An open letter to Ken Livingstone

by Jonathan Roberts

Dear Ken,

I write as a Labour party and trade union member.  I have spent many evenings in dusty, cold community centres with left of centre colleagues arguing over the minutes of last month’s branch meetings.  I have walked more miles than I care to remember on the Labour doorstep.  I have stuffed so many envelopes that I feel as though I’ve single-handedly kept my postman in employment.

I do it because I believe Labour values can help people.  But I am not, now, doing any of these things for you.

Your supporters will say I’m disloyal to the Labour Party, but don’t seem to mind you campaigning against our candidate in Tower Hamlets.

Your supporters cheered you when you called tax avoiders “rich bastards”, but they don’t seem to mind the £50,000 you have allegedly avoided yourself.

Your supporters criticise Boris Johnson as a “part time Mayor” for churning out a weekly article for the Telegraph, but they don’t seem to mind that you were an MP and a writer for the Independent during substantial parts of your own Mayoral tenure.

Your supporters sing about how you speak the truth, but don’t seem to mind how independent fact-checking organisations regularly describe your claims as “fiction”.

Your supporters were delighted when you announced you would reintroduce the EMA for London, giving hope to thousands of kids, but they don’t seem to mind that the Mayor has no power to reintroduce EMA at all.  Nor do they seem to mind you making a promise you knew full well you would be unlikely to deliver on.

But do you know what Ken?  I mind.  I do.  Your relentless cynicism and negativity is matched only by your hypocrisy.  And I mind all three.

It bothers me that people think you are the last bastion of Labourness.  It bothers me that you think you are the last bastion of Labourness.  It bothers me that because I am a proud member of this party, I am expected to give up countless hours of my life to fight through the rain and cold to campaign for a man who has made so many anti-west comments that Iranian state television gave him his own TV show.

Some in our society are untouchable as a result of their past contributions.  I willingly forgive Sir Paul McCartney’s dismal modern-day efforts because in his day he was a genius.  Some afford you that same forgiveness because of your hugely positive past contributions in fighting fascism and homophobia.  But you are not untouchable Ken.  You are a politician seeking election, and the rules still apply to you.

London is one of the greatest cities in the world.  And maybe I’m still too young and optimistic, or maybe I’ve just watched too much West Wing, but I want to be inspired.  I want to believe.  I want to walk into that voting booth and know “this guy is the real deal”.   I don’t feel that with you.  On May 3rd I will get on a tube and go to the office.  I’ll put in a decent day’s work and then go home in the evening.  Whatever I do, I won’t be stopping off to vote.  I won’t support any other candidate because they do not match my values.  But I won’t be supporting you because yours don’t match them either.   I love Labour, but more importantly I love London and my country.  I do not think you are good for either.

Yours sincerely,

Jonathan Roberts

Jonathan Roberts was Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Thirsk and Malton at the last election

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105 Responses to “An open letter to Ken Livingstone”

  1. ChrisM says:

    “Mike Mason says:
    March 9, 2012 at 6:49 pm
    Ken stood against Labour (Mayor), campaigned against Labour (Tower Hamlets), spoke against Labour (most of the Blair years).

    Remind me again why he’s our candidate?”

    Won the selection, I think. As did Rahman.

    Nuisance, eh?

    Scott Tracy:

    “The Jewish lobby in the UK is nothing like as rich and influential in the UK ”

    It’s not the “Jewish lobby”, it’s the “Israel lobby”- though I suspect you know that really. And Livingstone has always been opposed to that. But you make it sound like there’s something cynical about that.

    Peter Oborne, no lefty he, who investigated the lobby for Dispatches, reckoned they were the best connected of all lobby groups. Did Atlantic Bridge pass you by?

  2. ChrisM says:

    “Dan says:
    March 9, 2012 at 7:26 am
    As a London labour party member, of over 25 years, I shall vote for my local labour assembly members. I shall abstain on the mayoral ballot. Livingstone’s support for the independent, non labour candidate in tower hamlets”

    No space for you to mention this independent won the selection ballot?

    Rahman got plenty of Labour votes in the mayoral election, and plenty of Labour councillors are working with him now because there’s a job to do. And you’re considering not supporting someone who supported Rahman. Really?!

  3. Indigo says:

    I wish I’d sent something like this to Blair in 2005, so he’d have known.

  4. Alan Williams says:

    As an ordinary non-aligned voter (not a member of the Labour Party) I find this article and the responses very depressing. The number of people saying they will vote against Ken as Mayor but for Labour assembly candidates has persuaded me to break the other way. Ken has my vote but this time I will not be voting for his party in the assembly election. If so many of his party’s supporters won’t support him then why should I support them? Ken stands up for London but judging by this letter I don’t believe the rest of the Labour Party would.

  5. Jmoo says:

    I suspect a number of Blairites do not want Ken to win. They can blame his failure on Ed Miliband, and call for more right-wing thinking in the leadership.

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