A trip to Stockholm for London Labour

by Rob Marchant

This week’s revelations about Ken Livingstone’s tax affairs are not shocking. They are not even very surprising. But they are important in another sense: in the direct contradiction they highlight between word and deed.

Now, as many readers of Labour Uncut will know, its contributors are not generally renowned as class warriors. But, as a politician, it is simply staggeringly unwise to show yourself in the light that Livingstone has just done. As Nick Cohen notes in the Observer:

“Livingstone…is now the champion of the suffering 99% and enemy of the despised 1%. “Cameron’s problem is too many of his team have become super-rich by exploiting every tax fiddle,” he cried. ‘No one should be allowed to vote in a British election, let alone sit in our parliament, unless they are paying their full share of tax.’ He was talking about himself.’”

Let’s be clear: tax avoidance is not tax evasion. It is not illegal. Some people may even call it smart financial management. But don’t tell everyone it is morally reprehensible and then do it yourself. It’s not the tax avoidance itself, it’s the hypocrisy that will kill you, because people will cease to believe that you do not simply think that it’s one rule for you and another for everyone else. Or that you tell one thing to one person, and another to another

Livingstone’s 1999 failure to be endorsed by Labour’s NEC as its mayoral candidate was, frankly, badly handled. Unlike other countries where regional devolution has a long history, Labour was too green to realise that there are limits to how much you can get a regional politician to toe the party line. They have their own electoral base and can merely pay lip-service to the party, while doing just as they like. As Ken duly did, and as Boris is now doing. Fair enough.

But what was illuminating about this moment, for those of us who spoke to people coming out of the meeting, was the fact that he said one thing inside the meeting and quite another to the waiting media. Inside, the cocky, pugnacious, “you-can’t-touch-me” individualist of the left, running rings around the NEC. Outside, the downtrodden, rank-and-file victim of the brutal New Labour machine.

He has neatly divided opinion in the party almost since he emerged as GLC leader in the 1980s, and since when has largely dominated the left of it. He is either Labour’s last great hope, or the devil incarnate. No in-betweens.

But the truth does lies in between. Livingstone is a talented politician, and not a bad administrator. He did some good things as Mayor, like providing affordable and better public transport, along with the highly questionable things.

Politically, he has one essential trait in which he surely beats all other politicians: that extraordinary, teflon-like quality which means that the kind of scandals which would do for the careers of most mortals do not stick to him (a piece of advice: if you ever have the misfortune to be involved in a scandal of any kind, the first volume you should surely reach for is Livingstone’s autobiography. To look for tips). He has always an alibi, a story, a well-run media operation and a support network of people who will back him through thick and thin.

But I feel sorry for Ken’s supporters within the party. They seem – mostly – a well-intentioned bunch of people who prefer not to dig too deep into his denials, to maintain the happy fiction that it is those awful people in the media who delight in twisting the truth against him. But, as a result, they must constantly find themselves having to make the most threadbare excuses.

Stockholm Syndrome was originally used to describe the effect of hostages feeling sympathy for their captors, but it’s come to mean pretty much any abusive relationship where the abused party keeps making excuses and coming back for more. And, let’s face it, you would have had to come up with some pretty inventive excuses over the last decade.

Ah, but the reason for the London Mayoralty to do an oil deal with Venezuela – well, ok, it wasn’t really for oil but for money – wasn’t to make a political point, it was in fact…

Ah, but the Yusuf al-Qaradawi is a perfectly reasonable feller for a Labour politician to be supporting. He didn’t mean all those things about Jews, killing homosexuals, genital mutilation or wife-beating, he meant…

Ah, but it was quite legitimate to campaign with Lutfur Rahman, backed by the obnoxious Islamic Forum of Europe, against the official Labour party candidate in Tower Hamlets, because…

Ah, but the obvious reason for calling a Jewish journalist a “concentration camp guard” was…

Ah, but when he works for Iran’s Press TV, he’s doing it to engage with different points of view, not to get paid by the mouthpiece of an oppressive regime…

And so it goes.

Unlike Cohen, voting against Labour is something most of us could not bring ourselves to do. We know that we need the momentum of winning London if we are to have much of a chance of winning in 2015. That said, in the event of a win, that momentum could easily be cancelled out by a slew of bad stories emanating from London over the next three years, as they did during Livingstone’s second term.

So we vote, and we campaign. But we do so without enthusiasm. It is stretching that loyalty an awful lot to ask us to continue to support a man who, in his recent history, has shown precious little to us.

Rob Marchant is an activist and former Labour Party manager who blogs at The Centre Left


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7 Responses to “A trip to Stockholm for London Labour”

  1. Clr Ralph Baldwin says:

    Rob,

    Please allow me to highlight the consequences of hypocrisy and attacks on equality under the Law by the Labour Party candidates and elected reps:

    Dear Mark Ellis/Rt Hon Grant Shapps/Rt Hon Eric Pickles

    Thank you for your prompt response. I won’t lie I was not initially entirely pleased with the letter content which as a Law student I understood. However i have been very encouraged by the Localism Bill and I hope there will be more checks placed upon Local Authorities especially if the route of elected Mayors is adopted. Local Politics is the “front line” in our ailing democracy and it was the appalling hubris of Local Authorities acting like bullying undemocratic little feudal kingdoms that is as damaging as MPs expenses was, in fact in many ways more so. People “feel” negelected by local politicians when they fail and add this issue into the stew of reasons to be angry with Political parties especially when there are blatent breaches of Fundamental Constitutional Conventions that can be more potent than Statutory or Case law when unleashed. Primarily the Equality of people under the Law, labour sadly have long forgotton Equality and the Rule of Law and this was more damaging than when the conservatives do so due to tradition, though the Conservatives have long suffered as a consequence also. It’s an appalling state of afairs when local people cannot distinguish between extremist lunatics of the BNP and their elected Leaders on Local Authorities, the former fueled by deceits and cruelty, the latter corruption and a greed fueled militant methodology.

    It cannot be one rule of us and one rule for them. We must all be equals under the Law except in very, very unusual circumstances that have public support.

    I was very encouraged by David cameron stating on PMQs the intention to create greater transparency on Local Authorities. I have no problem with this as a Councillor, I welcome it and I know the best people, those who are a credit to their political parties who place their residents and community first will also welcome it. Thank you.

    I can’t remember the last time I thanked an MP and certainly not a Prime Minister so I thank you for this. The only way Britain can reclaim it’s International reputation of being moderate, non-judgemental except when extreme circumstances occur and most importantly a Leader of Civility and Democracy is if we build it whilst protecting the best of our traditions. I will be joining your Party and I’ll help unseat a political opponent when I am finished in Barking and Dagenham or place myself at the disposal of one of your MPs/Councillors once I decide where next to go and live (I flew to Barking from South Korea to clean up the BNP, I like to travel to where I am needed). I would not be doing this if it were not for Labours contempt and fear of democracy and due process and love of corruption which is not always about what is legal and what is not, hence the reasons MPs try and change the Law.

    Thanks.

    Councillor Ralph Baldwin

  2. Not sure how you manage to turn every post you ever leave on a Forum about yourself, Ralph, but it really is quite impressive.

  3. Clr Ralph Baldwin says:

    It was a letter about I was feeling David, but more than happy to discuss the residents I represent and point out their views if you would like, I write them down when i canvass and keep them for record.

    Here are some quotes from Gale St Mayesbrook Dagenham,

    “Labour is not a moral party anymore”

    “The BNP tell it how it is”

    “They are all the same” (hence my comment being about Labour hypocrisy)
    This one you get anywhere you canvass and it has gained relevance.

    “We have not seen a Council candidate or the Labour party knocking on doors for over ten years”

    This quote came from a resident living on Malpass near Becontree Underground where the BNP gathered every Saturday when we campaigned.

    Would you like some more recent material from residents David? Would you like to hear some positive comments about what Labour got right from say Porters Avenue.

    “I love Gordon Brown he is far more genuine than Blair” or

    “We always vote Labour” though this is a bit like they are all the same and can recur again and again.

    The trick it gain a sense of peoples feeling and trends and ensure that when you promise them what you are about and what you’ll do (try and restore democracy as far as possible in my case) then that becomes the goal. The letter above is about ensuring Local Authorities are more accountable, since I am standing down as a Councillor soon I think its fair I am not doing it for me but for the people who pay their Council taxes, business rates who expect their money to be spent competently without any dodgy business going on.

  4. Clr Ralph Baldwin says:

    David,

    one more thing fella, suggest you learn to read what people are actually righting about and get beyond counting the number of “I’s”‘ and “yous” in a paragraph, also I am offering service, there is nothing in what i have written that actually leads to me gaining anything and more so highlights how corruption, intimidation and political corruption which undermines activists working for nothing in a Party (who Ken Livingstone and other politicians use cynically). Ken’s hypocrisy harms Ken and the Labour Party campaign as does his determination to use any means whatsoever to benefit himself. How longstanding (ex in my case) activists feel is very important and since I have no ambitions in the Labour party i can speak freely about it without fear of being labelled a “malcontent” or an attention getter, whereas many Labour Party Councillors and activists are too frightened to speak out for fear of it affecting their aspirations within the Party. On election day though its very easy to not turn up and by then its too late for a Political party to do anything about it…as occurred in the EU and Scottish elections. We did not hear any “malcontents” on the blogs did we? Until a week before the elections occurred in Scotland.

    Closing debate and trying to silence people will win your Party nothing.

  5. Clr Ralph Baldwin says:

    Incidentally Dave this is a comment i posted on this site a few days ago

    “Atul, sadly Labour is now the primordial party associated with valueless double standards and hypocrisy demanding people live in such a way while they promote families and friends and exercise conduct that has nothing at all to do with equality.

    The weird aspect to all this is that they still believe themselves to be some kind of self-righteous body when in reality any claim to morality or values is dead in the still dark waters of sycophantic and incestuous Nepotism and corruption. Until the Fundamentals are addressed both in the Party women will not get a fair deal from Labour that can only project its attitude towards privilege as its core belief into the wider world.

    Leaders lead by example, and Labour sets a damn bad one.”

    Where is the part where I am talking about myself?

  6. Indigo says:

    Is there a difference between someone who uses a current loophole and wants it to continue to exist, and someone who uses a current loophole but wants it to be closed?

  7. Barking Mad says:

    Ralph Baldwin, one of the the most demented fantasists ever to be inflicted upon the good people of Barking. He came from Newham, not South Korea, to ‘fight the BNP’.

    Whats astonishing is that the Labour party allowed such an utter crackpot to stand for elected office.

    Ralph – given you spend most of your time in the pub drinking or writing completely inane drivel on blogs, its surprising you have any idea what the residents of Mayesbrook ward are thinking.

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