Tag Archives: Oliver Finegold

Mayor BoJo

I’m aghast.

Was Ken brought down by Gordon Brown’s poisonous effect on the Labour Party? Was it the £25 4×4 congestion charge? Was it a backlash against his embracing of London’s diversity or his meeting Yusuf Al-Qaradawi? Was it his support for Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez or his failure to get the tube running properly? Was it his support for the corrupt Sir Ian Blair, or the street crime which spiralled out of control, despite the figures the Metropolitan Police lazily fell back on? Worse still was it Brian Paddick’s failure to direct his supporters’ second votes to go to Ken?

Boris Johnson isn’t a fan of ethnic minorities, homosexuals, poor people or London for that matter, yet London has just voted him Mayor. London elected someone with the right attitude and experience for two terms, then reflected and decided “he’s been in the job too long” and supplanted him with a bumbling oaf of a man, who’s never prioritised London’s affairs as an MP, and doesn’t support measures such as the congestion charge which have already been proven to improve London’s environment. Seems a bit bonkers doesn’t it? But whilst extremely upsetting and worrying, it was actually quite predictable.

The diversity agenda quite simply doesn’t operate in a straight line. Livingstone came in with the creation of the job in 2000 promising genuine change, and he delivered. More than anything he set about breaking the disproportionate privilege previously only held by the white middle-class – the funding of ethnic minority groups, the congestion charge, the promotion of ethnic and subcultural events like Pride by City Hall – Trafalgar Square has never been busier, more educational or diverse – these have all acted to raise the profile and power of London’s minorities. Except a) now there’s more of a level playing field they’re all flexing their muscles in ways previously unthinkable and b) the middle classes will never overwhelmingly support the championing of policies, approaches or attitudes which act in others’ best interests.

So Ken was in large measure a victim of his own success. But the Guardian is also right I think – a perception of arrogance, being above what the voters might want – also did him in. Was the Oliver Finegold affair his Monica Lewinksy moment? Maybe, in that it didn’t reflect badly on him in his job, but was a distraction he could have done without, and:

(whilst) every success brought acclaim (it) also seemed to erode his sense of humility. The line between self-belief and arrogance can be a thin one. Self-belief was a essential component of the construct Livingstone had so successfully sold to the public over almost 30 years. Arrogance, descending all too frequently into shows of petulance, only served to degrade it.

That’s a really strong analysis I think. He was right to battle the disgusting Evening Standard, but it was a pointless battle. He was right to bid for the Olympics, but London wanted to hear he wanted it for community and sport, not merely for the development money (which was, after all, a prime priority for his position). He may have championed gay rights with his partnership register (the precursor to civil partnerships), but his open support of Islamist cleric Yusuf Al-Qaradawi compromised a key component of his support from the gay community. Was he right in saying the right wing tabloids didn’t represent Al-Qaradawi’s views fairly? Probably. But he also refused to acknowledge that the cleric might have misrepresented his real views to him too. And then he really backed the wrong horse with Sir Ian Blair (whom Boris now needs to fire from chairing the Metropolitan Police Authority, as promised). Supporting a Metropolitan Police Commissioner who remained more concerned with saving his own neck following his corrupt attempt to block the investigation into the Met’s murder of Jean Charles de Menezes was just bananas. With people’s experience of street, knife and gun crime escalating out of control in Ken’s last term, he could then never say he was the Mayor of law and order.

It’s the worst result we could have expected – London even now has the BNP in the Assembly. I hope at least that a London which has become more political than at any time since the 80s will still have the courage to ignore the Evening Standards of this world and hold this new bunch forcefully to account. But given how stupid certain elements in London have been this last week – voting for an unqualified, elitist, celebrity (George W anyone?) idiot because it’s “time for a change” – things don’t look positive. At least the 2012 Olympics, which most of us believe will be a shambles will be presided over by a shambles. Just don’t forget what this man really thinks of diversity, Ken’s championing of which was chiefly responsible for winning the bid and putting London back on the map:

Advertisements

Abusing Ken – Are We Back in the 80’s?

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!