Boris,  Ken Livingstone,  The Left

Mayor vetoes homophobic bus adverts

The London mayor, Boris Johnson, has vetoed the appearance of adverts due to appear on London buses paid for by a religious cult which claims to be able to “cure” homosexuality through “spiritual healing”.

Mayor Johnson said, according to The Guardian:

“London is one of the most tolerant cities in the world and intolerant of intolerance. It is clearly offensive to suggest that being gay is an illness that someone recovers from and I am not prepared to have that suggestion driven around London on our buses.”

Mayoral hopeful – and a former London Mayor – Ken Livingstone however remarked:

“London is going backwards under a Tory leadership that should have made these advertisements impossible.

Now this is a bizarre statement, since the adverts were in fact “made impossible” – by Boris Johnson. But it is even more bizarre given that, when Ken Livingstone was Mayor, a company – Sandals Resorts – which had an explicitly “no gays” policy didn’t have any trouble advertising through TfL and it was only three years into Livingstone’s mayorship that gay activists persuaded him to ban them, principally after a vociferous campaign by gay London newspaper, PinkPaper.

So, in contrast to Johnson, Livingstone actually let through homophobic adverts and a community campaign was needed to get him to act.

For gay Londoners, the TfL advert controversies did not stop there.

In 2007 – during Livingstone’s final term – the Tube banned an advert for Gay Times which showed two men (not naked men, I should point out) touching. While a little racy, it was no different from the covers of other lifestyle magazines and adverts featuring heterosexual couples, which had no trouble finding adspace. Nevertheless, Gay Times were asked to furnish a more ‘sedate’ version for use on the Underground.

No one blamed Ken Livingstone or suggested he should have made either of these incidents “impossible”. Which is a pity in retrospect, since he seems to imply now that it actually is within The Mayor’s powers to stop these things even coming forward, let alone actually happening.

But perhaps the biggest advert for homophobes of all was one produced and paid for by Ken Livingstone himself.

I am of course talking about the fat and glossy “dodgy dossier” Livingstone produced to defend Yusuf al Qaradawi, an ultra homophobe who says on his website:

“Muslim jurists hold different opinions concerning the punishment for this abominable practice. Should it be the same as the punishment for fornication, or should both the active and passive participants be put to death? … While such punishments may seem cruel, they have been suggested to maintain the purity of the Islamic society and to keep it clean of perverted elements.”

Livingstone, naturally, claims that this website, of which Dr Qaradawi is the “chief scholar”, was actually hacked by Jews – perhaps a Chaim Bondstein, double-oy-seven. This, despite the fact that the identical text appears in Dr Qaradwi’s book.

But all things considered, while the dossier defended homophobes and smeared gay campaigners, the greatest advert for homophobic intolerance ever produced in London to go anywhere near City Hall actually came from Livingstone’s City Hall: the photo of him embracing Qaradawi.

It is not hard to see a direct trajectoral link between that moment and the appearance of “gay free zone” stickers appearing in Tower Hamlets last year not coincidentally after Livingstone’s politicking in the area, followed swiftly by the intervention of his allies like Bob Pitt and Denis Fernando frustrating and blocking any display of outrage by the local gay community.


Good grief! The Guardian – the broadsheet most vocally championing Ken Livingstone – has resorted to blaming the victim. In an editorial by Deputy Comment Editor, , the point is made that if gay charity Stonewall hadn’t produced adverts saying “Some people are gay, get over it”, these new anti gay adverts wouldn’t have been produced.

This is crazy and cruel. There isn’t an advert under the sun, by anyone or for anything, which can’t be spoofed or parodied, or turned on its head. So, when Shariatmadari says…

The gay rights charity’s provocative sloganeering may have ended up doing more harm than good

… he is actually saying gay people have no right to advocate in the public domain. If the BNP had ‘spoofed’ an anti-racist poster, would he have said black people brought it on themselves?

Is this not really taking the biscuit for a supposedly progressive left-wing newspaper? No, not really: it’s what genuine liberals have come to expect from the self-proclaimed “progressive left” and their chosen candidates for political office.

Share this article.