IF it was Monday, this must have been Russell Square. And there he was, the familiar face of Ken Livingstone popping down his red soapbox and reciting a quick list of pledges ahead of next month’s mayoral election.
The ‘fair deal’ express battlebus had already been to four boroughs before it reached Camden at lunchtime yesterday. His speech was largely given to Labour supporters – some dutifully holding up red and white ‘Ken’s Fair Deal’ banners – and a few lost tourists caught in the crossfire. It would have been more interesting if Ken had put the soapbox down in the middle of the Brunswick Centre, two secs away, and told people there what he is promising if re-elected. Not only because it would have been a sight to see how the al fresco diners outside Carluccio’s and Giraffe and Caffe Nero’s took to him, but also it would have been some sort of test of how London is taking to these elections – a re-run with the same candidates – as a whole. It is not absolute clear that the capital is enthused so far by any of it.
What was clear is that Ken still holds an allure for people in this southern neck of the borough. Nobody jeered him in the street. People, as he walked past, did shout: ‘I’m backing you Ken’. If he can’t win votes in this Labour stronghold, there would be a problem.
But there are bigger questions over what will happen to Ken’s support further north in Camden and the hangover of Jonathan Freedland’s piece in The Guardian is causing some irritation. Freedland said after years of supporting him, he would no longer vote for Ken on the grounds he felt that he was uncaring towards the Jewish community. You can hear from the audio above that, when I asked about it yesterday, Ken didn’t think Freedland’s argument counted for much. He is taking the soapbox to Hampstead and Golders Green in the coming weeks… let’s wait and see how he goes down.
You won’t hear Ken mention where Freedland’s article was printed on the tape but there is a little catchphrase whenever Labour gets what they feel is unfavourable treatment in news coverage or comment pieces in The Guardian – a reaction that must irritate a few of the pie and paella buyers in Eat Street, King’s Cross. A Labour bod sooner or later will say: ‘Well, you know The Guardian, they told people to vote for the Liberal Democrats in 2010′. When you look at where the national newspapers generally position themselves, they might want to let that grudge go at some stage.
NB: Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger probably gets asked about it everyday – here’s his response during a webchat yesterday.