From the colour of his tipple to the length of the topple, Ken has to answer for everything

By Paul Waugh
Sunday 17 November 2013 03:42

Red Ken or White Ken? That was the question Londoners grappled with yesterday as the Mayor revealed intimate details of his drinking habits on the infamous night of 19 May.

Describing the capital's most scrutinised birthday party since the Queen's golden jubilee bash, Mr Livingstone said he had imbibed only three glasses of vino in seven hours. He was definitely, categorically not as pissed as one of his beloved newts.

There had been no great crates of vodka, no spliffs, no hanky-panky at the party. In fact, as he asked to be left to get on with his day job, it became clear that the Mayor's defence amounted to this: "My name's Ken Livingstone and I'm a workaholic." Or, to put it more succinctly, "Bacchus or sack us".

"Sometimes, reading the press you assume some sort of Roman orgy was taking place in Islington. The reality was the age range was 35 to 78 and the mood of the party reflected that," he told the London Assembly. "I had three glasses of sauvignon blanc," the Mayor went on. Lord Harris of Haringey, leader of the Labour group and a man familiar with viticultural excellence, interrupted. "I hope it was of reasonable quality?" he asked. "It was," Mr Livingstone replied to chuckles.

Rumours later swept the building the Mayor had changed his story, having previously declared he had sipped red wine, not white, at the gathering.

Red would conjure up the image of the old GLC leader, ruddy in both his expression and politics. White would be altogether more refined, the colour of a knight in shining armour who rescued his pregnant partner from the mêlée. Unfortunately for his accusers, there was no evidence to contradict the colour of the drink.

Mr Livingstone's light grilling was broadcast live on Sky, BBC News 24 and even a Greater London Authority webcast, and guaranteeing an audience of, ooh, dozens.

But in vino veritas or no, his performance was vintage Ken. The Tory-supporting Evening Standard was a "hyena, gorging on his family", he said. Forget libel juries, millions of Londoners were "the biggest jury", he said. He would be prepared to take a lie detector test, he said.

Mr Livingstone was most scathing about the Standard's grasp of physics – it declared the wall over which Robin Hedges had fallen was 12ft and then 15ft tall. He went and measured it himself – it was 10ft, he said.

By the end, unlike Labour, this was one party Ken did not want to be readmitted to. Ever again.

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