Ken Livingstone, the former mayor of London who became known as ‘Red Ken’ for his radical policies and confrontations with the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher, has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 78.
Livingstone, who served as the leader of the Greater London Council from 1981 to 1986 and as the first directly elected mayor of London from 2000 to 2008, revealed his condition in an interview with The Guardian. He said he had noticed memory problems for several years and had undergone tests that confirmed he had the degenerative brain disorder. He said he was taking medication and was optimistic about his future.
Livingstone is one of the most prominent and controversial figures in British politics, having been involved in left-wing activism since the 1960s. He rose to prominence as the head of the GLC, where he championed causes such as anti-racism, nuclear disarmament, LGBT rights, public transport and environmentalism. He also clashed frequently with Thatcher, who abolished the GLC in 1986 in an attempt to curb his power. Livingstone then became an MP for Brent East and later ran for mayor of London as an independent candidate, after being expelled from the Labour Party for defying its leadership.
He won two terms as mayor, overseeing the successful bid for the 2012 Olympics, the introduction of the congestion charge and the expansion of the London Underground. He also faced criticism for his outspoken views on foreign policy, his relations with Islamist groups and his handling of anti-Semitism allegations. He lost his bid for a third term in 2012 to Boris Johnson and retired from active politics in 2018.
Livingstone said he was not bitter about his political career and that he was proud of his achievements. He said he was enjoying spending time with his family and his hobbies, such as gardening and reading. He also said he was not afraid of death and that he hoped to live long enough to see a socialist government in Britain.
He said he was grateful for the support he had received from his friends and former colleagues, and that he hoped to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s research.