Why it hurts – #kenlivingstone

Ken Livingstone has come out with some extraordinary comments today about depression.

He was appointed to the Labour defence review, which caused much comment – including comments made by Kevan Jones, MP for Durham North.

In response to these particular comments Mr Livingstone said ‘I think he might need psychiatric help. He’s obviously very depressed and disturbed. He should pop off and see his GP before he makes these offensive comments.’

On LBC he was pushed to apologise, but apparently refused, because ‘He was rude about me, I was rude back to him, he needs to get over it’ and said he wouldn’t have said what he said had he known that Mr Jones had had depression.

The problem is, the comments he made were bad enough – ridiculing someone’s mental health as a response to political criticism is appalling. However, the comment that he wouldn’t have said it had he known Mr Jones had had depression feels even worse to me.

Initially, it appeared to be a personal jab at someone who had upset him. Cruel and unkind – but personal. It turns out however, that Mr Livingstone seems to think that having depression is something to ridicule. It was a statement, not targeting Mr Jones personal history, rather sending the message to all those that have depression to stay silent. That due to their illness they have no place making comment or joining debate.

The implication, by his own reasoning, is that he thinks that those with depression are disturbed and not of value in the public forum. They should seek medical help (which, incidentally, is not all that easy to get for such conditions) and shut up.

It hurts, because it is cruel, ignorant and by his own admission, generalised not just to bring down one political opponent, but to comment on all those who really should just go off to their GP and keep their heads down to prevent their disturbed ideas spilling out into the public forum.

These comments are what keep people silent and afraid. These are the comments that ensure that people don’t seek help until often it is too late. This is the stigma that makes having a mental health problem scary, because on top of living with the war raging in your head, you have to deal with the ignorance of people who really should know better.

Rant. Done.

(This is no comment on his politics… Just his insensitive and unhelpful comments on mental health!)

Mr Livingstone has now issued an apology for his comments on twitter. It has been encouraging to see such a sharp and fast response to entirely unacceptable remarks.


  • Thank you for expressing so eloquently what we are all feeling. I’m sorry that you have had to handle this today. As a party member, I feel that I need to distance myself from Mr Livingstone and his comments; I hope that the party will deal with this formally and decisively in the next few hours.

  • Not a ‘rant’ at all. And not ‘Done’ either: like others, have tweeted, FB-ed and the rest. It will be interesting to see the social media outcomes and process.

    Sorry this has caused you distress: such unfeeling sentiments are really about the internal politics of the Party in question. To have chosen this vehicle for a political attack should be deeply damaging to Ken, even if he misses that point entirely right now However, as you most persuasively demonstrate, the common coarseness of sentiment in what passes for discourse multiplies collateral damage. I will write to Livingston direct.

  • Comments and jokes which ridicule mental health are always inappropriate . Would one make a similar comment regarding cancer?

  • Well said Katharine.

    He has said plenty of other offensive remarks in the past. Criticism appears to wash off his back and his faux apologies are meaningless.

    You are infinitely more intelligent than him.

    Greetings from Kuala Lumpur before heading to Cambodia and Java,


  • This man is an embarrassment and has always been vile. His remarks were discussed on Jeremy Vine’s show this morning. He may well have apologized but even without reading anything on Twitter, I certainly doubt his sincerity.

    I understand your anguish, but put his inappropriate words down to ignorance.

  • Hi Katharine,

    I sadly often wonder just how extraordinary Ken Livingstone’s comments really are, I mean, if he can come out with these sorts of things in public, then what leavel of rambling is he capable of in private? It’s no surprise then, that his good friend George Galloway has rushed to be at his side.
    A thought that’s just occurred to me while typing this out, is that, it’s not the first time Ken Livingstone has been involved in a public spat. My mind goes to that fiasco between him and Boris Johnson. But here’s the thing, I wonder how healthy Ken’s mental health is?
    We have to show compassion and understanding to all, not to be quick to judge. Sometimes people lash out at others over the very thing they struggle with the most.

    As always, much love through our Lord Jesus Christ

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