The Left

Our Ken – again!


London Mayor Ken Livingstone stands accused of lying, sectarianism and hypocrisy – again! This time it is over his crude and untrue accusations against human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.

In a press statement released by City Hall yesterday, Livingstone diverted attention away from the homophobia of his guest, the Mayor of Moscow, Yuri Luzhkov, by accusing Tatchell of Islamophobia.

The Mayor falsely alleged that Tatchell’s campaign against Luzhkov’s ban on the Moscow Gay Pride march had focused unduly on the homophobia of the Grand Mufti, Russia’s leading Islamic cleric.

The Mayor’s press statement said:

“In Moscow the Russian Orthodox church, the chief rabbi and the grand Mufti all supported the ban on the Gay Pride march with the main role, due to its great weight in society, being played by the Orthodox church,” Mr Livingstone’s statement read. “The attempt of Mr Tatchell to focus attention on the role of the grand Mufti in Moscow, in the face of numerous attacks on gay rights in Eastern Europe which overwhelmingly come from right wing Christian and secular currents, is a clear example of an Islamophobic campaign.”

Mr Tatchell responded by saying:

“Anyone who has read the OutRage! news release about the Moscow Mayor’s visit to London will know that we have not mentioned a word about the Grand Mufti.

“A year ago I criticised the Grand Mufti after he urged his followers to violently attack gay people in the streets. But the main focus of my criticism during the campaign was on Yuri Luzhkov, the Moscow Mayor. I also condemned the homophobia of the Chief Rabbi, the Russian Orthodox Church, neo-Nazis and ultra-nationalists. The Grand Mufti was not singled out.”

“To suggest that this was an Islamophobic campaign is dishonest, despicable nonsense. It brings the Mayor’s office into disrepute. He has made a very serious libellous statement.”

“I call on Ken Livingstone to produce the evidence to back up his claim that our campaign has focused on the Grand Mufti. If he cannot produce the evidence, he should do the honourable thing and issue a public apology to myself and OutRage!”

“It is scandalous for a major politician to blatantly lie in this way, apparently in pursuit of a petty, sectarian agenda. It is cynical political opportunism of the worst kind.”

This was echoed by the Russian gay rights leader, Nikolai Alekseev, who is currently in London. He called Livingstone a “hypocrite” and defended Peter Tatchell:

“The Mayor of London’s attack on Peter Tatchell is lies. Peter is one of the only people in the gay movement in the UK who is doing so many things for gay rights across the world. Peter came to Moscow last year to take part in Gay Pride and support our right to free expression.Where was Livingstone? He never came to Moscow. Let us see him come. We invite all the mayors to Moscow for Gay Pride 2007.”

Alekseev, who is an accredited journalist, attended the press conference at City Hall on Wednesday, which featured the Mayors of London, Moscow, Berlin and Paris.

He claims that Ken Livingstone ignored his repeated attempts to ask a question of Moscow Mayor, Yuri Luzhkov.

Mr Alekseev told

“The Livingstone position is real hypocrisy. I am completely outraged by his behaviour. He knew very well that I was planning to come to the press conference and did everything he could to stop me from asking a question. He was moderating the event, I was sitting in the front row. He looked at me many times. I am absolutely shocked at Ken’s hypocrisy. He knew I am there and did not allow me to ask the question.”

He added indignantly:

“Mayor Livingstone released a press statement criticising the Moscow Mayor for banning Moscow Gay Pride but he said nothing about this to Luzhkov’s face in front of the press at yesterday’s City Hall news conference. It is very easy to make statements from his office about supporting gay rights. It is not so easy to be brave enough to tackle the Moscow Mayor face-to-face about his homophobic attitudes.”

In May 2006, the first Gay Pride march in Moscow was beset by violence and police intimidation after Mayor Luzhkov refused to grant a permit. In January this year, Luzhkov said that he will never allow a gay parade to take place in Moscow, and called gay people ‘satanic.’

“The 2007 event will definitely be going ahead,” said Alexeyev, “and an application for a parade has been made in accordance with Russian law.

“Moscow Gay Pride is in two months time. Mr Livingtome had a chance during the press conference to publicly endorse our right to protest in Moscow. He failed to do so,” he said.

Mr Alekseev praised the openly gay Mayor of Paris, who raised the issue at the press conference:

“It was only the Paris Mayor who followed his principles by condemning Luzhkov’s position – he spoke several times about how outraged he was at the Moscow Mayor’s anti-gay attitudes.”

Livingstone’s office has since condemned Alekseev’s criticisms as “a personalised and divisive attack”. This is pretty rich coming from Ken who started the ball rolling with an unprovoked and dishonest attack on Tatchell.

Anatomoy of a lie

The Mayor’s office defended Livingstone’s blanking out of Mr Alekseev – who he’d actually met before, and who was in the front row – by saying:

“‘Mr Alexeyev’s complaint is that he personally was not called at a press conference attended by over 50 journalists, including many television channels, in which two questions were already asked by reporters on the issue of the Moscow Gay Pride march. This is to make the main issue that an individual be publicised rather than an important issue be addressed – the Mayor was not even aware Mr Alekseev was in the room.”

Sharp eyed readers might ask however:

If Livingstone’s defence is that
(a) Two questions had already been asked about Moscow Pride; and
(b) He didn’t even realise Alekseev was in the room; then…

How did he know that the journalist in the front row, who he claimed not to know was Alekseev, was going to ask a question about Moscow Pride?

Does it not reek of a retrospective justification?

Livingstone also says that he didn’t need to give Alekseev a question because the main issue wasn’t that an “individual be publicised”. So does Livingstone think it is better that he speak for gay Russians rather than to give visibility to gay Russians to speak for themseleves?

UPDATE: More evidence of Ken’s hypocrisy. He also issued a press release at the same time as Tatchell and OutRage! criticising the Grand Mufti and other faith leaders:

““The support given by the Russian Orthodox Church, the Grand Mufti, and the Chief Rabbi to a ban on a peaceful gay pride march is reactionary and the Mayor of Moscow should uphold the right of gays and lesbians to demonstrate peacefully.”

So he is slurring Peter Tatchell as “Islamophobic” for doing exactly what he did himself: critcising the leaders of the three main faiths for supporting the Moscow Mayor.