Sometimes a close personal friendship with the boss isn’t enough to protect you when you make a mess of things. This is especially true when said boss has his eyes set on Number 10. In one of the clearest signs yet of just how serious Jeremy Corbyn is about the top job, Labour veteran and former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone has found his suspension from the Party extended indefinitely.
Livingstone was first suspended in 2016 after he refused to apologise for a series of outbursts about Adolf Hitler and alleged anti-Semitic comments. Just months before that suspension was due to be lifted, it was announced this week that it would now be indefinite. If Livingstone was hoping that his close friendship with the Labour leader would protect him he was sorely mistaken. He found himself out in the cold alone as his friend and political ally Jeremy Corbyn distanced himself from the situation.
Livingstone is not the first of Corbyn’s friends to find themselves suddenly at arm’s length in the name of the race to Number 10. In January Chris Williamson, former Fire Minister, ‘mutually decided’ with the Labour leader to step down after he broke Party line to support a council tax hike on high value homes. Williamson was one of Corbyn’s closest allies which in the past might have been enough to save his place on the front benches but in this new regime connections aren’t quite what they used to be.
It’s a shrewd political move from Corbyn who seems to be beginning to understand that image is everything to his campaign. His supporters view him as a man of the people, a politician shaking up the status quo and he cannot be seen as shielding his friends, particularly when they’ve gone on a rant about Hitler. And with Theresa May’s position seemingly precarious, Corbyn, once very much the underdog, finds himself with a real chance at the premiership. Yet if he is to reach the position of Prime Minister he cannot allow his personal image to be tainted by association.
It appears that for Corbyn, the time for friendship is over.