Ken Livingstone: The ideal sperm donor?

In his new autobiography, the former mayor of London reveals that he helped two friends get pregnant. John Walsh imagines his donation credentials
In his autobiography, You Can’t Say That, Ken Livingstone reveals that, in the early 1990s, while living with his long-term partner Kate Allen, he was asked by two women if he would father their children. He obliged with enthusiasm and triumphant success. He gave the first woman, the journalist Philippa Need, a daughter in August 1990 and a son in September 1992. Around the same time, he also helped out Jan Woolf, a teacher and political activist, who gave birth to Livingstone’s second son in November 1992, just weeks after the first.

The former, and indeed possibly future, Mayor of London made it clear that in each case he was doing a favour for a friend, “be[ing] around, taking an interest” in the children and “supporting them emotionally”, but not living with the mothers.

Ten years later, after his relationship with Allen had ended, and he had got together with Emma Beal, another journalist, he became the proud father of two more children. Despite the potentially awkward convergence of dates in 1992 – which suggest that, while co-habiting with one woman, he impregnated two others simultaneously – the outcome was a happy one, with all three mothers and all five children enjoying summer holidays together.

There is something splendidly patriarchal – something tribal, Mormonite, sultanic – about Livingstone’s cheerful polygamous arrangements, and about the casual, even humdrum, way he describes them in his autobiography. It’s piquant to find this Lambeth-born working-class hero and Labour MP for Brent East beginning the 1990s by emulating King Mswati III of Swaziland, who had 23 children by 14 wives.

It is an admirable, if not objectively explicable, thing that at least three women were so impressed by his political commitment and strength of character that they settled on him (sometimes not once but twice) to be the ideal father for their babies. But would Livingstone be the ideal sperm donor for everyone? Were he to fill in a form on a donor website, how would it read?

Article: 25th October 2011 Read more www.independent.co.uk

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