Ken Livingstone: who is former Mayor of London and age and children as he's diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease

A profile of former politician Ken Livingstone as his family announce he is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Photo by Getty Images.
A profile of former politician Ken Livingstone as his family announce he is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Photo by Getty Images.

The former Mayor of London and Labour party member Ken Livingstone has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. His family revealed the diagnosis in a statement released earlier today.

The statement read: “In response to media enquiries the Livingstone family today announce that Ken Livingstone, ex-MP for Brent and former mayor of London, has been diagnosed with and is living with Alzheimer’s disease.

“Although a previously prominent public figure, Ken is now retired and lives a private life. He will no longer be available for any media interviews or requests and we will not be responding to any media questions or enquiries. Ken is being well cared for by his family and friends and we ask you for your understanding and to respect his privacy and that of his family.”

But, just who is Ken Livingstone, how old is he and who are his family including his children? Here’s what you need to know.

Who is Ken Livingstone?

Ken Livingstone, whose full name is Kenneth Robert Livingstone is an English politician. He served as the Leader of the Greater London Council (GLC) from 1981 until the council was abolished in 1986, and then went on to become Mayor of London from the creation of the office in 2000 until 2008.

He also served as the Member of Parliament (MP) for Brent East from 1987 to 2001. He was a member of the Labour Party, sitting in the party's hard left and ideologically identifying as a socialist, which earned him the nickname “Red Ken”.

He was born in Lambeth, South London, to a working-class family, and joined the Labour party in 1968 when he was in his early twenties. Livingstone was a controversial and polarising figure throughout his career, and was called "the only truly successful left-wing British politician of modern times" by former Daily Telegraph editor and journalist Charles Moore.

Supporters described him as the "People's Ken" and an "anti-politician politician", stating that he had an understanding of working-class Londoners that most British politicians lacked. During his Mayorship, however, he faced repeated accusations of cronyism for favouring his chosen aides over other staff.

In 1990, BBC show The Comic Strip produced an episode called "GLC: The Carnage Continues…”.  It parodied a Hollywood telling of the 1980s takeover of the GLC by Livingstone and the subsequent disbanding of that body by Thatcher, re-imagining the story as an action movie starring actors Charles Bronson and Sylvester Stallone. He retired from politics in 2022.

Away from his professional life, Livingstone was known for his life-long love of reptiles and amphibians, particularly newts. He kept some in his bedroom as a teenager and said in 2010 he had dug a pond for them to live in. His fascination with the creatures led to him being called "King Newt" by rival Boris Johnson.

What are some of Ken Livingtone’s most notable political moments?

Livingstone had many memorable moments throughout his political career. He was vocal in his opposition for the Conservative Party government of then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, which was responsible for the GLC being abolished in 1986.

He attempted to become Labour Party leader following the resignation of then leader Neil Kinnock in 1992, but failed to get enough nominations. Later in the 90s, he became known for criticising Tony Blair's New Labour project that pushed the party closer to the political centre and won the 1997 general election.

He also attempted to become Labour's candidate in the 2000 London mayoral election, but failed in his bid. He did then, however, successfully contest the election as an independent candidate. In his first term as Mayor of London, he introduced the congestion charge, Oyster card and articulated buses.

Despite his opposition to Blair's government, Livingstone was invited to stand for re-election as Labour's candidate and was subsequently re-elected in 2004.  He stood in the London mayoral elections in both 2008 and 2012, but lost both to Conservative candidate Boris Johnson. He then became a key ally of then Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in 2015.

His comments that Hitler had supported Zionism in the 1930s resulted in his 2016 suspension from Labour, after which he resigned from the party in 2018. In January 2022, he announced his intention of joining the Green Party of England and Wales but after being evaluated by one of the Greens' regional councils, his application for membership was rejected.

How old is Ken Livingstone?

Livingstone is 78 years old. He was born on 17 June 1945 to mother Ethel Ada and father Robert "Bob" Moffat Livingstone.

Who is Ken Livingstone’s wife?

Livingstone is married to Emma Beal, who was his office manager and is around 20 years his junior. They married in September 2009 in the Mappin Pavilion of London Zoo and now live in North London together.

He was previously married to teacher Christine Pamela Chapman from 1973 to 1982, when the pair divorced.

Who are Ken Livingstone’s children?

Livingstone has five children. He has not spoken much publicly about his children, or any element of his family, because he wants to keep his private life out of the spotlight. He said in his 2008 autobiography “Ken: The Ups and Downs of Ken Livingstone” that "I expect that my private life is not in the public domain and I'm rude to any journalist who turns up... at home".

He has two children with Beal, Thomas and Mia, who are around 21 and 19 years old respectively. In 2008, it was revealed that Livingstone had fathered three children prior to 2000; a boy by one mother and two girls by another.

In 2011, he said in his memoir, “You Can’t Say That”, that his eldest three children were born when he acted as a sperm donor for two friends who feared they were running out of time to have children. His first children, two daughters named Georgia and Charlotte, were born to journalist Philippa Need in 1990 and 1992, he said. Just weeks after his second daughter was born, political activist Janet Woolf gave birth to his first son. This means those children are now aged between 30 and 33.