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Ken Livingstone: Labour's Job Now Is To Gnaw At The Soft Parts Of Osborne

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The Labour party needs to spend the next three years "gnawing away at the soft parts" of George Osborne, according to Ken Livingstone, rather than reveal detailed tax and spend plans long before the next general election.

Speaking to The Huffington Post UK when we caught up with him at the Labour party conference, the defeated candidate for London mayor was also bullish about critics of his campaign.

Most notable among them was Douglas Alexander, who said last week Livingstone's 2012 mayoral campaign "too often looked like the past rather than the future."

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"He [Douglas] should pick up the phone and ask me if things are true before he assumes they are. He repeated all the 'rich Jews' smear and the simple fact is, I never said those words,” he says.

Livingstone, for his part, denies being a "tax dodging anti-semite", and telling a private meeting that rich Jews wouldn't vote Labour.

"It was a headline, you can never sue on a headline… What was the other big smear? That I was a tax dodger. Look at the way I'm bloody dressed. I'll show you the holes in my clothing!"

Ken offers another olive branch: "If you go and look at polling data, well off Jewish people are more likely to vote Labour than non-Jewish well off people. There's thousands of years of what we now call a liberal tradition. It's there. I had such support in the Jewish community.”

Livingstone remains a senior figure in the Labour party despite his defeat - and he denies any policy splits at the top.

“In all my private conversations with the two Eds [Balls and Miliband] none of them ever says anything about the economic direction which they're going that isn't the same."

What direction would that be? "You can't [reveal policies],” Ken says. ‘If we have an election next month I know exactly the things which we're saying and doing. But it's going to be nearly three years away.

“In 1992 we were totally screwed at the election because our policy of a tax and spending pledges were devised three years earlier at the time of the Lawson boom. Then by the time we get into the election, we're in second year of a recession, and it wasn't relevant. We got hammered on that."

He adds: "They'll put together a tax and spending package in the six months running up to the next election. Why waste your time doing it now?

“Our job now is to gnaw at the soft parts of Osborne."

Beyond Labour’s policies, or lack thereof, and defending his mayoral campaign, Livingstone is also very entertaining. His conversation darts from the surreal (“Ed Miliband would never eat his own children”) to the scandalous.

Take this nugget about Jack Straw, who said in his autobiography he believed the late Labour leader John Smith was a functioning alcoholic. "I knew John Smith, I went out drinking with John Smith. Functioning alcoholic just means that he can hold his booze better than Jack Straw. So bugger Jack Straw, I say.”

But back to the politics of today. Who does he want to run as the London mayor in 2016?

"I'm not going to say because almost all of them are my friends."

Despite voting for Ed Balls as Labour leader, Livingstone maintains he wants Ed Miliband to “carry on as prime minister until I die of old age.”

“And I want Ed Balls to carry on as chancellor until I die of old age. Yvette Cooper as Home Secretary until I die of old age. It's a great team. I've never felt so good about a Labour leadership team in my life..."

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Labour Party Conference 2012
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