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Ken Livingstone's Biography

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Early Life and Family

Kenneth Robert Livingstone was born on 17 June 1945 in Lambeth, London.

Ken Livingstone's father was a window cleaner and merchant seaman and his mother was a shop worker, dancer and usherette.

Livingstone was educated at St Leonard's Church of England School and Tulse Hill Comprehensive.

Ken Livingstone was a technician at the Chester Beatty Cancer Research Institute in the Royal Marsden Hospital from 1962-1970.

From 1970-73 Livingstone studied for his teacher's certificate at Philippa Fawcett College of Education.

Politics, The Labour Party, London Mayor, and the GLC

Ken Livingstone's political journey began in the sixties. He became interested in gay rights and had a spell as an anarchist. However, he joined the Labour Party in Norwood and became secretary of the Norwood Young Socialists in 1969.

Livingstone's career in local government began when he was elected to Lambeth Council in 1971 and then to the Greater London Council (GLC) for Norwood in 1973.

His reign as the Greater London Council leader from 1981 to 1986 coincided with tough times for the Labour Party at the national level.

Livingstone invited a Sinn Fein delegation to the Greater London Council in 1982 and in the same year came second to the Pope in BBC Radio 4's Today programme's 'Man of the Year'.

Not everybody mirrored the attitude of Today's audience. The Sun described Ken Livingstone as "the most odious man in Britain."

In 1985, with the Greater London Council about to be axed by the Tory government the next year, he became Labour candidate for Brent East (at the second attempt) defeating Diane Abbott. And in the 1987 general election Ken Livingstone retained the constituency for Labour.

It appears that Ken Livingstone did not think much of the Houses of Parliament. In 1988 he said "Parliament is worse than I thought it would be; it's like working in the Natural History Museum, except not all the exhibits are 'stuffed'."

Always to the left of the Labour Party, Livingstone announced in November 1999 that he would stand in a contest to be Labour's candidate for London mayor.

Amid much controversy about how Labour Party HQ conducted their campaign in support of the Labour leadership's preferred candidate, Frank Dobson, Livingstone lost the selection battle in February 2000. Ken Livingstone actually won more votes than Dobson but was defeated in the complex electoral college system the Labour Party had adopted.

Ken Livingstone announced that he would run as an independent and subsequently beat Frank Dobson and the Conservative candidate, Steve Norris, in the race to become London Mayor.

Since 4 May 2000 Ken Livingstone has been London Mayor, and in January 2004 he rejoined the Labour Party.

In February 2006, a disciplinary tribunal found Livingstone guilty of bringing his position into disrepute by likening a Jewish reporter, Oliver Finegold from the Evening Standard, to a concentration camp guard, and the Adjudication Panel suspended him from his mayoral duties for a month.

In 2008, Ken Livingstone was running for re-election as London Mayor and early polls showed him to be neck and neck with Conservative Party candidate, Boris Johnson, however in May 2008 it was revealed that Ken Livingstone had lost out on his quest for a third term.

In April 2008 it had been revealed that Ken Livingstone has five children by three different women: he has two children by his partner Emma Beal, plus two daughters by one woman and a boy with another.

Ken Livingstone told the BBC:

"Clearly, I don't think anybody in this city is shocked about what consenting adults do. As long as you don't involve children, animals or vegetables they leave people to get on and live their own life in their own way."

In May 2008, soon after Ken Livingstone had lost his post as Mayor of London, it was announced that he would be joining London's radio station LBC as a host.

In August 2009, Ken Livingstone announced that he would marry his long-term partner Emma Beal at London Zoo in September. Ken Livingstone and Emma Beal met in 1996 when he was a food critic and she was a secretary at the London Evening Standard.

In 2011, Ken Livingstone published his autobiography, You Can't Say That.

On 3 May 2012 Ken Livingstone stood against Boris Johnson again for Mayor of London. Livingstone narrowly lost out and announced that he would not be standing for election again.

In April 2016, Livingstone was suspended from the Labour Party "for bringing the party into disrepute" after saying Hitler had supported Zionism in the 1930s.

Following a disciplinary hearing, in April 2017, the Labour Party announced that Ken Livingstone had breached its rule 2.1.8, which says that "no member of the party shall engage in conduct which in the opinion of the NEC is prejudicial, or in any act which in the opinion of the NEC is grossly detrimental to the party".

He was suspended from standing for office or representing the Labour Party for two years, although it would expire in April 2018 as he had already been suspended for a year.

On 21 May 2018, Ken Livingstone announced that he was resigning from the Labour Party, saying:

"I am loyal to the Labour Party and to Jeremy Corbyn. However any further disciplinary action against me may drag on for months or even years, distracting attention from Jeremy's policies.

"I am therefore, with great sadness, leaving the Labour Party."

In September 2023, it was revealed that Ken Livingstone had Alzheimer's disease.

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