I’d say I didn’t understand the upcoming London Mayoral election, but the reality is one which Polly Toynbee regularly directs us to: the British newspaper media is overwhelmingly right wing, and in this case the Associated Newspapers group which have always hated Ken Livingstone with a passion, scent the possibility of revenge. Of what you may ask? Remember his fight with Evening Standard (Associated Newspapers) reporter Oliver Finegold? Well a newspaper group with a noted history of anti-semitism chose to call Livingstone anti-semitic (a blatantly preposterous charge). He successfully fought them off, and now we’re at election time…who’s leading the pro-Boris, anti-Ken drive? Surprise surprise.
It’s really sick. I’m not saying for a moment that he hasn’t made serious mistakes (supporting Sir Ian Blair in the aftermath of Jean Charles de Menezes’ murder to name but one example – I’m sure Peter Tatchell could come up with many more), but this isn’t politics. Even his desperate opponent Boris Johnson is joining in the frenzy. Having links with a Trotskyite faction? Is the ‘Red Ken’ jibe really supposed to resonate with anyone anymore (hint: the polls suggest it really doesn’t)? Let’s also not forget that Boris’ sudden animosity against Ken is more than a little staged…
Livingstone’s a maverick, was before he was elected in 2000, and has supported factions and causes which have been politically incorrect before becoming the political norm for over a generation. As Mayor he’s actually made progress in redistribution of income in a city with levels of poverty unmatched anywhere in the pre-enlargement EU. Whilst the tube hasn’t improved, much of that can be laid at the feet of Gordon Brown, whose PFI contract hasn’t exactly been an incentive to improve our underground transport! Is he a petty bureaucrat? Yes, and I don’t like it. Is he a benign dictator? Yes, by his own admission the powers he assumed in 2000 were needed in order to force through progressive changes like the congestion charge – changes which worked to the betterment of all Londoners. This is a reason to be as uncontrollably brutal against him now? I said a few weeks ago we’d get a Jacques Chirac v Jean-Marie Le Pen-type election here and it’s sadly shaping up quite nicely.
I have reservations about him on principle, after basically admitting it was ok for the Metropolitan Police to murder Jean Charles de Menezes. But I don’t agree with this character assassination which is going on right now. Is he probably a bastard in private? Sure. When did that become a bar to high office? We need to see through the ridiculous distortions of what’s really going on, and see his achievements (check out the press conference Martin Bright tries to cut through by the way, if you can make it work, and make your own mind up). If you don’t think they amount to much then vote for someone else, but otherwise grow up!