Ken Livingstone says he meets lifelong Labour voters who back Boris Johnson because he is funny

  • @andymcsmith

Ken Livingstone today admitted that he encounters lifelong Labour voters who are backing Boris Johnson in the London mayoral election because he is funny.

The Labour candidate’s answer is that it is not the Mayor’s job to be funny, because London needs someone at the helm looking into what the city will need in ten or fifteen years.

The ex-Mayor was seeking to explain away opinion polls which suggest that he personally might be a drag on Labour’s campaign.

Recent opinion polls have put Labour nine points ahead of the Tories nationally, and suggest that Labour will take control of the London Assembly in May. Another poll found that 78 per cent of Londoners think that Boris Johnson looks after the rich. Yet in what is traditionally a Labour voting city, the incumbent Tory Mayor appears to be on course to win a second term in office.

Asked about this at a lunch in the parliamentary press gallery, Mr Livingstone replied: “I find people on the doorstep who are naturally Labour and they say to me ‘Oh, he does make me laugh’.

“I didn’t come into politics to make you laugh. If I wanted to make you laugh I’d be a stand up comedian. I think Boris should let me and I’ll support him being permanent chairman of Have I Got News For You. That would be each of us doing what we do best.”

Mr Livingstone opposed the creation of the post of London Mayor before it was introduced in 2000, and today said that he is “not persuaded” that cities like Birmingham would benefit from having directly elected mayors.

He complained that politics has become too focussed on personalities and about "how funny you can be on a sofa at 9am" rather than policy.

He said: “I'm still not persuaded of the mayoral system because it concentrates a lot of power in one person's hands. It's easy to avoid serious scrutiny because the mayor always gets the last word at every assembly meeting.

“The other weakness of this is it leads to a degree of celebrity politics, which means the issues go down the agenda.”