I expect that even Ken Livingstone's own campaign team must have despaired at his performance on BBC London 94.9 yesterday where he was interviewed by Vanessa Feltz. The programme had earlier interviewed the Daily Telegraph journalist Andrew Gilligan comparing the increase in bus and tube fares under Boris Johnson to when Ken Livingstone was Mayor.
Then Livingstone came on but decided to play the man not the ball.
"You shouldn't be quoting Andrew Gilligan.. Why don't you look for someone that is more objective…Andrew Gilligan was forced out of the BBC once it was revealed that he'd actually embroidered what he'd been told by David Kelly. He set in train the events and the uproar that led to David Kelly taking his own life…David Kelly is dead, he's only dead because of that situation."
A pretty grotesque caricature of events. Not one shared by David Kelly's widow Janice. Her evidence was that her husband felt "betrayed" by his "political masters." The spur for this came, as Alastair Campbell put it in his diaries, because: "The biggest thing needed was the source out", in order to "f*** Gilligan". Campbell is now backing Livingstone campaign – praising his "fair and reasonable" media appearances.
The wider point is the self indulgence of Livingstone using the broadcast in this way. In my review of his autobiography I noted how the book kept going off at tangents to make pursue one vendetta or another. This makes the book pretty unwieldy but at least, I thought, Livingstone will feel better for it, that he will have unburdened himself. Evidently not. For his part Gilligan sticks to highlighting the facts about the fare increases.
When Livingstone is challenged on his own record of hiking fares many Londoners will expect him to do better than bluster and make unpleasant personal attacks.