Total Politics Interview With Ken Livingstone
ID: Is this a wider problem, where you have people going into politics at an ever younger age. It’s the age of the career politician, isn’t it?KL: That layer of successful businessmen and women who went into parliament in their fifties, or trade union leaders who did much the same and could say ‘bugger off sonny’, there are just none of them left. American or German politicians get to run their cities or states before they go into Federal government. It’s a terrible weakness in our system. Obama is only the third President to be elected from the Senate. Every other President has run a state or been a successful military commander. Every German Chancellor with the exception of Adenauer and Erhard has run a Bundesland. No one in Germany would think you can play with the national government until you have demonstrated you can run one of the smaller bits. Only here do we think that posing against your opponents in Parliament is a preparation for government
This is one of the areas where I can see Ken Livingstone's point. One of the major problems we face in politics is a gap, which is growing, between voters and politicians. Much needs to be done to bridge that gap and whilst we have a no of capable people going into politics at a young age, and needed though they are, we also need more people with maturity, experience, and experience in running local government and/or Assembly/Parliament experience (i.e. Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland, London)
Iain and Ken then discuss Ken's desire to run for the office of Mayor again
ID: He’s taken a lot of risks. The amnesty for illegal immigrants is only one example. Moving on, why do you want to stand for a third term when you gave a clear commitment to only stay for one term?
KL: I change my mind all the time on the issue of term limits. The defining thing was George Bush. If America hadn’t had term limits, Clinton would have been elected for a third term. I said I would also retain my seat in Parliament because I didn’t think the job of mayor would be any more demanding than that of a cabinet minister. I assumed I would then be well rewarded by Blair for having got it all settled down. Once I got elected, by the first autumn, I realised there was huge potential and I had to give up my seat in Parliament and decided it would be the last job I did in politics.
ID: Don’t you think that if people are in power for a long time, the risk of corruption increases?
KL: There’s no more risk of corruption if I am in power for 20 years than when I get there. You are corrupt, or you are not.
ID: But there are one party ‘states’ in local government which are incredibly corrupt.
KL: Then the answer is proportional representation so no one holds absolute power. I’d also have a primary system because the party machines become so small. You get more rapid political change in America than you do here. Insurgents can capture the party machine. Here, you have to brown nose your way up. That’s the killer.
ID: The Tories have introduced open primaries for candidate selection.
KL: But not of all the voters…
ID: Yes, absolutely. Anyone can turn up.
KL: I didn’t know that. That’s excellent.Oh some gems there! I think it would be best if we have someone else running for Mayor in 2012. If nothing else, Ken has made a promise and should stick to it no matter the temptation (a la Martin Bell), but also he can be divisive and polarising. Personally I would like to see Sir Alan Sugar run as he has the full mixture of experience, no baggage, popularity, respect, and recognition. Plus he is not a politician in the conventional sense.
As for open primaries for the Conservatives, well I have blogged on this before. Oh the Tories, you have to feel sorry for them sometimes! ;-)