Ken Livingstone,  Labour Party

To vote for Ken or Not? It has to be yes

We’re almost there. The May 3 London Mayoral election is almost upon us. Ken Livingstone launched his party political broadcast last night, or party election broadcast, so the time has come to decide.

We’ve had a few posts on Harry’s Place talking about Ken Livingstone and his tax among other things, echoing comments made by Nick Cohen and Jonathan Freeland among others, but the question is do you vote for him as he is the Labour candidate or do you say enough is enough?

Most recently Michael Ezra wrote about how he was voting for Ken Livingstone. His piece came on the heels of Lucy Lips who wrote that Livingstone would be a disaster and and Sarah AB said she “just couldn’t vote for Ken.”

For my part I will vote Labour on May 3 as I always do. Yes it will be a vote for Livingstone too, but it will be a vote for Labour first and foremost.  Not something that Livingstone himself necessarily understands all that well.

And I see nothing wrong in having criticised him over his tax affairs and still casting my vote. We should rigorously question our candidates and demand answers if like Livingstone they are found wanting.

All the talk of not voting for him smacks of cutting off our nose to spite our face. Won’t we all simply end up losers? Labour, Londoners and Livingstone alike? All unhappy together. It is as the phrase goes a fine old mess, but it is what it is and I don’t see an alternative.

Those on the left not voting for Livingstone need to answer the question clearly and tell us that if not him, then who?

A vote for Brian Paddick is just a vote for the Tories and a vote for Johnson by default. The same goes for the Greens or independent candidates. You may as well not vote as this is a two horse race. The other runners and riders hopeless nags.

To this point there are two pieces published today on either side of this highly argumentative fence.

One from Dan Hodges on the Telegraph arguing we have indulged Ken long enough and a second from the New Statesman’s Mehdi Hasan on Comment is Free arguing that if you don’t want Boris, you have to vote for Ken:

First from Hodges:

“As John Smith and Tony Blair dragged their party back towards government, Livingstone sat sulking on the sidelines. Then, as the prospect of the London mayoralty hove into view, he sprang into life and began shouting “me, me, me”. Once again, his party – including me – gave him the benefit of the doubt. Blocked from being Labour’s official candidate, we voted for him anyway.

“Once again Ken was brought back into the fold. His response was to allow his administration to drift into cronyism and scandal. Again, people turned a blind eye. Faced with the prospect of defeat at the hands of Boris Johnson, who up until then had been nothing more than a political punchline, Livingstone clung tenaciously to the reins. “This will be my last campaign,” he pledged, “give me one last chance to win it.” He didn’t.

“But still the indulgence continued. At Ken’s request, the subsequent mayoral selection was railroaded through while Labour was still reeling from defeat at the 2010 general election. Some people raised objections, but a blind eye was turned again. Livingstone, by now drunk on self-importance, started to openly flaunt his invulnerability. He took to the streets with Lutfur Rahman, independent candidate for mayor of Tower Hamlets, campaigning directly against Labour’s own candidate, and in open defiance of his party’s own rules. Labour shrugged, “Ken will be Ken”. At a campaign meeting he bragged: “I never voted for New Labour. I never voted for Tony Blair and I stood against his awful government as an independent and … that’s why I withdraw as the official Labour candidate. And I opposed the war in Iraq. I took the last Labour government to court five times and I fought them.” Again, just Ken being Ken.”

His conclusion is predictable, but wrong: “Ken Livingstone has been indulged and indulged and indulged. Next month the indulgence will finally stop. The voters of London will see to that”.

What good does electing Johnson do anyone? Other than we can all fold our arms like Hodges and be content that Livingstone’s political career is over and our indulgence of him at an end. Hurrah.

For all the bad that Livingstone has done he remains a better choice than Johnson. Surely that much remains true?

Here’s what Mehdi Hasan has to say:

“Ken is far from the perfect candidate. He can be boorish, arrogant, hypocritical. Nonetheless, he has a long record of standing up for the poorest Londoners, whereas the current incumbent’s defence of London from the cuts has been more Maginot Line than Stalingrad.

“The truth is that Boris may be the master of the quick quip and the funny photo op but he is, fundamentally, out of touch; uninterested in the plight of those who don’t look, sound or live like him and his fellow millionaires.

“Boris is the bankers’ nominee; the candidate of the 1%, not the 99%. Ordinary Londoners deserve better.”