The Life and times of Citizen Ken
Saturday 06 May 2000
1945 Our future Dick Whittington is born in Streatham to sailor father Bob and mother Ethel, a shop assistant. While at Tulse Hill comprehensive he develops a love, not necessarily mutually exclusive, of reptiles and politics. In 1969 he embarks on his long and volatile love affair with the Labour Party. After being elected to Lambeth Council, he becomes vice-chairman of housing - following in the august footsteps of John Major.
1976 To cries of "carpetbagger" Ken leaves marginal Norwood to run for Hackney North in the GLC and wins a place on Camden Council. The embryonic shape of Red Ken begins to glow as he freezes rents, lets homes to squatters' organisations and awards striking staff a bumper pay rise.
1981 Labour sweeps to power in the GLC elections, under moderate Andrew McIntosh. His reign is short - deposed by Ken in hours. Ken, by now sharing his bedsit with seven salamanders, becomes The Bogeyman. Reinforcing his anti-bourgeois stance, he refuses to attend the Royal Wedding (probably couldn't afford the wedding list).
1981 December 1981: The Law Lords consider Fare's Fair a misnomer and overturn it. The policy, which raised rates by £230m to pay for a massive cut in bus and Tube fares, makes Ken the commuters' hero. But not Margaret Thatcher's. She really doesn't like his latest invitee to County Hall - one Gerry Adams - and the Home Secretary bans him.
1983 Hurrah! Ken is selected for the Brent East seat! Boo! Labour's NEC overturns it! Hurrah! He finally enters Parliament in 1987 - and is elected on to the NEC. Boo! Two years later he is voted off! In the meantime, the GLC is abolished - but not before a £14m advertising campaign paid for by ratepayers, to convince the ratepayers that it shouldn't have been. Oh, and Ken loses the moustache.
1997 Ken makes surprise return to the NEC, and declares his interest in the mayor's job. In 1999, Labour finally allows him to stand as a possible candidate - but democratically organises the rules so that he is certain to lose. After Tony Blair pronounces Frank Dobson as the nation's favourite to run the capital, Ken quits Labour to run and is thrown out of the party. He is sure they will all be friends in the end. Tony Blair's real response is as yet unrecorded.
Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes
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