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Ken: The Ups and Downs of Ken Livingstone [Hardcover]

Andrew Hosken
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

10 April 2008
A comprehensive and fascinating account of Ken Livingstone's extraordinary life and career. For nearly 30 years this controversial political chameleon has been making headlines, antagonising, shocking and delighting the public and the press in equal measure. He became the first directly elected Mayor of London as an independent. Since that monumental moment he has won the 2012 Olympics and led the capital during the dark days after the July 7th, 2005 terrorist attacks. Ken is a story of ambition, controversy and ruthlessness.

A ripping yarn Telegraph

After his superb expose of Shirley Porter, the gerrymanderer of Westminster City Council, Hosken has again managed to turn unpromising territory into a corking read. He is the John Grisham of local government Evening Standard

The Livingstone portrayed in this impressively detailed and well-researched biography is a sometimes heroic figure: taking on the Thatcher government to fight the abolition of the Greater London Council, or standing up to the might of the Labour spin machine to win the 2000 mayoral election as an independent. But more often he cuts a rather lonely profile: shuffling around friendless in the House of Commons after he was elected in 1987, for example. Observer

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 435 pages
  • Publisher: Arcadia Books; 1st edition (10 April 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1905147724
  • ISBN-13: 978-1905147724
  • Product Dimensions: 1.4 x 4.6 x 2.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 865,603 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


`A splendid book, as easy to read as a good thriller. If we're to have a relatively clean political culture, people . . . have to know there are writers like Andrew Hosken about' - Guardian on Nothing Like a Dame
-- Guardian

About the Author

Andrew Hosken is a senior reporter on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, investigating a range of stories at home and abroad. In 2003, he won the One World Media Award for a series on Algerian terrorism for Today. He lives in London.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A judgemental but quality history 6 May 2008
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I was not expecting much bearing in mind most of Ken's history has been covered by John Carvel's excellent books. However this biography casts a fresh look from different angles and with greater hindsight and even has an excellent selection of photographs. I never knew Ken was such a student of The Godfather I and II, it explains a lot...The structure also divides Ken's history into easy to digest well defined eras. The final page is an excellent summary of Ken's career and what he actually stands for. No doubt this book will go down in history as the one that finally exposed in detail Ken's other children at the very opportune (cynical?) moment of the build up to an election. The writers style is sharp and engaging but very much like a university lecture with the author's own low shock threshold thrown in for free. Oliver Finegold's terrible suffering is covered in some detail, a man who was happy to work for a family with an anti semitic record. He and other jewish hacks were happy to take their shilling. Mud sticks but considering the sewage pit thrown at Livingstone over the decades he was entirely justified to harass a doorstepper whom he did not initially know was Jewish anyway. Then there is the curious historical revisionism that creeps in:

"the dossier draws attention to Israel's infamous role in the 1982 massacres of Palestinans at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Lebanon carried out by a christian militia allegedly with Israeli collusion"

Where does this allegedly come from? It's been a well established fact for decades that the Israeli army controlled the territory, surrounded the camp and lit up the sky with flares. Is Hosken scared of upsetting someone or biased perhaps?
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "ALWAYS LOOK ON THE LIGHT SIDE OF KEN" 17 Jun 2011
This is a good story about one of the few "conviction politicians" in England. Ken Livingstone has never been afraid to "speak truth to power" and Andy Hosken charts his rise from local activist in Norwood, South London to being the best known politician in London, who will probably become Mayor again next year.

Andy has a dry sense of humour and is not afraid to expose various people in the book whose unsavoury behaviour belied their "socialist" credentials. He does however include many really funny anecdotes and pays tributes to various genuinely heroic figures.

About the only real criticism is that there is no index so you can't quickly find the bits you want to show other people but this is a really good read about one of the most interesting people in current politics.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Reasonably fair and very funny life of Ken 13 April 2008
Author Andrew Hosken spares us most of the cod psychology about Ken and gets down and dirty digging over his life.

We get the triumphs; we get the ruthlessness and we get the bum notes too. Easy to forget now how Ken finally killed off the ill-conceived motorway box around and through inner London, long before the largely successful congestion charge was born or thought of.

Ken comes across as his own man, a risk-taker and a plotter with an absolutely brilliant sense of humour who was greatly helped in his early career by media enemies who he played like a dream.

There is a lot of detail, perhaps too much, about a parade of fairly small Trot groups who serially, but not concurrently, provided Ken with a close circle of talented acolytes. Usually this worked. It even helped get the Olympics. But it had its sordid side with Ken giving the oration at the funeral of Gerry Healy who had been funded by Gaddafi of Libya. Hosken fails to add that we are now advised by Jack Straw that the same Gaddafi is, in fact, a statesman. So that's OK then.

This book is hugely enjoyable. Time after time Ken outwits the Labour machine or bounces back when given up for dead. We learn how Tony Blair tried and failed to kill off Dobbo, Frank Dobson, the official Labour candidate for Mayor of London. We learn how Ken had to rise up through a mountain of condescension. There is a memorable letter from a Hampstead Labour luminary making the most ridiculous snob comments about Ken's background.

This and much else is reproduced for your enjoyment.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book 1 Feb 2013
It was an excellent book which I would recommend to anyone. I now have most of the published literature on Livingstone and this is among the best.
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By Kermit
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a brilliant read. Just goes to show that you cannot believe the press coverage. This man was lambasted when he was in public life, yet comes across totally different. If only more politicians had the courage to stick to their convictions and beliefs, we would be much better off.
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