23 January 2008

"The Court Of Ken"

Martin Bright clearly has to pay the mortgage/rent like everyone else, so when someone at Channel 4 offered him a six month commission to do a hatchet job on Ken Livingstone - he must have...
jumped at the chance to raise his profile (and wages). To be fair to Martin, I think he is right to highlight the problems of having directly elected Mayors - too much power in the hands of one person is always bad (and ironically this is something that Livingstone fought against when it was first suggested).

However if you are going to have that power in anyone's hands, Londoners are right to choose Ken Livingstone - one of the most honest politicians we have, if not THE most honest (Ken is clearly the honest anti-establishment and plain talking candidate against a reactionary, racist, homophobic, establishment and waffly Boris who has no policies for London, well none he dare mention anyway). This programme should strengthen voters resolve to choose Ken over Boris. On the one hand the Tories are saying it is joke position that doesn't matter (therefore Boris would be a laugh) whereas on the other Ken haters are saying the Mayor has too much power and an £11bn budget.

The Tories must be pretty disappointed that after 6 months, all Martin Bright could find was a £600 expenses bill (when Tories on the GLA spend over £10k on taxis!), that some of Ken's employees are socialists (shock horror!) and that 'possibly' less than 1% of the £500m LDA budget 'may' have been lost to some small businesses going bust in unexplained circumstances. To call for Ken's head for this is like wanting to sack the managing director of a company because a sales assistant nicked a few hundred out the till. As for the accusations about Ken sipping his way through a whisky during QT, I think this is so pathetic and pedantic it will backfire and encourage sympathy for Ken. It is also laughable to make a point of Ken's '17' overseas trips - that is 2 a year - is that so bad when he is promoting London to some of the biggest markets on the planet? And yes, those opposing AL Qaradawi's visit are being Islamaphobic - Ken has made clear he finds Al Qaradawi's views repugnant but that is no reason not to talk to someone who is seen as a moderate in world Islam (amazing that this is so, but there you go!). Most people would find the Pope's views on homosexuals and contraception offensive but would riot in the street if he was banned from official receptions. Unfortunately we cannot ignore these religious leaders (much as we find them ignorant and offensive). If Al Qaradawi was from any other religion, no-one would bat an eyelid at this visit (and Ken has entertained other religious leaders) so it is obviously prejudice against Islam. As for this guff from the Tories about caring about a poor country like Venezuala subsidising rich Londoners - this is unbelievable! For this to have any credibility - have the Tories ever cared about corporations and western governments raping the third world so directors can have billion pound profits? At least Ken gives the money to the poor in London!

As Ken as stated, he would have no problem with this programme if the same level of scrutiny and airtime was allotted to rubbishing the other candidates in the election. Without that being the case it is clearly a breach of Channel 4's impartiality code. Martin Bright, the fascist Evening (Boris) Standard (and others like Nick Cohen and HurryUpHarry who are guilty about their support for the war) are clearly trying their hardest to help get Boris elected. I suppose even lefty journalists sometimes have their price. It is pretty clear the Tory establishment are desperate to get rid of Ken. My only worry is that Labour right-wing idiots like Luke Akehurst are trying to defend Ken. To pretend that Frank Dobson was in anyway suitable to be Mayor instead of Ken is a joke. Thankfully Luke has about 2% support on this.

No, what is really sad about Martin Bright is his overlooking of the following - as Hallam77 comments;
"Unlike this example of gutter press ‘scrutiny’ from Martin Bright, a serious examination of Livingstone’s record would look at the policies he has introduced and their effectiveness.

In eight years, Livingstone has introduced a range of polices that both chime with the inclusive, progressive majority in London and have made the capital a more successful city.

Some of Ken’s policies that have been delivered are below. From the lack of attention on them in the article it appears Bright thinks these are not important. I imagine New Stateman readers think differently.

London’s bus service transformed with massive expansion of the bus service resulting in a ridership increase of 2 million passengers a day.

Free travel on buses and trams for under-18s in full-time education.

The Freedom Pass that provides free transport for older and disabled Londoners has been defended from Tory attacks that it is a ‘stealth tax’

The biggest public transport investment programme since the Second World War.

Cycling levels up by 83 per cent over past five years and investment in cycling increased five-fold.

Crime in London is falling. Over the last five years crimes in London fell by 159,000 to 922,000 — the elimination of one in six crimes.

Police numbers increased from 25,400 when the Greater London Authority was established to 31,000 this year — an increase of 22 per cent.

Racial and religiously motivated incidents in the capital have declined by more than fifty per cent since 2000.

Working with other agencies domestic violence murders have been cut by more than 50 per cent.

An increased supply of affordable homes following the policy target that 50 per cent of all new homes in the capital should be affordable.

Winning the Olympic and Paralympic Games

London is the only major city in the world to achieve a shift from private car journeys to public transport.

London is now a world leader in the battle to prevent catastrophic climate change — established the C40 international coalition of major cities against climate change.

Establishing the London Living Wage, set at £7.20 an hour for 2007, to take account of the cost of living in London .

Funding 10,000 affordable and flexible childcare places for 2005–2008.

Programme of retro-fitting public buildings to reduce their carbon emissions.

Development of the London Climate Change Action Plan to achieve a carbon emission reduction of 60 per cent in twenty years.

London-wide Low Emission Zone starts operation from February 2008 to improve air quality.

Opposing the expansion of Heathrow airport.

Supporting the campaign against the commissioning of new nuclear power stations.

Hosting Europe ’s largest annual anti-racist festival, backing an annual memorial day for transatlantic slavery and commemorating Holocaust memorial day.

The Liberty festival has been built into the biggest disability arts event in Europe .

Working with Stonewall commissioned a campaign against homophobic bullying in schools.

Working with faith communities; promoting the right of freedom of religion, opposing religious discrimination and hatred and challenging Islamophobia in the media.

Statue of Nelson Mandela placed on Parliament Square .

Consistent opposition to the war in Iraq including speaking at anti-war marches both before and after the war began.

Working with CND and others over such issues as nuclear weapons, including supporting the campaign against the replacement of Britain ’s Trident nuclear weapon system."

These are the things that should matter in who Londoners choose not this silly smears from the right wing media. If Boris wins over Ken, then those majority of voters who crow about opposing the war in Iraq and moan that politicians are not straight talking and honest would prove that right wing lies matter more and that New Labour was right to cowtow to the Murdoch press and George Bush if it wanted to be elected. I hope Ken and honest politics wins.


  1. Just to add, that front bench Tory spokesman (Chris Grayling) only the other day argued against gay adoption and a number of Tories defend dictators like Musharraf. These are the sort of people we will have if we reject decent hard working politicians like Ken. Chavez, whatever you think of him, was democratically elected - this was verified by international observers - which is more than can be said about the election of George Bush.

  2. I'm not a "right-wing idiot". I'm an opportunistic idiot.

  3. A very good article. Martin Bright also wrote in the Evening Standard that ‘I feel it is my duty to warn the London electorate that a vote for Livingstone is a vote for a bully and a coward who is not worthy to lead this great city of ours’ and; ‘The voters of London should kick Ken out when they go to the polls in May.’
    Given that Bright is the political editor of the New Statesman (and a few months back they had a front cover calling Chavez a tyrant) I've decided to cancel my subscription to the New Statesman.

  4. Luke: Ken is still more popular than Labour, which is actually a dead weight round his neck. So your 'we told you so' argument preferring Dobson to Ken is ridiculous. I have added a link to your article and sorry for the direct insult, but your love for Hazel Blears is beyond the pale for me!

  5. Stiles: Thanks, I will frame your comments - it is not often someone compliments an article by me. I stopped getting the NS about a year ago, but still read it in borders.