POLITICS

Labour Conference 2013: Ken Livingstone Says Tony Blair Almost Offered Him A Job, Wants Budget Balanced

24/09/2013 20:20 BST | Updated 24/09/2013 20:25 BST
Ben Cawthra/LNP

Tony Blair considered offering Ken Livingstone a job in government in the run-up to the 1997 general election, the former Labour mayor of London has revealed.

Speaking at the Huffington Post UK's Labour Party conference fringe event in Brighton on Tuesday evening, veteran left-winger Livingstone said he had met the then Leader of the Opposition to discuss a possible job in a New Labour Government, adding: "It didn't work out."

In 1999, Livingstone tried to win the Labour candidacy for mayor of London but was opposed by Blair; he won the 2000 election as an independent candidate which resulted in his expulsion from Labour (until he returned to the party fold foue years later).

tony blair ken livingstone

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In a typically boisterous and provocative performance, the former London mayor said voting should be made "compulsory" and, asked about Ed Miliband's plan to reduce the voting age to 16, joked that he would "introduce the death penalty for those teenagers who don't vote."

He also defined 'trickle down economics' as "the Tories peeing down on the rest of us" and mocked David Cameron and George Osborne for making Margaret Thatcher "look human and social democratic".

Responding to questions from the audience on austerity policies and the budget deficit, Livingstone, long considered one of the leaders of Labour's left, surprised some in the crowd by describing himself as a "Friedmanite" - a reference to the late US economist and leading neoliberal Milton Friedman - and urging the Opposition to "set a target to get rid of the [national] debt in 20 years time".

"Balance your bloody budget," the ex-mayor told the 100-strong audience in the Hilton Metropole hotel in Brighton.