You ask the questions: Ken Livingstone

(Such as, Ken Livingstone, ex-Borgia of the hard Left, can you recommend a decent white wine for under pounds 5?)
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Ken Livingstone, born in London in 1945, joined the Labour Party in 1969. He ran the Greater London Council (GLC) from 1981 to 1986, earning the nickname "Red Ken"; Ken Baker called him "The Borgia of the hard Left". Opinion polls rate him as the politician Londoners would most like to have as mayor - he has just released a manifesto outlining his plans were he to succeed, including free entry to London Zoo and the pedestrianisation of Soho. He lives with his partner, Kate Allen, in Cricklewood.

For destroying the GLC and trashing the post-war settlement, do you hate and despise Margaret Thatcher as much as I do?

Andy F, Rugby, Warwickshire.

I think she was a psychopath who in different circumstances might have killed tens of millions. Instead she just demolished the quality of life for the vast majority of the people in Britain.

I know you enjoy drinking white wine, could you recommend something for less than pounds 5 a bottle?

David Godfrey, Twickenham.

Any main supermarket has reasonably good wine for under pounds 5 a bottle.

What crimes have you committed?

Martin Hughes, Jersey.

In 1957 I stole a German-English dictionary from Streatham WH Smith.

Which MP do you have greatest respect for?

Christopher Bing, Perth.

John Hulme.

What books and political events have had the most influence on your convictions?

Patrick Fox, Basingstoke

1984 and Animal Farm.

If you were castaway with one Tory MP, which one would you hope it would be and why?

Linda Cowly, Dorset.

I would prefer solitary confinement.

As leader of the GLC, you effected meaningful change with the backing of a multi-member authority, numerous officials and a massive infra-structure. As mayor, you will be politically "on your own", with less staff/infra- structure and presumably less statutory powers. How will you effect meaningful change this time? (I'm sure you'll be elected).

Andrew Holdcroft, Tile Hill College.

The failure of the GLC was that it was not a strategical authority. As a vast bureaucracy delivering personal services it was really a big council. The Government's new GLA is a strategical authority and therefore doesn't need the staffing levels of the GLC. To affect meaningful change your policies have to be right which is much more important that the size of your organisation.

Why did you shave your moustache?

Keith Flett, east London.

I only grew it to look older when I was 23, this is no longer a priority.

Will post 2000 politics bring new Tony Benns' and Ken Livingstones' or simply a growing collection of "goons" with advertising degrees?

Nick Falle, St Lawrence, Jersey.

Most definitely. If someone in 1969 had predicted that Tony Benn would become the leader of the Left they would have been laughed out of the debate. Somewhere on the vertebrae-free Labour back benches lurks the Benn of 2010. It will only be with time that we discover who it is. My money's on Yvette Cooper!

How do you think your role as mayor would differ from leading the GLC? Do you envisage public transport being as cheap as it was during your days on the GLC?


The two jobs are completely different Cutting fares on the Tube now wouldn't have the same effect as in 1981. Then we had unused capacity, now you couldn't squeeze anyone else onto it. Fares must come down in real terms to get people out of their cars but the most important thing is to get more public transport capacity.

As boss of the GLC you acted as a kind of unofficial diplomat to Northern Ireland. Why did you only contact Sinn Fein, and through them the IRA and not the SDLP or the Alliance Party? Are you a terrorist at heart?

Christopher Walker, London.

There was no point in talking to anybody else. You had to talk to the people who were doing the fighting as the British government eventually discovered 10 years on and after another 1,000 lives had been lost.

If you could no longer live in the UK but could choose any other country, where would you choose? If, one fair day, Tony Blair said, "Ken, I will grant you one wish ..." What would you ask for?

Sean Roche.

Holland/Chancellor of the Exchequer.

William Hague has had his sinuses drained. Would you consider doing the same?

Nicolas Sedah, Sutton Coldfield.


What is an axolotl - do you have one?

Jon Rollinson, biologist, Perth.

It is the juvenile form of a salamander. It evolved in the deserts of Mexico when it became too dry for salamanders on land.

What is your preferred electoral system for local government in London?

Alastair Morrison, Hayes.

The German additional member system.

Do you believe the Palestinians have a right to independence and self determination and the right of return?

George Abenstern & Linda Clair, Rochdale.

Absolutely. There will be no peace in the Middle East until the Palestinians have their own state and the right to return to those parts of Israel they were driven out of.

You have to spend pounds 500 in Harvey Nichols, what would you buy?

Angela, Fulham, London.

A better suit than the one I have on.

Is it appropriate that the old GLC building is full of fishy things and sharks?

Marcus Beale, Cornwall.

I just wish I had the sharks there to deal with difficult colleagues when I was leader of the GLC.

What sort of car do you drive?

Pete Greer, Ipswich.

I don't drive.

What's your idea of a romantic night out?

Lizzie McEwen, Surrey.

A pleasant meal in a restaurant where I can hear myself think.

Do you think that an economic crisis on the scale of the oil crisis in the 1970s may come from the potential collapse of the Asian tiger economies, which could result in the withdrawal of the cheap labour that props up free-market capitalism in the West?

Andrew Curtis, Hampshire.

I expect the recession to be the least bad of the last 20 years insofar as it affects Britain. But there is always the possibility that political misjudgements will precipitate something much worse.

You are on the record as being in favour of a strict privacy law. Have you got something to hide?

Richard Nelsson, Streatham Hill, London.

No, it's just that I want to try and end the English and American obsessions with other people's sex lives in the hope that they will put more effort into their own.

If you become Lord Mayor of London what will you do to help the many union members who work for London Underground who, under PPP, face worsening terms and conditions and reduced pension rights, and how can you help in the meantime?

Simon Ponsonby.

By the time we have a mayor it will be too late. We have to campaign now to protect trade union members' rights from worsening under PPP.

What do you call your favourite newt?

William Smyth, Stockport.

I never gave them names.

In your latest manifesto, how can you justify free entry to London Zoo if you were mayor? Surely it would cost a fortune?

Monica Diamond, Highgate.

No, because with many museums now being free in London, there could be problems with the numbers visiting London Zoo going down. It's a huge educational source as well.

Do you feel it's time for a new nickname - perhaps Pink Ken?

Jane Ellis, Oxford.

I never was as Red as they said.

Do you think the Government will entirely approve of your plans as would- be mayor?

Nick Johnson, Holland Park.

Yes. I understand Tony Blair is sitting by a pool in Tuscany saying, "What a bright young fellow Ken is. And why didn't I give him a job?"

Next Week:

Max Clifford

Please send any questions you would like to put to PR supremo Max Clifford, to: You Ask The Questions, Features, The Independent, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL; by fax on 0171- 293 2182; or e-mail them to your by lunch time on Friday, 7 August