The Left

The Ken Chorus

On Monday, a letter was published in Compass in defence of Ken Livingstone. The letter was signed by many great and good people; including a few of my heroes. The central message of the letter was that if we didn’t vote for Ken, we’d get Boris.

Party loyalty counts for quite a lot. However, I have voted against the Labour candidate only once: in 2000, when I supported Ken Livingstone, who ran against Labour having previously stated that he would not do so. The same man now expects loyalty from Labour voters.

Some of the pledges on the pro-Ken list are unsurprising. As Oliver Kamm notes, they include Kate Hudson, who is not a member of Labour Party, but rather the Communist Party of Britain, which has a declared “position of solidarity” with North Korea. But Ken Livingstone has a long history of courting the support of undemocratic or extreme political parties, from his days as the editor of a newspaper run by the rape-cult, the Workers Revolutionary Party, through to his courting of Qaradawi and the clerical fascists of the Muslim Brotherhood, and on to his cabinet of advisers, who are member of the Trotskyite party, Socialist Action.

Other supporters should have known better. Polly Toynbee, for example, pledges her troth: despite being a regular target of the Ken-aligned Islamophobia-Watch, which regards her as a “racist” and an “Islamophobe”. Similarly, Baroness Kennedy, whose Power Inquiry called for:

Much greater clarity, transparency and accountability should be introduced into the relationship between the Executive and supranational bodies, quangos, business, and interest groups. Too much power goes unchecked.

urges our support for a man with little care for accountability; a man who came to power in the Greater London Council by launching an internal coup against the GLC leader under whom the election had been fought, who has set up and funded a series of extreme and unrepresentative communalist pressure groups, which he has deployed to conduct his personal vendettas against those who have incurred his wrath, including Trevor Phillips and Peter Tatchell, and who even now attempts to escape the accountability of the London Assembly by casually throwing around accusations of racism.

Martin Bright, in his New Statesman blog piece lists a whole list of reasons why Ken Livingstone doesn’t particularly energise me. If I thought that Ken Livingstone was chastened in any way by his experience over the last four years, I’d feel quite differently. But I know that, in reality, Ken Livingstone returned to power will give us more weirdness and nastiness, more promotion of marginal and unrepresentative self appointed “community spokesmen”, more attacks on ethnic minorities he doesn’t particularly care for, stupid events celebrating the Cuban Monarchy, more propagandising for his Venezeulan Peronist mate, and much much more of the same. Ken has only one gear: forward, fast.

I don’t want Boris Johnson to become Mayor. I also don’t want Ken Livingstone to remain Mayor. I am in a win-win and lose-lose situation, simultaneously.

On the second of May, I will be both depressed and delighted, whatever the outcome.