As Ken Livingstone, now 69, sets off to reclaim his place on Labour's national executive, age does not seem to have mellowed him.
He shares with Total Politics his views on many things, including the Tory thinktank Policy Exchange – "vile" and "as charitable as the Hitler Youth". And the ruling Saudi family: "There was uproar in 2004 when I said I longed for the day the Saudi royal family were swinging from lamp-posts. But who can honestly disagree?" The pitfalls of a life in politics. "Why would you come into politics … I mean the lifestyle is shite." And, of course, the media. "What's in the papers is no more true than me being buggered by six men in succession in an East End pub," he says. "No one ever dared publish it, but Tory central office was hacking it around to all the journos back in 83." It's vintage Livingstone. There is an inexplicable lapse when he is nice about Lord Coe, but he recovers poise to be rude about Boris. Those who vote for him know what they are getting.
• A fresh salvo from Simon Heffer of the Mail as he resumes entertaining hostilities against Sir Max Hastings in this week's New Statesman. He writes about historians and the continuing debate over the first world war. Sir Max and Jeremy Paxman are sniffily dismissed as populists desperate to sell books, and unworthy of the respect one might accord serious scholars. The Heff also considers Sir Max's recent TV documentary on the war and his debate with Niall Ferguson. Most observers thought Hastings won that one. But not Heff. It wasn't even a fair fight, he says, "given that Ferguson is a serious scholar who fits his conclusions to the evidence". All grist to our mill. But surely Heff can't still be harbouring that grudge against Hastings born of their time together at the Telegraph, when editor Sir Max made clear that he was no respecter of the Heff's many talents. Whatever happened to charity and forgiveness?
• First day at school for the newly elected British MEPs as the reconfigured parliament meets for the first time. A chance for the Tory MEPs to represent the various Conservative views on Britain's relationship with Brussels. Alas, they risk a certain loneliness. "As a substitute member of the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe, when I go to sessions I am briefed by the ambassador," complained Tory peer Lord Balfe. "As a member of the European parliament for 25 years, I rarely if ever saw our ambassador. It seems that we pay very little attention to briefing our MEPs in situ on what British interests are. May I also point out that MEPs are banned from the House of Commons and are not received in a friendly way in the Lords. Indeed, only eight of them have passes. Can we try to build a friendlier relationship between this house and our other elected representatives?" They have the seats, the profile, not to mention those expenses. But they could do with a bit of love.
• Just why did Tory strategist Lynton Crosby bother engaging in hostilities with the news/politics website Liberal Conspiracy, as mentioned here yesterday? It can't be because he has time on his hands, and he isn't particularly thin-skinned. From London's City Hall, where he masterminded the return to the London mayoralty of Boris Johnson in 2010, we are offered a theory. "During the mayoral campaign, there was talk of Crosby's tactic of how to deflect coverage of a problem. As the debate heats up, you throw a dead cat on the table, then everyone talks about the dead cat." That could be it. Anyone near parliament lost a pet recently?
• Finally, film director Brian Helgeland has been speaking about the tricky task of bringing both Ronnie and Reggie Kray to life in the body of one fine actor. Tom Hardy will play both in the forthcoming movie Legend. It's recent history and there are people alive who know the story well. It needs to be authentic. Helgeland was so keen to be authentic that he sought guidance from Freddie Foreman, aka Brown Bread Fred, one of the twins' former associates. "I had drinks with him in his local haunt," Helgeland tells Total Film magazine. "When we finished, he got up to go. I said to him, 'What about the bill?' He replied, 'We don't pay.'"
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