Vote Ken with no illusions
I've just watched the Martin Bright programme on Ken Livingstone on Channel 4's Dispatches. I didn't think much of it as a piece of journalism - superficial, one-sided and in places - such as criticising Ken for promoting London to the EU, China and India, or for spending money on advertising and PR, just silly. The parading of a disillusioned ex-employee, Lib Dem MP Lynne Featherstone, and Mark Wadsworth (who I believe has an axe to grind) was hardly illuminating.
Most of it was staggeringly unoriginal, and has been rehearsed repeatedly not least here in this blog in the past. I was tempted to scream "I told you so!" at the screen as most of it was arguments those of us in the Dobson campaign tried to get across back in 2000.
I don't disagree with some of the key allegations:
- Ken's key advisers are mainly leading members of what was the International Marxist Group/Socialist Action - a Trot grouping
- His support for Venezuela and Cuba is at best silly, at worst scary
- He probably is encouraging his allies to pursue a vendetta against Trevor Phillips for having the audacity to think about standing against him in 2004
- His views on the Middle East are pretty suspect
- He shouldn't have said what he did to Oliver Finegold
All of these were reasons to vote against Ken being the Labour Candidate for Mayor. But that selection trigger ballot has happened. I was one of a tiny handful of people who voted to trigger him last year - my guess is he got 98% of the vote.
But none of these are valid reasons to vote against him in the election happening in May. For anyone on the left of politics, we don't face a choice between Ken and some imaginary moderate Labour candidate. We face a choice between Ken who, faults and all, is doing a damn good job delivering on his key policy responsibilities of policing, transport and regeneration, and Boris Johnson, a Thatcherite buffoon. A defeat for Ken won't be portrayed as a defeat for Socialist Action or the Labour left, it will be portrayed as a defeat for the Labour Government and Gordon Brown and massively boost David Cameron in the run up to the General Election. That's why - despite working for Dobson in 2000, and neither forgetting nor forgiving even earlier events like the coup against Andrew McIntosh, I will be voting, and actively campaigning for Ken with all the energy I can.
Perhaps the nastiest aspect of the programme were the allegations about alcohol. Apparently Ken sometimes has a scotch before or during public meetings. If this was a disqualification from holding high office then there were not be many MPs left, as I believe some of them do frequent House of Commons bars whilst the House is sitting. Nor would there be any Chancellors of the Exchequer who are actually entitled to a glass of whisky or brandy at the dispatch box whilst delivering the Budget.
All in all, Bright has conducted a mistimed hatchet job that can only help Boris and served no useful purpose. A strange choice of journalistic enterprise for someone allegedly on the left.