My full interview with Ken Livingstone is now online HERE. Here are a few more tasters...
You never seriously believed Boris was a racist, did you?
I had never met Boris. Where would I know Boris? All I had ever seen was Boris being a buffoon on Have I Got News For You. All I can do is believe that the stuff he spent 15 years writing, he might actually believe. Who else in politics has ever used the word 'piccaninnie'? Or 'water melon smiles'? You might know he's a lovely engaging chap because you might have met him. I had never met him. We have still only ever exchanged a few words in passing. I know he was genuinely hurt that people thought he was a racist. He's not a racist in the sense that anyone would make that point, but he shouldn't have written that crap. He can't help himself. I have to be careful about revealing sources, but the thing about Boris is that everyone around him gossips about him all the time. Apparently when he meets foreign mayors with distinctive language patterns, he mimics them almost as soon as they are out of the bloody door! He doesn't mean it in any unpleasant way, but it is very easy for people
to misinterpret that.
Aren't we in the age of pragmatism now, not the age of ideology?
No, you have got to have an ideology to have a framework to construct a strategy about where you're going. People in the centre are, by definition, devoid of ideology. They make what appear to be rational decisions at the time, but are usually too late, and stumble from crisis to crisis. Tell me a centrist leader who has been successful.
You sound like Margaret Thatcher.
I completely disagreed with so much of what she wanted to do but I did respect her because she believed in something and drove towards it. You look at poor old Neil Kinnock, always trying to accommodate the right and keep the left happy. Also, another weakness is that Boris is not a workaholic and you have to be as Mayor. Private Eye does a spoof about me blaming Boris for everything, but I do actually. My office was always pro-active. Boris's failure to act when we had all the snow was symptomatic.
That wasn't Boris's fault. That was Peter Hendy and Transport for London. Hendy was the operational guy in charge. He's the roadblock to reform. If you want to get from a Livingstone transport agenda to a Boris one you have to get rid of Hendy.
A bureaucracy isn't pro-active. The political leader has to call people in, hold immediate meetings, give clear instructions and expect them to be carried out. Hendy says it's nicer working under Boris. Of course it is. I told the bugger what to do, but Boris doesn't. The Tory Party's problem is that Boris is learning from making the same sort of mistakes I made on Lambeth Council at the age of 26. It's like Tony Blair. Blair hadn't run anything before he became Prime Minister. This is very late in the day to work out how you start handling civil servants.
Do you think you mishandled the Lee Jasper issue?
If I had known he had written some salacious emails at the beginning I would have handled it differently. We'd had two investigations by the director of finance at the GLA, two by the LDA auditors, the Assembly went over everything. We have had ten months of police investigation. One or two organisations may have been set up to steal from us but that's a problem everyone in the public sector has got. What there isn't is anything that links Lee Jasper to any criminality. That justified a couple of stories. It did not justify 25 front page leads and 35 double page spreads. They finally got Lee Jasper for something that was contrary to our code of conduct. If you access the emails of everyone on the BBC or any newspaper you'd fi nd something similar.
Why do you keep going back to City Hall? You even attend Mayor's Questions at the Assembly. It makes you look sad.
I was uniquely lucky in that I got to set something up from scratch. Watching Boris come to terms with what I created is absolutely fascinating. I do intend to seek the Labour nomination again and if I am selected, I want to know more about Boris's administration than he does.
People think it's demeaning.
But they're the ones who aren't going to vote for me. In the debates next time I want to be able to hit back at Boris when he's wrong. Because I am there I can say with authority that the Tory group on the GLA are disappointed he is not more right wing. You can see it in their body language. It's a bit like all those Labour lefties who have waited years for a Labour government and then they get Blair! Boris was going to keep the western extension [of London's congestion charge] until they went and sat on him. If he had had more experience he might take more risks and do his own thing.
Have you never been tempted to go back to the House of Commons? You'd stand quite a good chance of succeeding Gordon Brown after a Labour defeat!
That's most probably why they wouldn't let me get a nomination! If I thought I could get to be Prime Minister I would do it, but I don't think so. I would be 70 in 2015. You'd all be saying that this man's too old to be Prime Minister.
You're probably right...
[laughs loudly] Getting back into Parliament? I don't know. Don't you think I am perfectly made for London politics but not for the rest of the country?
I might have said that a few years ago, but not now. But the way you're talking about it, it's almost as if you haven't considered it before and I have just put the thought into your head.
When I left Parliament, people like Diane Abbott said 'no, you must stay and go for the leadership when there's a vacancy'. I thought, no, that could be forever. I have a big, demanding job to do. At the next mayoral election I may still look 45, but at the following general election I may look like a pensioner. And I love the London job. The Labour Party tolerates me because I only get to play with London. If they thought I might get my hands on the whole country I think they would be very serious about stopping me. It's just as well Barack Obama is there now. If I looked like becoming Prime Minister while Bush was in the White House then I am sure I would have had an accident. I believe in a neutralist Britain. I'm what Bill Cash calls a 'Federast'. I believe in the euro, a united Europe. That plays OK in London, but not the rest of the country. I am not in favour of any parental choice in education. You will go to your local school.
That's a pretty bald statement. You've got young kids...
They go to the local school and they will go to the local secondary school.
Even if it's a terrible school and you know it's a terrible school? Surely a parent's duty is to get the best education possible for their kids?
Tom's in his first year at school. In his class there are only three kids who were born in this country, and one of them is called Mohammed. He's doing fi ne because he has parents who read to him and he lives in a house full of books. A school can screw up kids if it's got a bad head who has lost interest and loses control. The home environment is far more likely to screw up kids. The illusion of educational choice has been a disaster for most kids and most parents. So you see, all things considered, I might have some trouble getting elected outside London!
You went out on a limb to support Sir Ian Blair, when you used to have a reputation for being rather anti-Police.
You judge a person by the quality of their enemies, and when you have got the Telegraph and the Mail leading the campaign to get rid of Ian Blair you know he must be doing something right. What they wanted was a good old racist copper.
Oh for goodness sake. You can't seriously think they would like to have a racist head of the Metropolitan Police. Get real.
I do. I think they are racist. The Mail is a deeply racist paper. Just read Flat Earth News . I was shocked. Dacre comes over as a bullying racist thug in the book.