You Can’t Say That, by Ken Livingstone, Faber, RRP£9.99, 710 pages
From suburban frog-breeding enthusiast to first mayor of London, Ken “Red Ken” Livingstone has enjoyed a turbulent political career and analyses it with deadpan humour in this busy memoir.
Livingstone joined the Labour Party in 1969 in what he calls “a rare example of a rat boarding a sinking ship” and his account of leading the Greater London Council from 1981-1986 (the “largest local authority in Europe” until Thatcher abolished it) contains plenty of sniping. Scathing of Labour reversals and hypocrisy as well as Tory self-interest, Livingstone reserves most scorn for what he sees as New Labour’s authoritarian paranoia.
The common thread in You Can’t Say That is a sustained passion for tackling big social issues – housing, equality, affordable transport – as well as his ideological approach to nuclear power and Northern Ireland. Covering the past three decades of seismic change in wider society, Livingstone’s highly absorbing memoir probes internecine hostilities that continue to impact on the left’s credibility.