As Ken steps back from Press TV, is there an organised Tory smear campaign against him?

by Ian Stewart

Ken Livingstone has terminated his association with Press TV, the Iranian government sponsored TV channel. It was a difficult gig for him to defend and it is not surprising his enemies made much of it. Evidence is mounting, though, of an organised online smear campaign run by supporters of Mayor Johnson. One which goes far beyond the legitimate concerns about Press TV.

On 21 January, Conservative libertarian blogger, Peter Reynolds, posted that Conservative bloggers and supporters of Boris Johnson online were being encouraged to highlight Ken Livingstone’s continued employment by Press TV. Bloggers have apparently been encouraged to link Livingstone’s name with terms such as “holocaust denial”, “anti-women” and “anti-semitic”. Reynolds claims that he knows for certain that pressure has been brought to bear in this direction, in an attempt at cyber-smearing with guilt by association.

This is not a new tactic. But it is a disturbing development in the politics of London. By playing this card, Johnson is obviously hoping to firm up the “Jewish vote” in the capital, much in the same way that Respect tried to exploit the “Islamic vote” in East London. The trend is incredibly disturbing, as the last thing we need here is an escalation of US-style sectarian politics.

A quick visit to Boris fansite CYBERBORISjohnson confirmed much of what Peter had written, a lengthy attack on Ken, which is fair enough on a Tory website. Linking Livingstone to holocaust denial and homophobia is certainly not. A comment left on the site made it clear that Peter Reynolds, or anyone mentioning Peter Reynolds is no longer welcome there. Ask why this is, and you will be treated to a lengthy rant as to how bad the Iranian government is – which is true, but hardly the point. Is angelnstar, whose blog this is, being briefed by someone at City Hall? Is this an organised campaign? Who exactly is organising it?

Livingstone himself has previous on this issue, so it seems that both major candidates are set on a policy that will help increase divisions within London, rather than unite us. However, Ken has been involved in anti-racist, anti-fascist, women’s and gay liberation campaigns for forty-odd years. It may not be an impeccable record, but it is certainly an impressive one.

The current round of dirty tricks, initiated by Boris’ camp, are not in the best interest of anyone except the sitting mayor, and will cheapen politics in London, making an already murky situation worse. The attempt to make Ken Livingstone’s name synonymous with anti-semitism, sexism, and holocaust denial are incredibly nasty, and are another step along the road to a devalued local democracy.

Ian Stewart is a member of Hackney South CLP who blogs at Clemthegem.

19 Responses to “As Ken steps back from Press TV, is there an organised Tory smear campaign against him?”

  1. David M says:

    Jewish Labour party member of 20 years, and former London councillor. Enjoyed your piece Ian. Welcome to the subject.

    I’m afraid London’s jewish community do not need any more info on Ken to make up their minds. May sounds funny for you to hear but generations of antisemitism mean that most of us can smell Jew hatred when we come across it, and we can smell Ken.
    Ken likes ‘dead Jews’ and vicitims of the Holocaust. It is the live ones he has a problem with.

  2. angelnstar says:

    Hi Ian, My site is my own, I write all the blogs and nobody funds it for me.

    Peter Reynolds knows why he is barred from my site and it is nothing to do with Ken, blogging or Press TV.

    Everyone, including the Times and a Nobel prize winner, agrees how unsuitable it is for a Mayoral candidate to be linked with Press TV. If you have any more questions, I will be happy to answer them, but PR’s theory about a conspiracy is a fiction.

  3. john p Ried says:

    The Anti smeeticism that has boiled over form both Zionism adn Israel doesn’t men that those who had sympathy with Palestinians are anti semtic any more than Livingstones ill advised comments to a jewish Standard reporter about his bullying being like a concentration camp guard.
    That said livingstone’s association With luftun Ranham and the way he campianged agaisnt the labour candidate adn then weasely tried to get him back in the party, as well as not accepting Labours decision that Ranham would’nt be back reek of Trotskyism, similiar The answer to the question is there a Tory smear campaign agisnt him, the answer is no , Livingstone is single handedly losinghte 2012 election for himslef,

  4. Absolute rot David M!

    I am a Tory and proud of it (well, alright, some of it). I do not support Ken but I believe he is a man of honour and what poor, naive Anglea has been duped into is horrendous hypocrisy. Exactly the sort of censorship and proscription that we would condemn in Iran.

    It must be the case that however much we deplore the Iranian regime, the opportunity to write/broadcast in its media should be seized and used in the cause of freedom.

    Ken has a long tradition of fighting on behalf of the oppressed. He would never support racism, prejudice or violence against the Jewish people – or the Palestinians.

    The Nazionists will, of course, try to exploit this to their advantage but they are just as evil as the Iranian theocracy.

  5. Why am I barred from your site then Angela? It coincides precisely with you deleting my comments about your disgraceful dirty tricks against Ken Livingstone. What other reason could there be?

    I shall not publish all the email correspondence between us because I know you will acknowledge the truth.

    I am ashamed to be a Tory when things take this sort of twist but whatever my loyalty to a political philosophy, the truth is more important.

  6. Rob Marchant says:

    Ian, although I appreciate you are loyally trying to defend Ken as Labour’s candidate, the fact is that he did something extremely silly in appearing on PressTV, as did Jeremy Corbyn before him. I don’t believe Ken is an anti-semite, or a racist, but he certainly is very foolish and this will not help his campaign one bit. It is needless a gift to Boris and embarrasses the Party.

  7. Rob, even as a Tory (again), I think you have a damn nerve attacking Ken Livingstone who is in the most honourable tradition of the Labour party and has achieved great success.

    If I was him, I would feel very let down and undermined by those from whom he might expect support.

    Why should you not give him the benefit of the doubt in his efforts at Press TV?

  8. UK United says:

    The Iranian state is demonstrably anti-women, anti-democratic, anti-gay and antisemitic, in common with other Muslim theocratic states. Appearing on their propaganda station and taking their money means that this rubs off on you. Ken’s problems with Press TV are of his own making, and trying to paint it as a ‘sectarian’ issue is pretty low.

  9. Ian Stewart says:

    Hello all, and thank you for responding, especially angelnstar, Peter Reynolds and David M.
    Let me make my own position on Ken, anti-semitism and Israel clear:
    I voted for Oona King to be our candidate, and one of the reasons was Kens championing of communal politicians – and his relationship with Islamic radicalism. As a Democratic Socialist, I do not think that he can unite people in the way he once did. I do not believe that Ken is an out-and-out opportunist, but it is a close run thing, however his record over the years is better than many of his opponents outside Labour. Please note that it would be pretty difficult for a real jew-hater to run with Nicky Gavron as his number two, or have Ed Miliband as their party Leader.
    Anti semitism, like all forms of racism and prejudice is a disgusting blight on the body politic, and must be fought tooth and nail by everyone, whatever party. Anti Zionism on the left has its roots in Marxist-Lenninism, and up until the 1930s, was an honourable socialist position, held by Trotsky, Nathan Weinstock, the Leaders of The Bund and many others.
    However, since 1948, Israel has existed, and has a perfect right to do so.All arguments over Zionism per se are redundant. What we need is to support the peace party in Israel, condemn terrorism, and work for a viable Democratic solution – a return of the lands occupied since 1967, as advocated by Chaim Weizman at the time, would be a start. as would dismantling the wall.
    Iran is indeed a tyrannous state, and we should be supporting the forces of opposition within it.
    I am sorry if angelnstar thinks that I was inferring that she is funded by anyone but herself – I was making a point that on a number of sites supporting Boris, the attacks painting Ken as an out-and-out anti-semite seem to be co-ordinated.

  10. angelnstar says:

    Thanks for your comments Ian, which I appreciate. I should like to make it plain that in the many blogs I have written about Ken, I have never once condemned him as an out and out anti-semite. I have said only what is true – that it is entirely inappropriate for him to be working for people who are not only anti-semites, but do not accept that women are equal to men and who deny the Holocaust.

    Many of the bloggers who support Boris know each other and we certainly do back each other up. We retweet each other, and support each other’s blogs. Only once have I ever printed a press release from the Back Boris team and that is still on my site, is on the subject of Ken’s deputy Val Shawcross and bears the name at the bottom of the Back Boris team. Boris is unusual in that he never tells his bloggers what to say, he lets us put our own spin on events.
    At times I have received links from the Back Boris researchers, but it is up to me how I interpret them.

    That is the absolute truth, that it suits others to try to twist to make trouble and do damage, and they themselves know why. As the Duke of Wellington said “Publish and be damned” I certainly have nothing to hide and nothing whatsoever to be ashamed of. I did try to show sympathy and understanding and if that is a fault, I am guilty. Let who will try to distort that for their own pathetic reasons.

  11. angelnstar says:

    Ian, also, if you look at twitter under @ken4london, if ever there was an orchestrated campaign, it is Ken’s! They are all churning out the same link like robots. Boris believes in free speech and doesn’t want a campaign like that. He doesn’t tell us what to say, nor what to think.

  12. angelnstar says:

    And finally, telling the truth, albeit, very forcefully is not dirty tricks or running a smear campaign. I should like anyone who is in doubt about this to go to my website and show me one thing that is not true and everything is substantiated with links in evidence.

    There is a world of difference in saying the truth, because you believe someone is wrong and smearing them and running dirty tricks. Boris would never ever want us to say anything that was a a lie. If what I have said has been effective, well tough luck to the people who didn’t like it. It was the truth and people needed to know about it, like Pink News, who feel betrayed by Ken. Like women who thought he cared about womens’ causes. Never once have I called Ken a homophobe or chauvinist or a Holocaust denier. I always said he worked for people who believed those things.

    Ken Livingstone should not be running for Mayor if he cannot see how dreadfully wrong it was to take money from Press TV. Everyone on this site, except one person sees that, so why doesn’t he see that?

  13. angelnstar says:

    Ian, finally, you did listen to Peter Reynolds and you blogged that Boris was running a dirty tricks campaign against Ken. I would like you to scan my site and if you find one untruth or even faint suggestion of a smear, I will make a full retraction. It is acceptable to tell the truth, however forcefully.

    If you find it is all true, it would be fair if you would print a retraction and say that you were misled by someone who had an axe to grind.

  14. Ian Stewart says:

    No one is suggesting anything as easy to spot as an untruth, merely that a campaign is running to smear Ken with guilt by association. Now Ken has of course laid himself open to this by his own actions, and I merely raised a question about whether this is an organised campaign, and a further question as to whether the trend towards US-style sectarian campaigning is a good thing for London. I believe that this is a legitimate point to make, given the diversity of our shared city. If we are really moving permanently into ethnicity and religious-based campaigning by major figures in the two major parties in London, is that not a frightening trend?
    I think you will find that in the above article I have stated that anti-Ken stuff is perfectly valid – after all, I want to say anti-Tory stuff on my site, and I happen to believe in free speech. What I have written is that there does seem to be some co-ordination going on here.
    Now that is my take on the situation, and although you have been kind enough to reply angelnstar, I feel you and I have taken this far enough. I have never written that you have written a lie, I have never accused you of lying. I will defend your right to free speech, and I look forward to continuing to enjoy your blog.
    I will readily print a retraction on my site , if it can be proved beyond doubt that no co-ordination has taken place whatsoever between Back Boris staffers and anyone in the blogosphere.
    However, this is going to be very difficult, and time-consuming to prove isn’t it? I am not a professional journalist, nor can I spend all my days hunting around London for “smoking guns”, but I suspect you already know this.
    I enjoy your blog angelnstar, even if I disagree with about 90% of what you write, I think that your responses are getting a little intemperate here, after all, this is one article that disagrees with you. Yes, I also like Peter Reynolds site. I look forward to reading both in the future

  15. angelnstar says:

    Ian, surely the situation is a lot simpler than that?

    A dirty tricks campaign involves smearing someone with lies. That is dirty tricks. Telling the truth, however many people say the same thing, is not dirty tricks.

    You have put out blogs clearly implying that Boris ran a dirty tricks campaign. He did not. Nor did I contact others and tell them to write what I was writing. If people read my tweets and retweet them and then blog on the same subject themselves, that is twitter.

    In fairness, I thinkl you should admit that Boris has not run a dirty tricks campaign. And you listened to Peter Reynolds and made the allegation, surely you should be providing evidence that there was a dirty tricks campaign, when there categorically was not.

    You have repeated the lies of a mischief maker with a personal axe to grind.

  16. angelnstar says:

    And if you don’t have time to look around for smoking guns, you shouldn’t make accusations based entirely on someone’s word.

    You are willing to accuse Boris of something very serious, based merely on the word of a grossly biased third party. That man is running about trying to get people to print this ridiculous accusation just because he has a nasty grudge. But when I say check it out, you won’t. You have made the accusation, where is your evidence? That will be on the internet for ever and ever and it is a total lie. In fairness I think you should admit there is no proof whatsoever for your allegation.

    If you don’t do that, it is you, Peter Reynolds and that other guy, Doctordrink, who are running a smear campaign, and what you have written is the evidence that you are all smearing Boris. A dirty tricks campaign is based on lies, and the only person telling them is Peter Reynoldsl

  17. angelnstar says:

    You have made a very serious allegation, so it is up to you to substantiate it or withdraw it. Making out I am saying Ken is guilty by association is just a pathetic rationalisation that you are in the wrong. I said Ken has been mixing with appalling, totally unsuitable people, who are homophobes, chauvinists and Holocaust deniers.

    You are just trying to defend the indefensible.

  18. Methinks the lady doth protest far, far too much!

    I deeply regret the way you have fallen out with me Angela. I am not going to publish the private correspondence between us because that would be entirely wrong. However, I think the tactic of associating the phrase “holocaust denier” with Ken Livingstone is absolutely disgraceful and I will not take any part in it.

    The fact that you have resorted to deleting my comments and have now barred me from your blog says it all. The direct allegation that I am a liar is now on your conscience and that is a far more effective retort than I anything I might say here.

    I have always been a supporter of Boris, if not to the extent of your hero worship and I couldn’t believe that he would sink to such depths. I’m quite certain that you, in your charming naivete, have been taken advantage of and manipulated by some unscrupulous and unwise person(s) in Boris’ office. However, I have since done some digging and, to my surprise, it seems that Boris’ record is not as honourable as I had thought.

    My view is that we should encourage democratic journalism on Press TV and that this is a better and more constructive way forward than the banning, censorship and blackballing which you have resorted to and which is so terribly hypocritical.

  19. Ian Stewart says:

    Golly, as boris might say, i think that it has all been said.
    Apart from one thing, as the private correspondence Peter has will remain private (rightly so), I will take the word of the less shrill media professional here.
    Your repetition of certain phrases, even when dealing with this correspondence speake volumes. No doubt angie will continue. So will the rest of us.

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