British Radicalism

Nick Cohen takes a look at ‘Red Ken’ in the Observer today. The piece raises some interesting issues for those of us who support decentralisation and devolution for the UK (more of which later I hope) but on the issue of Livingstone’s alleged ‘radicalism’ I enjoyed this little passage:

Darren Johnson, leader of the London Green Party which has fallen out of love with the mayor it once supported, said that the reconciliation between Livingstone and Blair wasn’t the loveless marriage of convenience it seemed. ‘Cut away Livingstone’s radical rhetoric and you find a bog-standard New Labour politician in the pro-business mould,’ he said. ‘Red Ken’s radicalism is reserved for issues over which the mayor has no influence whatsoever.’

The record supports Johnson. A few weeks ago, Livingstone condemned the French for banning Muslim girls from wearing headscarfs to state schools. (I should explain to foreign readers that a soupy tolerance of religious fundamentalism is considered radical in parts of the British Left.) Before the Iraq War, he condemned George W. Bush as the greatest threat to world peace. (And once again I should explain that the belief that Bush is worse than Saddam Hussein is also considered evidence of radicalism in Britain.)