UK Politics

‘Why Ken Livingstone is not fit for office’

Plenty more on the upcoming Channel 4 ‘Dispatches’ documentary today beginning with Nick Cohen in the Observer who begins with the essential truth of why Ken Livingstone is unfit of be the mayor of London.

“To understand why Ken Livingstone is unfit to be the Labour candidate for mayor of London, you have to grasp that he has never moved away from the grimy conspirators of the totalitarian left, who have always despised the democratic traditions of the Labour movement.”

He delves into the WRP already covered by David T below, but then moves on as does an article in the Sunday Times as well on the role of the deeply unpleasant Socialist Action and Livingstone’s involvement with it.

“Using leaked emails and the testimony of disillusioned former colleagues, the programme shows how Livingstone found a sect of his own – a Trotskyist cult called Socialist Action. It is a minute organisation – I doubt it has more than 100 members – but Livingstone has given a fair proportion of them jobs with six-figure salaries at the public’s expense.

“John Ross, Livingstone’s economic adviser on £121,000, is typical. He is so lacking in economic knowledge that he decided that the Russian Communist party was a force for the future in 1991, two years after the fall of the Berlin Wall. His economic advice at the time was for the ruling class to learn ‘that they will be killed if they do not allow a takeover by the working class’.

“Atma Singh, a former member of the group who resigned as Livingstone’s adviser on Asian issues, told Channel 4 that his former comrades wanted to created a ‘state within the British state’. This ambition explains many peculiar features of Livingstone’s rule that have mystified naïve Londoners,” Cohen writes.

Ross definitely isn’t the first woefully under-qualified person to get a top political job, but I’m worried by exactly how really stupid Cohen paints him. Leaping to the conclusion that the Russian CP was the future in 1991 makes Tom Cruise appear relatively sane. After all he only wants to get out of his car and help people in road traffic accidents.

The Sunday Times has more of Atma Singh’s interview and its inadvertently very funny stuff. It should be noted he is a former member of Socialist Action.

Singh says that Simon Fletcher, Livingstone’s £100,000-a-year chief of staff, Ross and Redmond O’Neill, the deputy chief of staff, as well as Mark Watts, the green adviser, and Jude Woodward, the culture adviser, were all members of Socialist Action. He goes onto talk about the “code names” each of them have for each other.

He says O’Neill went by the pseudonym of “Lark”, Woodward was “Lee”, while another Socialist Action member, Anne Kane, who has worked as a consultant to Livingstone, was known as “Swift”.

No clue to Livingstone’s codename? What do you reckon? King Newt? Or something more lavish?

Singh details Socialist Action meetings that took place in the upstairs room of the Cedar Room pub in Islington (but then who hasn’t been to Trot group meetings upstairs at a pub in Islington…oh wait).

Singh alleges that many major policy decisions including the oil deal with Hugo Chavez are driven by Socialist Action including a major reorganisation of City Hall in 2002 that saw Ross hire management consultants KPMG. Oh the irony.

The Sunday Times has the full text of the interview with Singh (former Socialist Action code name “Chan”) here.

David T adds

Although Ken Livingstone showed no loyalty to the Labour Party when he ran as an Independent and left his party, as the selected Labour candidate, he has the right to expect that Labour Party members will prefer him to other candidates.

The thrust of the allegation is that Ken Livingstone is closely associated with Socialist Action, a political party which is not the Labour Party, and which runs its own policies, including an independent foreign policy.

Were Ken Livingstone a member of Socialist Action, then he could not continue to run as a Labour candidate, and would therefore have no special claim to the loyalty of party members.

It is, however, notable that Ken Livingstone has only once broken from the Labour Party, and that he has never been, and is not now, a formal member of any other political party.