Posts Tagged ‘Ken Livingstone’

Labour and anti-Semitism: can’t get the stink off

05/04/2017, 10:57:15 PM

by Rob Marchant

“Can’t get the stink off/He’s been hanging round for days”, wrote Thom Yorke in 1993. “You do it to yourself, you do/And that’s what really hurts”. Lines that could have been written for Labour’s troubled, Stockholm-syndrome relationship with one man. A man who is still hanging round a party which somehow cannot seem to shake him off, either.

Last Tuesday, Ken Livingstone was, essentially, let off. A man who for years has ridden perilously close to anti-Semitism in his behaviour – we shouldn’t forget the “concentration camp guard” incident with a Jewish journalist in 2005 – finally crossed the line a year ago when he decided to argue that Hitler was a Zionist.

It is difficult to overstate how offensive both remarks was to Jews.

First, the obvious: mentioning Hitler in this context immediately spells “Holocaust” in the minds of most Jews.

Second, because the term “Zionist” has lately become a term of abuse on the left and code for “Jew”, rather than its literal meaning of someone who believes in Israel’s right to exist (hardly a high bar for most people – if you don’t believe it has a right to exist, you must believe it should be destroyed and, presumably, all its inhabitants either killed or deported).

Third, because it is grossly insulting to pretend that Israel, for all its many faults, is directly comparable to a regime which systematically massacred a whole people – themselves – on grounds of their race.

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In just one year, Jeremy Corbyn has alienated Britain’s Jews

14/09/2016, 10:57:24 PM

by Rob Marchant

This week has marked the first anniversary of Jeremy Corbyn’s arrival as Labour leader. The week has been full of the now-customary gaffes and blunders, yes. But a more disturbing revelation was that about the obsession with “Zionism” at the heart of the Corbyn “kitchen cabinet”.

If one were to try and characterise the notable achievements of the Corbyn leadership in its first year – as the often-hilarious results of the #1yearofJeremy hashtag on Twitter showed, these were not always positive – perhaps the most disturbing is the almost complete alienation of the British Jewish community.

From the comments of Ken Livingstone about Hitler, to the suspension of 18 party members over anti-Semitism and the fiasco which was the party’s own report into the matter, Corbyn has shown, at best, a terrible tin ear for the subject, the effects of which may now tarnish the image of his party for years.

And so it was that, this week, we found Corbyn’s communications chief Seumas Milne accused of removing the Hebrew from the leader’s Passover message, because it sounded “too Zionist”. This accusation was made both by Joshua Simons, a former advisor to the leader and also Dave Rich of the CST, an organisation created to help British Jews fight anti-Semitism. Although only Rich actually named Milne, he did so not on a specialist blog, but in the New York Times.

This is the level of obsession that the leader’s office has over matters which are anathema to ordinary people.

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Corbyn and Livingstone cannot now both survive within the Labour party

03/05/2016, 07:03:57 PM

by Rob Marchant

Political historians will one day chronicle last week. In their texts, Thursday will surely turn out to have been a watershed day for Labour. It was the day that the party could no longer ignore the fact that some of its senior people not only tolerate anti-Semites in their ranks, but can even slide into making similarly ignorant statements themselves. That it truly had a problem.

Jeremy Corbyn, though apparently unfazed by associating with Holocaust deniers such as Paul Eisen and extremist preachers such as Raed Salah (check out his “hilarious” swastika joke here), is not thought by most commentators to be remotely anti-Semitic. But his willingness to embrace all-comers in the name of “dialogue” between communities, especially on the question of Palestine, has made him used to mentally blocking out the offensive things that others may say about Jews, to the point where he appears not even to see the problem.

For example, when hosting a talk show on Iran’s notorious propaganda channel Press TV (whose UK broadcasting licence was revoked by the present government): witness here how he pulls up a caller over US involvement in Palestine, but responds merely with the answer “okay” when the caller calls Israel a “disease”. Nice.

But he – or his office, at least – took an enormous step yesterday in suspending one of his party’s most famous figures and one of his own strongest supporters, Ken Livingstone.

While the reasons for Livingstone’s suspension seem fairly straightforward, Corbyn as leader has been extremely slow to act on the issue of anti-Semitism in general. Only the day before, he had been content with Naz Shah’s “fulsome apology”; until later that same day, when the media clamour became too much and she was suspended in a humiliating U-turn.

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Ed Miliband knew Livingstone was an anti-Semitic conspiracy nutter FOUR YEARS ago but STILL backed him for London Mayor

01/05/2016, 09:21:31 AM

by Atul Hatwal

Revelations on Ken Livingstone’s anti-Semitic views might have led the news in recent days, but Ed Miliband was fully aware of them in 2012.

Despite this, he still gave Livingstone his full backing at the last London Mayoral election.

The evidence that Labour’s leadership understood the detail of Livingstone’s opinions came yesterday in two devastating tweets from Miliband’s top spinner and consigliere, Tom Baldwin.

The purpose behind Tom Baldwin’s tweets was to highlight the anti-racist bona fides of his old boss but inadvertently he made the classic PR’s mistake: to confuse presentation and substance.

Before the 2012 Mayoral election, when Ed Miliband was on the stump for Livingstone, he knew exactly what Livingstone thought about Hitler, Zionism and the Jewish people.

He knew enough to force Livingstone to excise the relevant passages from his memoirs but did not feel sufficiently strongly to take action against the candidate for the substance of his anti-Semitic views.

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Will Corbyn show Danczuk mercy?

01/01/2016, 01:18:39 PM

There has been a phoney war going on in the Labour party for a few months now.

Jeremy Corbyn repeatedly stresses that he has no hidden agenda when it comes to the deselection of MPs on the right of the party.

To put it bluntly, no-one on the right of the party believes him for a minute.

Leopards do not change their spots, goes the theory, and the hard left is as obsessed about sectarianism and party control as it ever was.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell attended a meeting of the Momentum group last month where the deselection of Chuka Umunna was openly discussed.

Meanwhile, the clumsy briefing about a New Year shadow cabinet reshuffle, with the demotion or sacking of Corbyn’s critics, notably the widely-liked and respected Hilary Benn, has done little to assuage centrists that the leadership isn’t coming after them.

An act of magnanimity towards Danczuk, one of his most vocal foes, would be a visible manifestation that Corbyn actually means what he says about tolerating differences of opinion.

Needless to say, though, some leadership acolytes can’t disguise their jubilation at Danczuk’s predicament. Enter Ken Livingstone:

“I just find it so bizarre because he [Danczuk] put himself at the centre of the investigation into sex abuse of young girls and so on in his area, to have fallen into this, I find it hard to believe. I can’t say too much because I’m on Labour’s NEC and might have to take the final decision about whether he’s allowed to resume his party membership or whether we expel him.

“I don’t see how you can be sexually attracted to somebody that young, there’s something really disturbing [about it].”

Is he acting as an outrider for Corbyn? If so, the leadership should be careful about prurience being the reason for sacking one of their MPs.

Having threatened to stand against Corbyn as a stalking horse in the event of poor elections results in May’s Scottish, Welsh, London and local elections, Danczuk now finds himself at the mercy of his leader.

The smart move by Corbyn would be to admonish him for his recklessness and quietly drop the suspension and readmit him. He has broken no law and if sending a few racy tweets to a fellow consenting adult is now a capital offence in Labour politics, there will be plenty more MPs following Danczuk out of the exit door.

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It’s time for Ken to call it a day

02/12/2015, 04:41:24 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Ken Livingstone used to be that rarest of things on the left of Labour politics: a popular populist.

The left is full of unpopular would-be populists, who, while capable of galvanising a following of the liker-minded, cannot translate that appeal into actual votes at election time. Even Tony Benn was hopeless at convincing actual voters, (famously losing his own seat in 1983’s electoral calamity).

Other left-wing firebrands like Nye Bevan, recognised the limits of protest and put away such childish things, going on to make their peace with high office. The NHS is his abiding epitaph for so doing. (Benn’s ministerial career left us with Concorde).

So Ken has been afforded incredible latitude by successive Labour leaders. Even after he quit the party to stand as London Mayor in 2000 (following, admittedly, some of the most cack-handed fixing of the New Labour years) Tony Blair was still more than willing to bend party rules to readmit him early and allow him to run for re-election in 2004 wearing Labour’s colours. He was a winner, pure and simple.

Blair, ever the pragmatist, recognised that Ken was a round peg in a round hole when it came to London. He was the perfect fit for a role that was two-parts cheerleader to one-part executive leader.  So Ken could safely dial-up his rhetoric, implement his signature policy on congestion charging and campaign for the Olympics. It was all low-risk, consequence-free stuff.

But the electorate’s patience eventually wanes and in 2008 he was well-beaten by Boris Johnson. Ed Miliband, in a characteristic misjudgement, then gave him another go at fluffing it in 2012, which he duly did.

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The renaissance of the Livingstone tendency

30/11/2015, 09:25:22 AM

by Jonathan Todd

“There are people within the PLP who have never accepted the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn,” claimed Clive Lewis on Today on Saturday morning, in the context of a debate on Syria. This hints at the charge that Diane Abbott has previously made: Labour MPs want to bomb Syria to harm Corbyn. It takes a particular cynicism to suggest that MPs would put political advantage before matters of life and death.

It is precisely because the decision to go to war is so consequential that elected representatives cannot be bound by mere partisan calculation. MPs need to be able to look constituents in the eye and tell them that they acted as they thought necessary to keep them safe. They cannot – and, pace Abbott, do not – let how they feel about a party leader, or a whip, stand between them and doing so.

Ministers similarly need to be able to look people in the eye. They must be prepared to defend military intervention undertaken or not undertaken by the governments of which they are a part. The shared position of ministers forms the line of the party in government and all parties that wish to be taken seriously as parties of government require such common positions.

If ministers or shadow ministers cannot support these positions, they should resign from the frontbench. If backbench MPs cannot support whips consistent with these positions, they should not so vote. Whether the grandest prime ministers or the most humble backbenchers, all act in accord with their interpretation of the national interest.

We might – though it strains practical limits – live in a direct democracy, where military decisions are determined by popular referendum. We might – though it is also impractical in a world of classified military intelligence and rapidly emerging security threats – have a have a parliament of delegates, who vote as mandated by local electors or party members. Neither, however, are this country.

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Lutfur Rahman: now let’s see Labour’s ways of working change

24/04/2015, 12:33:31 PM

by Rob Marchant

It is surely hard for any Labour member – okay, Ken Livingstone excepted – to shed a tear for former Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman.

The man who was yesterday unceremoniously turfed out of office, after an unequivocal judgement against him in an electoral court, has become the subject of arguably the worst scandal in local government since Westminster council leader Dame Shirley Porter’s conviction for gerrymandering two decades ago. Criminal charges may yet be brought.

But as we look at it, we have to ask ourselves: what have we learned? It would be good to think that the party leadership is right now taking a few moments to reflect, thinking “how can we make sure this never happens again? How did we ever get here?”

It seems, sadly, that the reaction seems more likely to be “phew – good job he left the party before all this”.

But although Rahman created his own vehicle, the “Tower Hamlets First” party, he was a clear product of the Labour Party as it was in the 2000s (let’s not forget, he was Labour leader of the council for two years before he was an independent mayor). A monster we created. We cannot just congratulate ourselves that we – partially, at least – dodged the bullet.

Think about it. Logically, we can draw three possible conclusions.

One: that he was a one-off. That his rise and fall is a product of his particular personality and not symptomatic of a wider problem in the way Labour deals with ethnic and religious communities. Looking at the problems Labour has had in twelve other constituencies where electoral tampering has also been alleged, previously documented by Labour Uncut, this seems unlikely.

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Labour must discipline Livingstone

19/11/2014, 10:44:03 AM

by Rob Marchant

Last week, a member of the party’s governing body, the NEC, encouraged a crowd of people to go round to the homes of public servants (£) and “peacefully” demonstrate outside.

Presumably as Unite “peacefully” demonstrated at the homes of Grangemouth oil refinery managers, during last summer’s botched industrial dispute. It is a technique latterly championed by the union, known as “leveraging” (in fact, so excited is it by its novel idea that the union now has created a merged Organising and Leverage Department, to help promote it further).

The reality: when someone’s child dare not go outside to play, or has to ask its parents who the angry crowd of people shouting outside their garden gate are, or it is an unacceptable crossing of the line between legitimate and non-legitimate targets.

It is, needless to say, intimidation, by any other name. It is bullying.

The point is not the unpleasant practice itself: the point is that a member of the party’s NEC should be openly inciting this kind of behaviour. Morally, it would be equally bad if the victims were private sector managers, who are entitled to their privacy like anyone else; but this was worse: it was politically stupid as well.

It was against, let us not forget, public servants doing their duty; the kind of people, in fact, one might traditionally expect to support the Labour Party.

We might also note that the demonstration was in support of a political independent, currently undergoing numerous separate investigations, including by the police. A politician whom this NEC member has repeatedly supported, in opposition to the ranks of his own party’s councillors, including during an election: a clear suspension offence in the party rule-book.

Or his disingenuous backing of the Mayor of Tower Hamlets’ wearily predictable cries of “Islamophobia”, having being investigated himself for improper allocation of public funds and his election still being investigated for alleged electoral fraud.

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Enough is enough. Labour should kick out Ken Livingstone

08/05/2014, 03:44:44 PM

by David Talbot

In January 2004 a controversial member of the Labour family was readmitted to the fold. Ken Livingstone, the hitherto independent Mayor of London, had submitted his application before Labour’s NEC in order to run as the official Labour candidate in the forthcoming second London-wide ballot.

Livingstone had been expelled from party membership for five years in 2000 when, having been blocked by the party’s hierarchy from running as its official candidate for Mayor, he stood as an independent. Labour’s gerrymandering of the selection procedure, coupled with its heavy-handedness in throwing out the longstanding MP, merely resulted in Livingstone beating Labour’s official candidate into a humiliating fourth place.

Upon his return to the Labour column a jubilant Livingstone described it all as an unfortunate misunderstanding and of a marriage that had temporarily broken down. It is near long-forgotten that this fiercely independent firebrand lobbied extensively for his readmission to the party. But since then Livingstone has abused this “marriage of convenience” with the Labour party to the point where many right-minded Labourites can no longer willingly tolerant his membership of their party.

He has taken all he could from the relationship, and given scant in return. The charge sheet of abuse, varying in seriousness, is so extensive and so oft-repeated it is barely worth the bandwidth to detail further; campaigning against an official Labour candidate in 2010, admitting that he never voted Labour under Tony Blair’s leadership, whilst throwing in the customary charge that he should be tried for war crimes; his tax avoidance, his penchant for the mullahs of Tehran, telling the Reuben brothers to go “back where they came from”, likening a journalist to a concentration camp guard – even after he knew he was Jewish, his distaste for the Jewish community in general, and his patronage of Shaykh Yusuf Al Qaradaw, who denies the Holocaust, promotes female genital mutilation, and urges the throwing of homosexuals from rooftops as a punishment for their sin.

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