By Matthew Barrett
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Ken Livingstone seems to get his Mayoral campaign into a new controversy every other week with some new remark about evil Tories. The remarks are usually made at a "Tell Ken" event – public meetings he is holding around London as he campaigns to re-enter City Hall at next year's election.
A fortnight ago, Harry Phibbs reported Livingstone's words to a Hammersmith and Fulham Borough Councillor:
"All of you [should be sent to prison], all of you. I think it’s what Shirley Porter did, and you’re destroying lives, and you should be ashamed of yourself. And if there’s any justice you will burn in hell and your flesh will be flayed for demons for all eternity."
These sentiments may well appeal to fringe left-wing activists, but the questionable language is unlikely to win over floating and moderate Labour voters – you would think.
However, Livingstone clearly thinks there is some merit or electoral gain to be had in making these statements, because he's still at it.
Andrew Gilligan reported yesterday on a "public meeting" in Lewisham this week:
"…the chair, Val Shawcross, asked the audience for their views about housing policy. Ken came in: “Ask how many people think we should hang George Osborne.” Shawcross: “Well, I’m deliberately not asking questions like that because you never know when there is going to be a journalist in the room.”"
And today, Labour activist Dan Hodges reports that Livingstone was asked – at the same meeting – what was wrong with New Labour. Livingstone responded:
"Well I never voted for New Labour. I never voted for Tony Blair and I stood against his awful government as an independent and… why I withdraw as the official Labour candidate. And I opposed the war in Iraq. I took the last Labour government to court five times and I fought them when I thought they weren't doing things in London's interest. … If I was you, and I really wanted to do something about it, go and bring a private prosecution against Tony Blair for war crimes, devote your life to that."
It's not hard to see why Boris remains the favourite to win next year's election.