Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

New Labour, New Ken? Think Again as Mayor Speaks; LIVINGSTONE SHOWS HIS REBELLIOUS STREAK HAS SURVIVED PARTY LOYALTY TEST

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

New Labour, New Ken? Think Again as Mayor Speaks; LIVINGSTONE SHOWS HIS REBELLIOUS STREAK HAS SURVIVED PARTY LOYALTY TEST

Article excerpt

Byline: JOE MURPHY

KEN LIVINGSTONE today left Labour chiefs aghast by declaring he longs to see the Saudi royal family "swinging from the lampposts".

In an extraordinary interview while riding round London on a double-decker bus, the Mayor risked uproar with a stream of unscripted outbursts. He said Israeli leader Ariel Sharon should be thrown into jail, scorned President George Bush as ignorant of world affairs and announced that Gordon Brown should put up the top rate of income tax to 50 per cent.

Mr Livingstone's comments are certain to embarrass Tony Blair, who flies to Washington next week for talks with the US president. They also send a clear signal the Mayor has every intention of continuing to speak his mind on any subject, in defiance of those who thought his readmission to the Labour Party would see him go "on-message".

On the Saudis, he revealed: "I just long for the day I wake up and find that the Saudi royal family are swinging from lampposts and that they've got a proper government that represents the people of Saudi Arabia."

Chancellor Gordon Brown, who opposed Mr Livingstone's readmission to Labour, will be furious to learn the Mayor has revived his demands for higher tax on upper earners. "I've argued for years that there should be a 50 per cent rate of tax on all earnings over [pounds sterling]100,000," the Mayor declared.

Meanwhile the Prime Minister will be hoping that a stray copy of the interview does not reach President Bush before their White House lunch next Friday. Mr Livingstone confides: "I'm not even sure he [Mr Bush] was aware there were any Palestinians before he was elected, anymore than he knew the name of the president of Pakistan."

He praised Mr Blair's Government for promoting gay ministers, saying: "If you come out it almost guarantees you a junior ministerial post. Its wonderful."

Despite his differences with Mr Blair - and his remark that anyone who could not find things to disagree with New Labour about "might as well be dead" - he insists he and the Prime Minister enjoy cordial relations. …

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