Today, Labour’s National Executive Committee has decided to appoint former Mayor of London and newt-fancier (no, really – he is) Ken Livingstone to be the joint head of the party’s policy review on Defence, alongside the Shadow Defence Secretary Maria Eagle.
This seems like a definite attempt to ensure that the anti-Trident camp are given as big a voice as possible, and as such it caused a bit of stir.
Kevan Jones MP, who served as a Defence Minister in the Labour government, told PoliticsHome: “I’m not sure Ken knows anything about Defence. It will only damage our credibility amongst those that do and who care about defence.”
To which Livingstone responded: “I think he might need some psychiatric help. He’s obviously very depressed and disturbed. He should pop off and see his GP before he makes these offensive comments.”
Which was inappropriate both generally and specifically. Generally because there is a widespread effort – not least from Jeremy Corbyn – to change attitudes towards mental health, and specifically because Kevan Jones actually has been very depressed, and opened up about this in 2012.
A lot of people were naturally upset, and Mr Jones expressed his offense at the comments.
To which, Mr Livingstone refused to apologise, saying that he grew up in South London where “If someone’s rude to you, you are rude back.” Always a good idea to try and defuse a situation by citing the moral system of a teenager but, given that he grew up in the 50s, I suppose we can just be thankful that he didn’t grow up in the Bronx, where if someone was rude to you, you'd pop a cap in their ass.
With further outcry, Ken finally gave into the pressure:
1/2 I unreservedly apologise to Kevan Jones for my comments. They should not have been made at all, let alone in this context.— Ken Livingstone (@ken4london) November 18, 2015
2/2 I also make this apology because Jeremy is right to insist on a more civil politics and as a party we should take this seriously— Ken Livingstone (@ken4london) November 18, 2015
Given that he refused to apologise at 12.30pm, and then volte-faced at 2pm, we can assume that Jeremy did a lot of insisting over a post-PMQs lunch by peering over his glasses and waiting for Ken to stop behaving like an unthinking adolescent.