Red Ken’s no-holds-barred talk in Sidmouth

Former London mayor, Ken Livingstone, signing his book at Sidmouth Rugby Club. Ref shs 15-16AW 2697.

Former London mayor, Ken Livingstone, signing his book at Sidmouth Rugby Club. Ref shs 15-16AW 2697. Picture: Alex Walton - Credit: Archant

Straight-talking Labour veteran was key speaker at Sun, Sea and Books Literary Festival fundraiser

Former London mayor, Ken Livingstone, signing his book at Sidmouth Rugby Club. Ref shs 15-16AW 2702.

Former London mayor, Ken Livingstone, signing his book at Sidmouth Rugby Club. Ref shs 15-16AW 2702. Picture: Alex Walton - Credit: Archant

Ken Livingstone covered the Tories, Trident and tax avoidance as he laid his cards on the table at a talk in Sidmouth.

The forthright veteran Labour politician won over audience members with his trademark straight-talking at a fundraising lunch ahead of the town’s Sun, Sea and Books Literary Festival, which takes place this year on June 10 and 11.

Billed as the key speaker to promote his newly-published book, Being Red, a Politics for the Future, Ken provided an insight into its content with a no-holds-barred account of how ‘unpleasant’ modern politics has become.

Speaking to the Herald afterwards, Ken urged young people in Sidmouth to get involved in politics and cited the success of independent candidates across East Devon in May’s elections as an example of changing times and opinions.


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Addressing an audience at the rugby club last Wednesday, Ken said: “When I lost the last election [for London Mayor in 2012] I thought the campaign had been so vile. When I first came into politics, it was full of people who were nerdy and interested in politics. Now it’s more like the USA. I cannot see any point in being in politics if you cannot say what you think.

“I disagreed with almost everything [Margaret] Thatcher did, but she did not come into politics because she wanted to be liked. So many now should go into bloody showbusiness.”

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Ken joined the Labour Party in 1968, serving as leader of the Greater London Council from 1981 to 1986. He became the capital’s first elected mayor as an independent candidate in 2000 after the then-prime minister Tony Blair prevented him from running as a Labour candidate - deeming him too left-wing.

Ken’s dislike for the former prime minister was evident when he said: “It is not just the Tories - [Peter] Mandelson and Blair dragged us down.”

Expressing his support for new Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Ken hailed a ‘turning point’, adding: “Corbyn’s strategy is to invest and that is the key to success - investment. We have got to get back to investing in our economy. We do not need to increase taxes, we just need to make sure all these people pay their tax. Corbyn will crack down on tax avoidance.”

Answering questions from audience members, Ken strongly criticised the Government’s benefits cuts and said there is an economic case to be made for abandoning the Trident nuclear programme.

He told the Herald he believes politics is too London-centric and expressed support for devolving power to allow local authorities to have more of a say on education, health and upgrading transport systems.

Chairman of the Sun, Sea and Books, Sidmouth Literary Festival, David Lloyd said he was pleased with the turnout for the event and thanked everyone involved for their support.

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