In case you missed it, Ken Livingstone has got himself yet another bout of negative publicity by being rude about someone.
This time the target was Boris Johnson’s new Chief of Staff who the Guardian’s Dave Hill reports Ken describing as “the Radko Mladic of local government.”
Unsurprisingly people aren’t happy with the comparison of a local London councillor with a man facing charges for war crimes.
The Telegraph’s Andrew Gilligan and Conservative Assembly Member James Cleverly have already voiced their displeasure over the remarks and I suspect a number of Ken’s backers – including those still serving at City Hall – are pretty unhappy at the remarks.
Last night I was upbraided by one pro-Boris Twitter user for not having covered the story.
The simple, no conspiracy reason for this omission is that I didn’t know about the comments until they brought them to my attention. I didn’t go to the Bromley ‘Tell Ken’ event* and I hadn’t read Dave’s account of the day which included the remarks.
Though it will surprise many, in the absence of knowledge even I find it difficult to say anything.
There’s no doubt the comments are offensive and they further personalise a campaign which has already seen the launch of an attack website by Team Boris and scaremongering over the Freedom Pass by Team Ken.
As I’ve noted before, negativity in Mayoral campaigns is nothing new but it should always be unwelcome.
This of course isn’t the first time Ken’s blunt descriptions of those outside his tent have dismayed supporters and delighted opponents.
Those with long memories may recall April 2004 when he expressed a desire to “wake up and find that the Saudi royal family are swinging from lamp-posts”, then there was his 2005 row with an Evening Standard journalist that very nearly got him suspended from office and his description of the Congestion Charge evading US Ambassador a “chiselling little crook” (though many may agree with Livingstone on this one).
Despite the media row, ‘Ken says something rude about someone’ is very old story which I suspect stopped exciting most voters a long time ago.
Why does he do it? A Labour London Assembly Member suggested to me a few months ago that his own “thick skin” has dulled his sensitivities to a point that he no longer realises the offence his comments can cause.
A counter-theory is that he simply likes the attention his outbursts generate.
Whichever theory you prefer, it’s clear Ken’s media handlers have a long campaign ahead of them!
*The only ‘Tell Ken’ I’ve attended was March’s Croydon event at which I quizzed Ken about his own past fare hikes. You can listen to the interview here.