Redmond O’Neil was an activist in the extremist group, Socialist Action. He was Ken Livingstone’s Chief of Staff. He was also married to another extremist: the Communist Party of Britain’s Kate Hudson.
He was buried this morning.
There have been a number of obituaries of the man published in the last week and a bit. One of the most remarkable is by Bob Pitt. We’ll come to that in a moment.
First, Ken Livingstone:
His work helped played a major role in reducing racist attacks in the city and ensuring community harmony in London after the 7 July 2005 terrorist attack
Then George Galloway:
When so many of his generation were happy to bend to Tony Blair’s reheated liberal imperialism and its concomitant, virulent Islamophobia, Redmond was one of those who saw his duty to stand as a comrade with nations under great power bombardment and people under the lash of bigotry and racism.
Then Andrew Murray, another member of the Communist Party of Britain:
Unlike most other groups from the Trotskyist tradition, Socialist Action maintained a clear focus on working within the labour movement and eschewed anything that could be regarded as ultra-leftism.
Under Redmond’s leadership, it also had the wit to recognise that the collapse of the Soviet Union and the other socialist systems in Europe was a bad thing for the international working class.
And one from the retired terrorist, Gerry Adams:
I met Redmond many times during my visits to London . He was a very dedicated and energetic supporter of Irish reunification, of the peace process and of justice and equality campaigns.
During Sinn Féin’s recent discussions around initiating a focussed campaign on Irish reunification Redmond played a very helpful role.
Respect councillor, Salma Yaqoob:
I am deeply saddened to hear about Redmond’s passing away. Although he had been ill, it still came as a shock. It is a testament to his life, however, that so many of us feel it as a personal blow. His unwavering commitment to justice gave many, many people, including myself, hope – not just on the issue of Venezuela, but on a whole range of issues.
The Cordoba Institute/Muslim Brotherhood’s Anas Altikriti:
A lovely man and a truly wonderful friend who had the most incredible energy, drive and enthusiasm.
Finally, here is an appreciation from Mohammed Sawalha, the fugitive Hamas commander and British Muslim Initiative chair, with whom Redmond O’Neil forged a close political relationship:
“Over the years in which we were blessed to know him, O’Neil constantly proved a great friend, an incredible supporter and an excellent public servant. It was a pleasure to have had him as a friend and brother and a privilege to have worked with him. His passing away is a loss not only to those who were close to him, but to the entire Muslim community whom he served with care, diligence and dedication”
It is clear from these obituaries that Redmond O’Neil is mourned by some of the most dismal politicians in Britain. It is particularly disgusting to see advocates of terrorism and sectarianism to claim that this man was, in any sense, an “anti-racist”.
Redmond O’Neill’s chief contribution was quite the opposite of fighting racism. Rather, it was to bring those who lurk in the penumbra of British politics into the limelight. The Atma Singh affair made that very clear indeed:
Singh left City Hall last year after six years of loyal service, following a campaign of harassment when he refused to sign up to the decision to invite the Egyptian Muslim scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi to London. Remember, this is the man who said: “Through his [Allah’s] infinite wisdom he has given the weak a weapon the strong do not have and that is their ability to turn their bodies into bombs as Palestinians do.”
Peter Tatchell, the veteran human rights campaigner and former ally of the Mayor, told our programme what happened when he made similar objections: “Ken took the view that because I didn’t agree with him inviting to London someone who is anti-Semitic, homophobic, misogynistic and who justifies terrorist suicide bombings I was an Islamophobe.”
In a disreputable piece of attempted character assassination, the Mayor’s office this weekend issued the following statement: “Atma Singh was removed from his job for failure to discharge his duties, most seriously in failures to meet requests for assistance from the Metropolitan Police Anti-Terrorism Unit.” The clear implication is that Singh was in some way a threat to national security. There could be no more outrageous slur.
What the statement fails to mention is that Singh was being asked to co-operate with a member of the Metropolitan Police Muslim Contact Unit, who believed, like City Hall, that it was a good idea to form alliances with ideologues like al-Qaradawi, who believe terrorism in the name of Islam is a valid form a political dissent.
Singh was the Mayor’s adviser on Asian affairs and, as such, he advised against having anything to do with such a figure. The Mayor, in his ignorance, chose to disregard him. Thus a man devoted to the cause of anti-discrimination was dispensed with in the interests of appeasing of the Islamic radical Right.
No wonder Mohammed Sawalha so respected Redmond O’Neil. Without his help, and that of the rest of the Livingstone/Socialist Action gang, he’d have been a lone nutter, with no access to power. With his help, Qaradawi literally received hugs and kisses from the Mayor of London.
Not everybody misses Redmond O’Neil. One of those who has little affection for him is his former comrade, Bob Pitt of Islamophobia-Watch:
I KNOW it’s not done to speak ill of the dead, but in the case of Redmond O’Neill, who played a prominent role in the London mayor’s office during the eight years that Ken Livingstone held power, I feel an exception should be made. Particularly so, in view of the gushing and entirely uncritical tributes to him that have appeared since his demise.
Having had some experience of working with him in the mayor’s office during 2004-8, I saw another side to O’Neill, namely the abuse and bullying of staff for which he became notorious at City Hall. It was the kind of behaviour you would expect from the worst sort of manager in the worst private sector company.
Pitt makes another observation, which is absolutely spot-on:
The problem was that O’Neill and other individuals who had spent decades running a small Trotskyist group on that basis suddenly found themselves at the head of a much bigger and broader organisation, where they antagonised and repelled people by importing the arrogant, top-down, authoritarian culture that characterises the internal life of the far-left sect. There is a striking parallel here with the behaviour of the SWP leaders in Respect.
Of course, Bob Pitt goes on to praise certain of the Livingstone camp’s political agenda. Amusingly, Pitt picks out “opposition to Islamophobia” and “promotion of LGBT rights” as highlights of that administrations achievements. In reality, both O’Neil and Pitt were at the forefront of promoting the worst of the Islamist sectarian bigots, while actively smearing those who – like Peter Tatchell – pointed out that you can’t champion gay equality while also promoting those who call for gays to be killed. That position, too, is a product of a major office having been handed over to somebody whose only experience of politics is of absurd Trot groupuscles.
Redmond O’Neil died from cancer, at the very young age of 55. It is a terrible thing for a life to be snuffed out before its full term is up, and I wish he had survived.
However, I am also angry that a man whose life was spent in marginal and nasty political parties, and who devoted his life to the pushing of vicious and dangerous policies, was able to attain such power. Fringe politics, such as that practiced by O’Neil, should be a hobby for the weird. Thanks to Ken Livingstone’s patronage, O’Neil managed to make it his career.
Over the next few years, we can expect the likes of Ken Livingstone will try to turn the Labour Party into a party of Redmond O’Neils. We will have a fight on our hands if we want to prevent that from happening.
Apparatchik, in the comments below, adds:
I read this with rapt fascination. However, a minor point: Redmond wasn’t Livingstone’s Chief of Staff, that was his sideburned colleague Simon Fletcher (who now ekes out a living as a Boris tormentor-in-chief for the liberal press.) O’Neill was actually Director of Transport and Public Affairs. Apparently he did have some knowledge of transport policy (the current incumbent under Boris certainly doesn’t) but the Public Affairs part of his brief pretty much gave him licence to interfere in anything ‘political’ inside and outside City Hall.
To underline the point about his stranglehold on the Mayor’s Office, he was off work for months after being diagnosed with cancer. Understandable enough really. However, this merely meant that the kind of minor routine decisions by underlings he insisted on clearing before this point were simply allowed to accrue until he was well enough to come back. Hardly a way to run a city of eight million people.
This isn’t about a dead man, it’s about the creepy and sinister personality cult which Ken Livingstone’s mayoralty fostered. No wonder these people bended the knee at any passing autocratic regime, from China to Iran, it was their aspiration to emulate that on the Thames. I’m not sure what’s worse, bumbling Etonians or sinister Trots.