- By James Kelly & Sophie Wingate
- BBC News & PA Media
Former London mayor Ken Livingstone has Alzheimer’s disease, his family has announced.
He is being “well cared for by his family and friends” as he lives a “private life” in retirement, they told the PA news agency.
Mr Livingstone was elected as the first mayor of London and held that role for eight years from 2000.
His family said: “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.
“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.”
Alzheimer’s is a physical illness which damages the brain, according to the Alzheimer’s Society charity, and is the most common cause of dementia in the UK.
While having largely retreated from public life in recent years, Mr Livingstone, 78, was a prominent figure in London politics for more than four decades from the 1970s.
In his heyday, “Red Ken” was a thorn in the side both of Margaret Thatcher’s Tories and New Labour under Tony Blair.
He stood as an independent to become the first mayor of London when the powerful post was first created.
In his second term, which he won as the official Labour candidate, he earned praise for the way he stood up for London after the July 2005 suicide bombings and helped the capital win its bid to hold the 2012 Olympic Games.
Mr Livingstone lost control of City Hall in 2008 when he was defeated by Boris Johnson and a failed bid to return to office in 2012 marked the end of his electoral ambitions.
He became embroiled in a string of allegations of anti-Semitism, over which he quit the Labour Party in 2018.
It came after a long-running row over his claims that Adolf Hitler had backed Zionism in the 1930s, which had originally seen him suspended from the organisation in 2016.
Mr Livingstone did not accept he was guilty of anti-Semitism nor bringing Labour into disrepute.