

So… He shouldn’t be surprised that Ken’s a hypocrite and a liar; being a member of a political party means ignoring anything they do that you disagree with; especially near an election; and anyway whatabout…?

I’m not sure this really classifies as a defence Sunny. Some sort of justification possibly, at best a reason to ignore the hypocrisy, but to be a defense you’d have to, you know, defend your man Ken.

I have to say that I don’t find the tone of this article particularly cheering. The message seems to be, ‘Well they’re both shit really, but Ken is less shit, so vote for him.’

I would be a Ken supporter if I lived in London. However I live in Wales where we have more than enough of our own shit politicians to choose from.

4. Planeshift

“We rarely get the political leaders we activists want, and they will almost never do everything we want. That is the reality”

A ringing endoresement of the labour party there.

Do you think activists in the Scottish National Party would share that view?

A wider point I suppose would be that this is largely a defence of the Labour Party, whereas the Mayoral election is and always has been (largely thanks to Ken himself) far more personal than party.

Which is why Ken first ran against the official Labour candidate, and has supported other anti-Labour London candidates too. This is about Ken, far more than it is about Labour.

Interesting…a ‘defence’ that barely touches on Ken’s tax issue & charges of hypocrisy other than to say they don’t compare with the likes of Iraq. Er, no I don’t suppose they do given that they’re entirely different issues. You did this in a hurry, didn’t you?

So… He shouldn’t be surprised that Ken’s a hypocrite and a liar; being a member of a political party means ignoring anything they do that you disagree with; especially near an election; and anyway whatabout…?

And the great and good wonder why the people are less inclined to vote…

8. Londonjason

So your settled view of politics is ‘they’re all a bunch of corrupt, self-serving wankers, so I’ll just vote for the one in my team colours’.

I feel sorry for you that you’ve dedicated yourself to a career with such lofty aspirations.

Well done.

dont understand why ken ever went back to labour. hed probably still be mayor if he hadnt signed back up with that vile nest of careerists and traitors.

I wouldn’t vote for either of them, and would be needed to be persuaded why it was actually important to do so. I never found that it made any difference whatsoever as to who was the mayor, and that it’s more of an ideological thing for people very much into politics. Ken is too closely bound up with the kind of leftism that I dislike.

He had several people from Socialist Action on his staff when he was mayor. They had to be paid off when Boris got elected.

Those getting payoffs include John Ross, Mr Livingstone’s economic advisor; Redmond O’Neill, his transport advisor; Simon Fletcher, his chief of staff; and Mark Watts, his climate change advisor.
All are current or former members of Trotskyite group Socialist Action.
Each was paid a minimum of £121,000 while in their Greater London Authority jobs, amongst the most generous salaries in local government.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1041453/Ken-Livingstones-political-aides-1-6-million-payoff.html

So I would say that one should really familiarise oneself with Socialist Action to get a proper view of Ken.
http://www.socialistaction.net/

11. Chaise Guevara

@ 3 Gappy

“I have to say that I don’t find the tone of this article particularly cheering. The message seems to be, ‘Well they’re both shit really, but Ken is less shit, so vote for him.’”

Hence the phrase “least-worst system”. Uninspiring as it may be, it’s still a good idea to vote for a bad candidate over a terrible candidate.

Sunny,

My first reaction goes like this: are you that naive?
Roberts seems to be shocked that politicians say things to please their base during elections. Plus, he seems to be under the delusion that Ken can leave it to the Evening Standard to point out Boris Johnson’s broken promises and hypocrisy. Election campaigns involve negativity – get over it.

Are you saying that Mr Livingstone’s campaign (that involved, for example, a chicken chasing a fake Mr Johnson) is in fact upbeat and positive? This is not the impression I get watching from further north, but you are nearer the ground.

He is also factually wrong – a London Mayor can impact EMA provision. And the point about Ken writing some articles while Mayor is moot: the promise is about the future, and at least Ken got stuff done as Mayor.

Only if the institutions with their own budgets decide to give their access funds to the London Mayor to spend, which seems highly unlikely to me. After all, University access funds are to be used to help students from non-traditional backgrounds attend University, so the colleges of the University of London, for example, may be a bit reluctant to just have them used to support all students staying on to College, many of whom will not be taking programmes suitable for University admission.

My second reaction is: if you want to be that pure, maybe party politics isn’t for you?
We rarely get the political leaders we activists want, and they will almost never do everything we want. That is the reality. They have to balance competing interests and sometimes compromise in order to get incremental change through.

As a Labour party member myself, I can cite a looooong list of hypocritical, gimmicky and cynical things Labour did in power. That’s why I couldn’t bring myself to vote for them at the last election. So I sympathise with Roberts’ anger. But once you join a party you have to accept internal democratically made decisions whether you like them or not. If he took those charges to the logical conclusion, he’d have difficulty supporting any political party. Remember Iraq? Phil Woolas? Cash for questions? I would argue Ken’s personal tax affairs don’t really compare.

The tax problem was not that he did it (I don’t think many think what he did was wrong outside of the left-wing activist base) but that he was criticising others for doing what he was doing – hypocricy, not the original action, was Mr Roberts’ complaint there.

And the my party good or bad attitude is, for a party which does not give you a list of all future candidates and policies when you join (i.e. all of them) stupid – it just means you end up supporting the rosette rather than the policies you need. If loyalty to the party is an end in itself, fair enough, but when considering the best person to govern a sixth of the population or so, maybe something other than tribal loyalty would be worth considering? Otherwise, you can end up with a situation where a central party drops in non-representative candidates and just expects the loyal party base to support them without question, regardless of lack of compatability – you have to allow that members of that base will withdraw their support for a candidate, otherwise the central control of the party would be awesome (and undemocratic).

My third reaction is: what timing do you call this?
There is plenty to criticise Ken for, and I did so regularly during his administration and just after he lost the election. He feted the City and said little about the need to regulate banks then; he was sometimes reluctant on green issues and only signed up because he needed Green AMs to pass his budget; he employed and defended numpties like Lee Jasper. Etc etc.

But he’s the candidate and it makes no sense to throw these charges nine weeks before an election.

This I would agree with, but with the proviso that as the information on which Mr Roberts based his letter was not available ten weeks before the election etc, this was about as early as the letter could be written.

My fourth reaction is: you think Boris is better?
Boris complained about cronyism while repeatedly endorsing his mates for top jobs; he attacked Ken for wastage while wasting a half-a-million just for transition and much, much more on pet projects; Boris repeatedly took credit for decisions he never made; lied about police cuts repeatedly.

The charge sheet is so long it beggars belief. Now – I expect right-wingers to ignore all this. But to Labour people I say this: the Mayoral election isn’t about holding your nose, if you follow politics at the GLA closely you’ll realise that Boris is several magnitudes worse than Ken.

He doesn’t just lie and manipulate relentlessly – he is surrounded by cronies who have tried to do more damage than Ken’s mates ever managed.

I don’t have any trouble deciding who to campaign or vote for.

Mr Roberts stated clearly he would not be voting for any mayoral candidate (or at all – a lot of the comments were sensibly urging him to vote for assembly members), so this point is not relevant.

The whole Labour Uncut site seems dedicated to furthering the bitterness of Blairite wing of the Labour Party.

Not satisfied with giving succour to the kind of rightwing economics which failed so epically in 2008, this crew are keen to maintain the massively self defeating drive to the Right.

Fortunately, a few of them go overboard on the rightwing praise they seek – and often get -showing the rest of us how indisputably silly, naive and deluded they really are.

Deary me, this post isn’t up to your usual high standards Sunny.

Ken promised to reinstate the EMA in London. Your weasel words that he could “impact” the EMA make it clear you realise this pledge is rubbish, and even in your desperation to defend him you can’t quite bring yourself to suggest otherwise.

You complain about timing. Isn’t an election campaign exactly the right time to place candidates under scrutiny?

Accepting internal party democracy? But Ken refused to do exactly that in the Tower Hamlets mayoral election and yet you still seem to support him!

Ken’s tax affairs don’t matter? Maybe, but this isn’t just about his tax affairs, it’s about the difference between what he says he believes in and how he acts. He says he’s against tax avoidance and yet he’s a tax avoider!

You attack Boris, but don’t seem to understand that Boris’ failings are precisely why Labour activists should be demanding a credible Labour candidate who’s capable of defeating the Tories.

Better than pro crime Boris who has tried to shut down the hacking inquiry. He must like protecting corrupt police officers, and Mafia bosses like Murdoch.

I have to say that I don’t find the tone of this article particularly cheering. The message seems to be, ‘Well they’re both shit really, but Ken is less shit, so vote for him.’

Not shit – neither will do everything you want them to. That is life and that is politics. I’d like to ask people to name me one place where politicians do everything all their voters want them to do. It’s logistically impossible.

Your weasel words that he could “impact” the EMA make it clear you realise this pledge is rubbish, and even in your desperation to defend him you can’t quite bring yourself to suggest otherwise.

Errr, no, I do exactly that. Its just easier for me to link than repeat. Try again

But Ken refused to do exactly that in the Tower Hamlets mayoral election and yet you still seem to support him!

Oh please – stop crying over that like it’s the biggest thing in the world. Whine about something important.

@sunny hundal

Errr, no, you use the weasel word “impact” EMA provision.

Alright, joke over. WTF have you done with Sunny? Has he been rendered or something and replaced by a cynical bot or something?

“Oh please – stop crying over that like it’s the biggest thing in the world. Whine about something important.”

Yes, for goodness sake stop crying, you don’t expect Livingstone to be loyal to anyone or anything except himself, do you?!

20.

“Yes, for goodness sake stop crying, you don’t expect Livingstone to be loyal to anyone or anything except himself, do you?!”

And Boris is the epitome of selfless-ness?

22. ex-Labour voter

There is an awful lot wrong with Ken Livingstone.
He supported the bombing of Kosovo and the invasion of Afghanistan. In fact, I was so sickened by him that I walked away when he spoke at the anti-Iraq War rally.

At one time, he even supported ID cards and their intrusive database.
And then there was his defence of the police after they shot Jean Charles de Menezes and systematically lied about. And then there was that row with the (Jewish) reporter from the Evening Standard. I wasn’t bothered at all when he was defeated last time.

However, there is one obvious reason to vote for him in the forthcoming election: If he does not win, then it will be a said that Oonagh King might have won. Even worse, there will be speculation about Ed Miliband and calls for him to resign. It will be said that Labour is simply ‘too left wing’ to be electable. I can see Dan Hodges perched over his keyboard as I write this.

If people do not like him, then they can always vote for him as a second preference. This is what I would do if I lived in London.

23. ex-Labour voter

9. Joe:

This comment really made me laugh. I have much sympathy with what he has written.

“And Boris is the epitome of selfless-ness?”

Haha – no, not at all.
But I don’t believe that he would support an independent candidate over a Tory one, and I don’t believe he would be allowed to stay as a Tory if he did.

As a commenter at HP puts it
“Back in my student days I was very impressed with “Red Ken”. He viscerally irritated Margaret Thatcher which, at the time, was more than enough to get someone into my good books.
Even if he hadn’t done his Press TV gig and one ignored the Qaradawi shamefulness I just can’t my head around the notion that when it suits him he will run against the Labour Party candidate and, when it doesn’t, I am expected to get out and persuade people to vote for him. As I keep telling the people ringing and emailing me asking for donations and phone bank support … he can sod off.”

http://hurryupharry.org/2012/03/08/is-ken-livingstone-toast/

Even if he hadn’t done his Press TV gig a

Has Andrew Gilligan said anything about his Press TV gig recently? After all, he’s the one throwing charges of hypocrisy right?

26. Alex Macfie

Ken Livingstone gave uncritical hospitality to Sinn Fein leaders when he was GLC leader and the IRA was busy bombing the British mainland. I don’t think anyone should ignore that, even tho’ it was a long time ago, particularly as he more recently gave similarly uncritical hospitality to al-Qaradawi. His supporters (and In know there are many here) will say that he was trying to promote dialogue (and was supposedly “ahead of his time” in the case of the invitation to Sinn Fein/IRA). But when negotiating with disagreeable people, surely the first rule in “Negotiation for Dummies” is that you do NOT treat them has heroes, as Livingstone did. BTW I’m not a Tory: I am a Lib Dem and Paddick supporter.

I don’t know if Martin Bright’s opinion of Livingstone’s backroom staff has had much of a discussion on this website. That four of them were from Socialist Action. Does it matter?
http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/news/i-now-believe-ken-is-a-disgrace-to-his-office-6635724.html

Most Londoners don’t follow that kind of far left politics, but when you do look at their website, it all looks very much Ken. The OP had a pop at Lee Jasper, but KL has always been from that ”far out” side of things. Right now, Socialist Action’s website has articles supportive of George Galloway, Viva Palestina, Hugo Chavez and Sinn Fein.
Which seems to be that very dodgy and very Ken Livingstone/Diane Abbot kind of leftism.
Are we just meant to ignore this?

Sinn Fein are not progressive in my opinion. But a sectarian party who still justify the mess they created in Northern Ireland over thirty years, and still have the place covered in murals and monuments to the IRA.

The latest mural in Republican west Belfast is this one. I’m sure Ken would approve.
http://www.cubasupport.com/latest/?attachment_id=326

As a voter my vote goes to someone I can trust. Ken Livingstone is a sanctimonious hypocrite and a proven liar.

I didn’t realise Gilligan was standing for mayor.

@27

“Sinn Fein are not progressive in my opinion. But a sectarian party who still justify the mess they created in Northern Ireland over thirty years, and still have the place covered in murals and monuments to the IRA”.

Sinn Fein are only “sectarian” in the sense that most Protestants don’t support them. Which reminds me, you do realise that there have been Protestant members of the IRA?

Yes I think Ken’s a hypocrite, but yes he’d still be better than Boris, so I’ll vote for him.

Makes no odds now though – he’s fucked himself. When a 1 percenter Old Etonian like Boris can legitimately attack a Labour candidate for tax avoidance, he really hasn’t a prayer.

“legitimately attack a Labour candidate for tax avoidance”

It’s not a legitimate attack. Being paid through a limited company is *how being a freelancer works*, not some kind of tax-avoidance-dodgery. Anyone who claims it’s avoidance doesn’t understand the meaning of the term.

You can be a freelancer and simply self-employed.
You need not form a company and employ your wife, oh, and possibly fund your political campaigning without declaring it…

http://order-order.com/2012/03/11/breaking-ken-tells-marr-tax-dodge-company-funds-campaign-electoral-commission-records-show-no-donations/

NB which if he did so would also be against tax rules since any expenditure by the company set against tax needs to be for company business…

Being paid through a limited company is *how being a freelancer works*,

No it isn’t, it’s one way of organising your affairs. Particularly popular with high earners seeking to minimise their liability by loading family members onto the payroll.

Its another tory smear campaignthe fact that that fuckwit Jonhson uses the same method is conveniently overlooked.

“Its another tory smear campaignthe fact that that fuckwit Jonhson uses the same method is conveniently overlooked.”

Johnson, or whoever, is not arguing against such practices.

It’s one thing to say a thing is OK and do it, and it is another thing to preach to others about tax avoidance and then do it yourself. The latter is hypocrisy.

I’m not sure BJ does use a company, does he?
Livingstone would probably have mentioned that!!

Link??

If Johnson does use a limited company for his outside earnings I’ve not seen any physical proof of it; no name, no accounts. Livingstone’s said Johnson channels his media work payments in the same way. Someone care to offer more details up so we know facts are being bandied about rather than hearsay?

I’d like to see that too, if true. Johnson called Livingstone a tax dodger the other week, which, even by his scatterbrained standards, would be a very stupid thing to do if he uses the same ruse.

I’m not sure BJ does use a company, does he?
Livingstone would probably have mentioned that!!

I think I even saw a specific denial that he did any such thing…

42 – and the rebuttal:

Dear Guido,

You have asked about my business affairs and tax arrangements. Specifically do I have any company or other arrangements constructed to enable me to pay less tax and do I, as has been claimed by the Labour Mayoral candidate and the Opposition Leader, have the same arrangements as Labour’s Mayoral candidate.

The answer is simple and unequivocal in both cases. No.

My salary as Mayor is taxed as an employee of the GLA. In the same way as when I was an MP my salary was taxed as an employee. Any other income that I have received from outside endeavours has been received on a self-employed basis, to me as an individual (no company or other structure has been involved). No income earned by me has ever been paid to a “service” company, through which a person or person’s freelance earnings can be channeled so that they pay corporation rather than income tax.

To suggest otherwise is a complete and utter fabrication.

Of course the real point is not about my tax arrangements. It is about the hypocrisy of a man who for years has railed against those who use special arrangements to reduce their tax and who has then been caught – bang to rights – doing the very same thing himself.

Boris Johnson

http://order-order.com/2012/03/12/exclusive-boris-i-dont-fiddle-my-taxes-ken-is-lying-ed-miliband-mistaken/

I’m sure Ken and Ed Miliband will be apologising for the accusation.

Ouch – quod erat demonstrandum as they say. Who’d have thought it, the evil millionaire Tory toff paying full income tax & the socialist, tax avoider bashing hero doing the exact opposite.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
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  7. Billy Bowden

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  9. A&E Reg

    http://liberalconspiracy.org/2012/03/09/ken-livingstone-and-recent-controversy-a-defence/

  10. leftlinks

    Liberal Conspiracy – Ken Livingstone and recent controversies – a defence http://t.co/ebw9xzXw

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    Ken Livingstone and recent controversies – a defence, by me http://t.co/KtVmCNES

  12. Harry Phibbs

    Livingstone "employed and defended numpties like Lee Jasper" + was phony on Green issues. Now @libcon joins the attack. http://t.co/s17vyEH0

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    RT @sunny_hundal Ken Livingstone and recent controversies – a defence, by me http://t.co/54sDizDi < that's not a defence, it's an excuse…

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    RT @sunny_hundal Ken Livingstone and recent controversies – a defence, by me http://t.co/54sDizDi < that's not a defence, it's an excuse…

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  18. Dan W

    Well someone has to give it a go i suppose…RT @libcon: Ken Livingstone and recent controversies – a defence http://t.co/Yr4GqwcH

  19. John Smith

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    RT @sunny_hundal Ken Livingstone and recent controversies – a defence, by me http://t.co/54sDizDi < that's not a defence, it's an excuse…

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  23. Phil Rackley

    RT @libcon: Ken Livingstone and recent controversies – a defence http://t.co/qMYgKR3H

  24. Max Wind-Cowie

    This response to Jonathan Roberts' critique of Ken is unbearably pompous, condescending & unprincipled. http://t.co/5nJ5QEyz #NotKenAgain

  25. Steve Hilditch

    Sunny Hundal's brill defence of Ken after indulgent attacks from Labour Uncut & normally brilliant @ns_mehdihasan http://t.co/FWUufJcy

  26. isoglyph

    RT @sunny_hundal Ken Livingstone and recent controversies – a defence, by me http://t.co/yrEH2Fh8 < Astonishing double standards.

  27. David Talbot

    The second user comment on this exceptionally weak, even for Sunny Hundal, defence of Ken absolutely nails him: http://t.co/5YZkGk4h

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    Laughably weak defense of Ken from @sunny_hundai http://t.co/ep4EN9hY #winning

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    Ken Livingstone and recent controversies – a defence | Liberal Conspiracy – http://t.co/NEi57JDj

  32. Oliver Dunn

    Laughably weak defense of Ken from @sunny_hundai http://t.co/ep4EN9hY #winning

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    Ken and recent controversies – a defence | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/kAhL4eO4 – To summarise; he's shit but not as shit as Boris

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    Ken Livingstone, despite recent controversy, is still far, far better than Boris in London http://t.co/KtVmCNES

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  45. Denis Fernando

    Liberal Conspiracy gives some much needed perspective on the Tory Mayor to a labour hothead. #getwiththeplan http://t.co/aEDaxIhZ @libcon

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  47. Fay

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  48. Lee Jasper

    Your defence of Ken really quite abysmal which is why you only ever be a member of the virtual pseudo intellectual left http://t.co/TJRDfX3W

  49. Monday’s London Links

    […] Liberal Conspiracy is leaping to his defense. […]

  50. Neil Partridge

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  53. Capitano Ray

    This response to Jonathan Roberts' critique of Ken is unbearably pompous, condescending & unprincipled. http://t.co/5nJ5QEyz #NotKenAgain

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  56. Jonathan Roberts

    Sunny Hundal: "I don’t have any trouble deciding who to campaign or vote for." http://t.co/ssuls2fK #sunnyknifesken





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