Ken Livingstone, a former Labor MP and mayor of London, has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, his family has announced.
The 78-year-old is “well looked after by family and friends” as he leads a “private life” in retirement, they said in a statement to the PA news agency.
He said: “In response to media inquiries, the Livingstone family today announce that Ken Livingstone, former MP for Brent and former Mayor of London, has been diagnosed and living with Alzheimer’s disease.
“Despite being a prominent public figure, Ken is now retired and leads a private life. He will no longer be available for interviews or media inquiries and we will not respond to any questions or media inquiries.
“Ken is well cared for by his family and friends and we ask for your understanding and respect for his and his family’s privacy.”
According to Alzheimer’s Research UK, an estimated 944,000 people are living with dementia in the UK, and the diagnosis rate in England was 62% in 2022.
Alzheimer’s Society chief executive Kate Lee said: “We are very sorry to hear that Ken Livingstone is living with Alzheimer’s disease. Our thoughts are with him and his family.
“We can see from high-profile people who have recently spoken about their dementia diagnosis, including Alastair Stewart and Fiona Phillips, how widespread dementia is.
“Today, one in three people born in the UK will develop this devastating disease. We are grateful to Ken’s family for being open about his diagnosis, which will really help increase public understanding.
Having largely retired from public life in recent years, Livingstone was a prominent political figure for more than four decades.
In 1971 he was elected to Lambeth Borough Council. He was leader of the GLC from 1981 to 1986, and a year later was elected MP for Brent East, in north-west London, where he served between 1987 and 2001.
The former lab technician also served two terms as Mayor of London from 2000 to 2008.
A Labor member for more than 50 years, Livingstone was expelled from the party in 2000 after challenging Frank Dobson, the party’s official candidate in the London mayoral election. He was later readmitted to the party by Tony Blair.
During his tenure at City Hall, he was involved in London’s successful bid for the 2012 Olympic Games and in managing the aftermath of the terrorist attack of July 7, 2005.
Livingstone was suspended from duty for four weeks in 2006 for comparing a Jewish journalist to a concentration camp guard. The suspension was overturned in court.
Livingstone lost City Hall in 2008 when he was defeated by Boris Johnson and the failure of his bid to return to power in 2012 marked the end of his electoral ambitions.
In 2016, he was suspended from the Labor Party for saying in a radio interview that Adolf Hitler “supported Zionism before he went mad and ended up killing 6 million Jews.”
Livingstone apologized for his comments at the time, but denied any culpability for anti-Semitism.
In 2018, Livingstone announced he was resigning from the Labor Party, saying issues surrounding his suspension for alleged anti-semitism had become a distraction.