Ken Livingstone the incumbent Mayor of London is up for reelection on May 1, having already served two terms in office, during much of which he has endured a barrage of hate from London’s only evening newspaper the Standard. Despite this, what is surprising about Livingstone is that he has managed to maintain the good will of a large slice of the city’s population, especially the working classes, whatever their ethnicity.
Although Livingstone’s reelection is far from a certainty, the Socialist Workers Party in their divine wisdom is standing one of their members, Linsey German against him in the forthcoming Mayoral election. Thus perhaps the non Labour left should consider what its attitude should be towards Ken, I believe we should thank our lucky stars that the man exists; and understand clearly were he to be defeated it would be a real setbacks for the UK left. Not so much for what he has achieved whilst in office, although this has been considerable, but due to what he represents in the public consciousness. That the Mayor of London, one of the worlds great cities is an unrepentant socialist has been a major boast to our cause. That so few leftists seem to recognize this fact, whilst our opponents are only to well aware of it, hence the Standard/Mail attacks on Livingstone, speaks volumes about the solidarity of the UK left.
Under Livingstone London has become an ethnic melting pot at its best, think back to before he was Mayor and the ethnic tensions that existed. Look at the public face of the city today with that of the past, it is almost a different place. Take the Olympic Games which are to be held in London in 2012, Ken and his team have skillfully used the public and private injection of money for the games infrastructure, so that it will have lasting benefits for the Capitals people. Parts of East London which has always been the forgotten zone of the city, inhabited by the dispossessed of the world and the working classes, is being rejuvenated from the public purse. It is not perfect but it is a dam sight better than what it was and does any leftist believe the Conservatives or Liberal-Democrat’s would have made a better pair of shoes?
Trafalgar Square has truly become a peoples Square since Livingstone came into office and has been used for meetings, protests, concerts and celebrations of all kinds. Whereas in the past the place had the stale smell of British imperialism about it. The congestion charge and the increase in the number of cycle friendly lanes and paths etc have also benefited the city and its people.
Of course Ken is Ken and has always been a semi detached leftists who ploughed his own furrow, no matter how much many of us hoped, he was never going to become a beacon around which a new Party to the left of Labour might emerge. This became clear from his first campaign to become Mayor, but to be fair he never said he would be. Livingstone is a political bureaucrat, he gets things done and to do this he likes a small trusted team around him not the political maze and competing interests that is a modern political party.
On the main political issues of the day Ken Livingstone has been rock solid, his record is as good if not better than most prominent UK leftists, whether it be on the Iraq war and occupation, (he has called for British troops to be withdrawn immediately) Ireland and the British presence, Palestine-Israeli conflict, privatization, racism, women’s rights, trade unions, education, Gay rights etc. On all of these important issues Ken Livingstone has been solidly in the camp of the ‘wretched of the earth.’ It should not be forgotten that at times over the last ten years or so Ken has been the only prominent left political voice to express support for the people who are engaged in these struggles.
The mouth pieces of Capital like the London Evening Standard and the Daily Mail do not hate Ken without reason, but because of his support for the aforementioned struggles and that his very existence as Mayor of London proves that another way is possible. After two terms in office all that these sewer rats can come up with is a salacious email between one of the Mayors advisors and his bell. If anything this shows just how honest the Livingstone administration has been, for if the private detectives who are at the beck and call of these sewer rats had anything worse then they would have published it. I doubt there is a politician within the UK whose period in office has been more trawled in the hunt for dirt than the current Mayor of London.
If any progressive is still having doubts about whether to support Ken, I would just ask them to take a look at the viable alternatives. Brian Paddick for the Lib-Dems is an honorable man, but his whole working life has been spent as a police officer, his heart may be compassionate but his instincts are far from liberal. Do Londoner’s really deserve to be governed by a policeman, I think not as police officers make disastrous if not dangerous politicians.
The Tory candidate Boris Johnson is about as bourgeois as you can be, schooled at Eton College, where he was a Kings Scholar and then on to read Classics at Balliol Oxford. In his spare time whilst at university he was a member of the Bullingdon Club, an exclusive and very expensive student dining society known for its raucous feasts and spiteful jokes at the expense of the ‘plebs’. On leaving Oxford, as is the way with his class he was slotted comfortably into a birth at the Times, after finding himself in a little local difficulty he effortlessly moved across to the Telegraph. (as one does;) Where he wrote leaders and by using the old boys network gradually built himself a lucrative career within the media, before moving into politics as countless toffs have done before him.
Under the bonhomie and smile is a heartless but savvy right wing politician, who believes him and his ilk have a god given right to rule; and David Cameron may will give them an opportunity to do so.* He is a formidable opponent and it is for this reason that any leftist who has doubts about Ken Livingstone should put them behind them for the greater good and support his reelection. For a victory for Johnson would return the Capital to the City, big business and central government, which would be disastrous for the overwhelming majority of its population and especially the working classes.
* I expect Cameron to make him a Cabinet Minister if he becomes Mayor.