Ken Livingstone: You Ask The Questions

Former Mayor of London answers your questions, such ask 'What was your biggest mistake as Mayor?' and 'How much do you drink?'

Monday 22 September 2008 00:00
Ken Livingstone, newt and reptile enthusiast
Ken Livingstone, newt and reptile enthusiast

Why has Gordon Brown been such a disaster as Prime Minister? PAUL COOPER, Norwich

The bungled decision on last autumn's non-election didn't help and Gordon was never going to be the sort of person who wants to sit on some TV sofa discussing his favourite recipe. But the real problem here is the turn to the right in much of the media who have been seduced by smiley Dave Cameron. The way Brown has responded to the HBOS collapse and his statement about the need to change the way markets work opens the chance for Labour to win the next election if we get it right.

Should Brown stand down? How long do you expect him to survive? MAGGIE WILKINS, Bristol

I expect Brown to lead us into the general election in May 2010. If Brown stood down it would expose the complete division in the party about who should succeed him. All Brown's critics in the Labour Party talk about is a change of personality. They don't recognise the problem stems from the initial error of New Labour to turn its back on a progressive tax system and they were all implicated in that decision and have supported it.

What does Labour need to do to reverse its fortunes? SEAN O'CONNELL, Liverpool

Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher dismantled the financial regulatory system that had given us a generation of stability, and the chickens are now coming home to roost. No one is better placed on the international scene than Brown to create a modern version of that regulatory system. Even George W Bush is angry at the use of international tax havens by American corporations to avoid paying tax. Now is the time for Britain and Europe to put in place new checks that can squeeze them out of existence. Coupled with a return to a progressive tax policy this could be the package that delivers Labour a fourth term.

Do you think the Labour rebels are doing the right thing? NIGEL BERNARD, London N1

Given the above, no.

Do you blame the Government for your defeat in the London mayoral election? CHARLIE DONALDSON, St Albans

Labour having its worse poll ratings for 40 years didn't help but if I could have pushed my personal vote up from 250,000 to 400,000 I could have hung on. What surprised me most is my personal vote actually increased over the four years after the 2004 election.

Are you resigned to a Conservative government at the next election? JO PHILLIPS, London SE8

If Labour follows the policies outlined above it can win a fourth term. The Tories haven't changed. They have just got a prettier face.

Who would you like to succeed Gordon Brown as Prime Minister?DAVE SHREEVE, Brentford

Ed Balls or Jon Cruddas.

Years ago you wrote a column for The Independent saying Brown should resign as Chancellor. Did you ever like him? ED MARTIN, Croydon

Given what has happened over the last year my critique of New Labour's economic policy 10 years ago was correct. During the time we worked together as Mayor and Prime Minister I came to have a high regard for his ability.

Is there anything the Mayor should be doing to reverse the City's financial crisis? Or is he basically powerless on something like this? MARK HARRIS, London N19

Boris Johnson should be actively building links to the emerging economies so that we are not so dependent on the USA. Sadly he is still considering closing our offices in India and China.

You've become more reconciled to capitalism as your career has gone on. Do the events of the last week fire up your left-wing feelings again? KEITH PORTER, Hounslow

As a system for the exchange of goods and services you can't improve on the market, but it needs regulation.

Did you underestimate Boris Johnson? How has he done so far? JAKE LEE, Reading

No, I recognised that he was the biggest threat I faced from the moment he announced. It's too soon to tell how he's doing.

What was your biggest mistake as Mayor? MARY JANKOVIC, London W6

All the big decisions we got right. Sadly I didn't have the power to close the Evening Standard.

Are you still in touch with Lee Jasper? PHILIP ARCHER, London SW20

I spoke to him this week. Boris's inquiry and the ongoing policy inquiry have still found nothing to link Lee to any wrongdoing.

You've said you plan to run for Mayor again. Hasn't London already told you that they want someone else? Isn't it time to move on? MARCUS TREVOR, London E8

What would you like me to move on to?

How many units of alcohol do you consume in a week? CATHY EDWARDS, Brighton

Three to four bottles of red wine.

How are you keeping busy? TINA GOUGH, Cambridge

Answering questions likes this, writing my autobiography, after-dinner speaking, environmental campaigning, gardening, a bit more swimming and the odd visit to Venezuela.

You're on the radio now. Would it be fair to say that's because you're fond of the sound of your own voice? BRIAN CHESTERTON, Maidstone

I've always hated the sound of my own voice. If only I sounded like James Mason rather than Kenneth Williams!

Last time The Independent interviewed you, you were asked for a joke and said Boris Johnson, and that it wasn't funny. Now you're not running for anything, have you got a more amusing answer? PETE ANSON, London SW6

Who says I'm not running for anything?

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