SO I did check the LBC tape and Alastair Campbell did cough a resigned mutter about preferring Ken Livingstone ahead of Oona King in the mayoral candidate stakes. But rewind some more and you find some genuine radio gold for the heads that deserved a wider audience. You have to subscribe to the radio station, but the £4 is worth it for the first 15 minutes of Livingstone’s Saturday phone-in.
Put simply: it was as Ken and Andrew Gilligan, the former Standard journalist now at the Telegraph, spelling out their differences on a shared phone line. Gilligan wrote a piece for the Telegraph over the weekend warning of Labour ‘sleepwalking to disaster’ by choosing Ken again, but that’s nothing like the crackle and hush in the two men’s conversation over the airways.
At times it was like those uneasy meetings you find in the first third of Bond film when Bond meets the kingpin villain for the first time and, over a game of rummy, they pretend that there is no chance whatsoever that an hour later they will be biffing each off the Golden Gate Bridge.
And yet at others there was plenty of verbal biffing down the phone line: Asked by Livingstone to ‘have a rant’, Gilligan calmly tore his one-time muse to shreds. He said:
I do think there is a substantial opportunity for Labour to retake the mayoralty in 2012 – but not with you… You have nothing new to stay, you have huge baggage and most of all I think you are politically incompetent….. Since you lost you haven’t shown the slightest sign of understanding why or reached out to any of the groups you alienated.
Gilligan (pictured above watching the moment the results were read out at City Hall in 2008 ) blamed Labour deadlines for the limited Ken or Oona choice. Jon Cruddas, Alan Johnson and Tessa Jowell – according to Gilligan – were all genuinely interested but “they are all MPs and they are exhausted after the election and they haven’t got time to put a campaign in place.”
Lucky Ken. And Oona, for that matter.
For his part, Ken defended his former aide Lee Jasper – for so long scrutinised and chased by Gilligan – to the hilt and accused the reporter of orchestrating 25 splashes and 35 double page spreads on him and his circle of advisors. It has been suggested in the past that Gilligan, who won an industry Report Of The Year for his articles on City Hall, may even affected the result of the 2008 poll. The steady stream of articles had swayed minds. It’s true he’s shone a few spotlights on Boris Johnson’s (mayoral) affairs but the quantity doesn’t match the space once reserved for Livingstone.
But was the Standard running a systematic campaign to oust Livingstone? An outsider would surely say so. No no no said Gilligan, who didn’t answer a question about his own political allegiances. He said instead, presumably with a straight face: “Believe me we didn’t set out to do you in as Mayor, it wasn’t a concerted plan, some great scheme.”
Gilligan went on to agree that he earned a “fair old wage” at the Telegraph and to reveal that Ken “every 2 or 3 weeks went to the Press Complaints Commission” about Gilligan’s reports.
KL jumped back: “Excuse me, I gave up on the PCC years ago “because they are absolutely awful.” And then he hinted he would dismantle Gilligan’s claims and articles in an autobiography later this year. Battle wounds remain unhealed.
The last word, however, goes to Paula-from-Guildford. After Gilligan had finished his ‘rant’ about Ken, Paula-from-Guildford called up to pretty much do the same. Her words:
“Hello Ken. I must say that you personally are in danger of becoming one hell of a crashing bore if you dont stop going on about the mayor. You lost the election, and Boris won. Why don’t you concentrate on your broadcasting career. Every single time you are on you are doing something against the Mayor. He’s got the job, why don’t you just accept that and get on with other things.”
Gilligan has laughed off blogger Adam Bienkov’s suggestion that he could be the best candidate. But, hey, what about Paula From Guildford? She sounds sensible, she’d be alright. One of the parties should seek her out.