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41 of 45 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Turn again Ken
So, what was true? What was embroidered? Mmmm.
It was a hard read, turgid in places but the devil is in the detail and I think this is certainly Mr. Livingstone's voice. With the opprobrium heaped upon him I suspect he is an accurate diarist and has been very careful with the names and faces that have crossed his path.

I haven't kept notes reading the...
Published on 26 Nov 2011 by oz

versus
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Plodding, self-aggrandizing and relentlessly avoiding responsibility at every turn
If autobiographies are supposed to reflect the author, then on this very narrow basis "You Can't Say That" may be considered a success; it manages the difficult task of being exactly as dishonest, self-obsessed and irresponsible as Ken himself. Judged on any other criteria however, this book cannot possibly be reckoned as any more than a plodding failure.

The...
Published 6 months ago by Kevin


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41 of 45 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Turn again Ken, 26 Nov 2011
By 
oz "oz" (Bishop's Waltham U.K.) - See all my reviews
So, what was true? What was embroidered? Mmmm.
It was a hard read, turgid in places but the devil is in the detail and I think this is certainly Mr. Livingstone's voice. With the opprobrium heaped upon him I suspect he is an accurate diarist and has been very careful with the names and faces that have crossed his path.

I haven't kept notes reading the text but his portrayal of pliant hacks `obeying orders' out to smear him, reveal not so much a paranoia but more a patient acceptance of the dreks and their employers who confuse investigative journalism with `..has anyone here been raped and speaks English?' There doesn't appear to be any skeletons in his closet and this must frustrate those who can't put him down by debate.

He re-confirms New Labour's image `freakery' and I laughed at his realisation that he was manoeuvred just far enough away to be kept out of camera shot when in the same hall as Blair or Brown. A touch of the `Alastair Campbells' there then.

For someone not educated at `Oxbridge', with a `tick the boxes C.V.' and a dole out the `smarties' PPE degree, [sorry, my despair at the current crop of politicians] he reveals an innate intelligence [`cunning' to his detractors] and a remarkable ability to get on with the common man. I think he senses the basic integrity of people and wants their better nature to prevail. His initial success as an independent candidate for London's mayor confirms this connection.

IMO two episodes stand out. The first relayed to him by Brian Walden after an interview, where Walden admitted that it was only with Enoch Powell and himself who answered every one of his question directly. Whether you agree with him or not is beside the point. I think most people, given time, recognise a fraud [OK, OK so it took a lot of people too long to see through Blair's grin for all seasons] but I don't think Mr Livingstone is one. The second was his speech given after the London bombings; that came from the heart and revealed the passion that must lie below his studied blandness.

Digging through the detail reveals a humanist and a multi-culturalist comfortable in his own skin, though however thick, I suspect he must despair when media hacks resort to personal insult rather than reasoned comment.
I don't share his politics; Marxist group 4 or Communist's `r' Us whatever, but he does put his finger on the long term lack of investment that's given us a service industry and a lack of manufacturing base more prone to violent boom busts than some of our neighbours.

He didn't need to bash Boris; I'm sure Londoners are canny enough to spot someone who cares, who has a passion for the job and wants to work 24/7 for them. Continue to trust the electorate Ken. Argue your record.

Put your political opinions aside, it's a difficult but interesting read.

Oz
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Detail over sensation, 28 Nov 2011
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Having read Carvel and Hosken's biographies and followed Ken's career over the years I looked forward to this book and wasn't disappointed. So much has been written about Ken that understanding him requires reading his account from the eye of the storm. The book is a big myth buster. Mud sticks but the sewage thrown at Ken, particularly in recent years by the pre takeover Evening Standard gets the treatment. The book is an explanation of how he stayed relevant over the decades while the rest of the left has faded into insignificance. Ken applies left wing principles in the real world without dogma so has survived and thrived while those left wingers of his generation who were once political giants are now forgotten relics. The fact he also incurred the wrath of the left as well as the right shows he's been on the right track over the decades.

The recurring theme throughout the book apart from his love of London is the importance of experience and the mastery of detail. He points out how David Miliband was dominated by his civil service advisers after a short period of 'persuasion'. Miliband of course being another example of the Oxbridge Politics, Philosophy and Economics degree to policy wonk to MP to leadership route. No council experience, no job in the real world, a mass of knowledge and a dearth of experience. Ken points out that Miliband at 41 hadn't learnt the lesson he did at 26 when advisers on Lambeth council manipulated him. I found this quite disturbing, the failure to realise the Sir Humphreys know they'll always be around and see politicians as simply less competent people passing through. John Major's autobiography said the same, he followed the same route into politics as Ken and bemoaned the rise of the inexperienced professional politicians. Ken points out how Boris the grand sweeping statement politician is totally unsuitable for running a complex machine like the London mayoralty. On detail he gives examples of how Boris was repeatedly stumped by questions but would brush it off with a joke and that was it. People moan about politicians but Boris is the perfect example of the people getting the politicians they deserve. I remember in the 2008 election stressing to work colleagues still renting that Boris was dropping the commitment to affordable housing, their response was along the lines of "but he'll be funny".

His account of the Evening Standard's vendetta against him during his second term reignited my disgust. Ken's demolition job on the paper as it then was is one of the most fascinating parts. Inevitably his most withering criticism is reserved for the then ES team as you would expect considering their hatred for him. It seems odd how damaging the ES seemed then considering its editor, Veronica Wadley reduced it from a Rolls Royce paper into a rag worth a quid. Its destruction of Lee Jasper's career and reputation was unbelievable considering the multi angled investigations including that by the police that found no evidence of corruption whatsoever. But it's the oldest political trick in the book, run someone into the ground in the run up to an election. Who cares if it all turns out to be gossip once the election is over? It only matters on election day. This book rehabilitates Jaspers reputation based on facts, not impressions.

Throughout the book I mentally nodded at the plain common sense on offer and would say Kens views mirror my own for the most part. There are some areas where I can't agree. He points out that contrary to the hysterical types like Melanie Phillips Muslims didn't come to Britain to 'turn it into Saudi Arabia with rain'. This is true but I can't agree when he says Muslims come to Britain to be English. He also expresses disgust at Cameron saying that those who want Sharia law should go to another country. To me that's a reasonable suggestion, not frothing right wing territory. However his critique of the west's disastrous approach to the middle east is spot on as is his critique of Blair as a control freak who sucked the life out of the Labour Party and brainwashed himself into believing the 7/7 attacks had nothing to do with it. Blair's clueless talk of the Grunwick strike quoted in here also made me cringe.

Dimwitted Frank Dobson is covered with Ken concluding that the day after he had won the mayoral election he was going to give Dobson a job in the administration. However seeing Dobson on TV still saying Ken would be a disaster he thought "sod it" and left him to fade into well deserved obscurity.

His economics views are presented here in depth and in short could be summed up as Britain should have invested far more like Germany. I always wondered how they seemed to be massive exporters long after conventional 'wisdom' said western countries couldn't do it because labour costs were too high. It's covered here.

His cutting wit is present throughout the book and his finest slap is reserved for Cameron: "From his background of Eton, Oxford and his millionaires enclave at Chipping Norton it may appear as though Cameron feels that multiculturalism forces us to live apart".

The book is too wide in scope to easily dissect in a review and those are the areas that struck me most. Love him or loathe him, if you're interested in Kens career this book will answer many of your questions.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Worthwhile Read, 6 Jan 2012
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This review is from: You Can't Say That: Memoirs (Kindle Edition)
This memoir was an unexpectedly easy read, written with a lightness of touch which meant it didn't sink into just another turgid mass of political anecdote. It was an education for me: I learned far more about the workings of local and regional government from this book than I ever thought I needed to know. And what a canter through the political "names" of the late 20th century; characters whose names I'd forgotten I ever knew peopled these pages along with some we'd probably all prefer to forget!

The book reveals a real human being, not just a cardboard cut-out politician. I've often disagreed with his political stance and I'll probably never forgive him for saddling us with the olympics but I've always thought that KL is that rarity - an honest politician who does what he does because he genuinely believes it's in the interests of those he represents. This book has only confirmed that view. We should treasure Ken Livingstone, he's one of the few people around who have truly made a positive difference.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Labour's lost leader ?, 21 Dec 2011
By 
Paul Jeater (essex) - See all my reviews
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Before departing for Australia recently I bought Ken Livingstone's memoirs from Amazon, within days I was asked if I'd submit a review. It's a large volume weighing in at 680 pages, the perfect book for holiday reading as long as you've got surplus weight in your luggage.

From the outset it's worth mentioning that I have a certain affinity towards Ken. We were part of the same movements for many years, we both grew up in South London, just a few years and miles apart. We both joined the Labour Party and through that experienced local government. As a result the chapters of the book that deal with the GLC years bring back many memories.

As Ken points out he comes from a time when class defined politics and ideas and policies were what mattered rather than style and how you present yourself through often shallow "soundbites" on TV. It is convenient therefore to divide the book into two halves, the years leading up to his election as MP for Brent East and then the rise of New Labour and Ken's years as London Mayor.

In the second part he explains astutely that the Labour leadership group in 1997 including Blair lacked the experience of running anything. While traditionally aspiring politicians cut their teeth in local government, here was a group who had bypassed that route. As a result many ministers walked into government departments without the necessary skills and grounding.

The latter chapters detail his role in the campaign to bring the Olympic Games to London, the impact of 7/7 and finally his defeat by Boris Johnson. It is impossible to read these sections and indeed the early chapters on the GLC without mentioning the sustained press attacks that have riddled his political career. The fact that he has been regularly elected says much for the fact that many Londoners see a different person to the editors of the Mail, Standard and Sun.

"You can't say that" as a memoir is not the perfect balanced account of a life in politics; it is an opportunity to tell it from his point of view. Refreshingly he has always tried to separate his political life from his personal life which he has been at pains to keep away from the media spotlight. However in his memoirs he deals with these matters in a refreshingly honest way.

Although Ken rejoined Labour in time to be elected for the second time as mayor as the Labour candidate, he does not analysis to any extent how someone with his views can co-exist with the modern Labour Party that seems light years from the movement to which he was a central part in the 1980s.

Nevertheless to anyone who is interested in modern Labour history, London or local government this is near essential reading. Its publication is timely ahead of Ken's campaign to regain the mayoralty of London in 2012.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ken Livingstone, 31 Jan 2012
By 
Mr. Alexander N. Guberman "Alexgolf54" (Pinner, Middlesex UK) - See all my reviews
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Let me start by telling you I am not a fan of Ken Livingtone and will not be voting for him at the mayoral election. Nevertheless he is an interesting man & politician. I have only read the first 100 pages of a very long book. It is very readable & so far has given an insight to his views & how he got involved in politics. He has gone up in my estimation (but not enough for me to vote for him) and from what I read, he genuinely wants to do good for the city he loves - although he would say that. The book is great value from Amazon, I don't think I would want to pay full price.

For anyone interested in UK politics, it is a very good read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable whatever your politics, 14 Jan 2012
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This review is from: You Can't Say That: Memoirs (Kindle Edition)
I am not much of a Ken Livingstone fan in a political sense, but I really enjoyed this book, it is well written, interesting and amusing. Anyone interested in how government and politics work would enjoy reading this.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars what's missing, 13 Nov 2013
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This review is from: You Can't Say That: Memoirs (Kindle Edition)
Ken's book illustrates what is missing from the political scene today. Politicians who are prepared to take on the elitist political discourse which dominates life today in the uk. There are many people like me who will find this book one that gives hope and encouragement. Well done Ken
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A hard sell, but a great read, which changed my opinion of Ken, 2 May 2013
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Livingstone admits in this book that he initially sat down to write a brief book on his years as London Mayor in the noughties, and ended up writing a lengthy and detailed account of his life and political career instead (with occasional interludes about amphibians). It seems fairly typical of the man - throughout this autobiography we find him questioning the details of things, painstakingly investigating conditions, digging into root causes... he's nothing if not a thorough political animal, in contrast to many of his fellow career politicians who he often seems to see as lightweights who haven't got a clue.

That doesn't make it sound like much of an enjoyable read, does it? Whilst there are portions that drag if you're not interested in the specific issue he's discussing (there's an enormous amount here about London municipal housing in the seventies and eighties, for example), there are also revelations on a number of issues, and Ken is a surprisingly good writer: clear, to the point, and with an eye for a great quotation or anecdote. He also keeps things constantly in the context of the broader political situation. As a result, whilst this is the life of a man who only ever had a brief career In national office rather than London politics, it is often very revealing and interesting on broader British politics from the seventies onwards. Especially because - whether you agree with him or not - Ken was rarely in the mainstream of the Labour Party. One point he makes clear here, as well, is that despite the tabloid `Red Ken' image, he has often been in conflict with the hard Left as much as the Right.

The main pleasures of this book for me were the insight it gives into the internal operations of both local politics and the national party machine (especially during the Blair era), and the fantastic and razor-sharp attacks on policies and individuals Ken has disagreed with. On politics, it reveals how dirty the electoral and legislative processes can be behind closed doors, the power of the media, and of course a fascinatingly candid account of what various people knew, said, and did when. I found it surprisingly gripping. On individuals, meanwhile, it's a real treat. It's one thing to be negative, but when Ken lays into Thatcher, Blair, Shirley Williams, Boris Johnson, et al., he is not just insulting, but razor-sharp. The sections on Boris in particular betray a weary despair, if not surprise, that such a dodgy and flitful character could depose the author as Mayor of London.

If you have an interest in London government, Labour politics, or national politics in the last 40 years, I thoroughly recommend this book. It's also an absolute treat to read a political biography that regularly makes you gasp, wince, or laugh out loud. My copy ended up splattered with pencil underlinings and mouthfuls of tea ...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Insight into Gov't, 6 Jan 2013
By 
Hussain "MHUK" (UK - London) - See all my reviews
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I really enjoyed reading this book and I'm a big fan of Ken. This book gives great insight and Ken doesn't hold back how he feels about keys events and milestones reached. However the guardian review does punch many holes into this book which are valid and a good critique. However if your interested in politics and are from the left, you'll enjoy this.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A REVEALING AND HONEST AUTOBIOGRAPHY, 28 Dec 2012
I have always been rather ambivalent about Ken Livingstone,often not agreeing with his policies or stance, but respecting him for holding those views because he believes them to be true and right,I also feel exactly the same way about Tony Benn. This lengthy autobiography some 680 pages in length reveals the true Ken Livingstone,which is not that much different from the perceived view. This is an honest account of his political and social life,and what he believes in and why. I enjoyed it,and did not find it too heavy going,as it did not get too mired into political and procedurial conjecture.I thought he was honest about his detractors both within and outside the labour movement. He became a figure of hate,and people managed to write some fairly hateful comment about. He includes many of them,most notably from journalists,whether he does this to garner sympathy,or to illustrate how ludricous some of them were I anm not sure.
This book is well worth reading to gain an actual perspective of a person who we tend to only know from political journalism. I feel that it is believable, and I admire him more for his political views, but like everyone that lives in a democratic country I do not always agree with the raison d etre of these views.
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You Can't Say That: Memoirs
You Can't Say That: Memoirs by Ken Livingstone
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