Ken Livingstone famously does not do apologies, however offensive his behaviour. But the majesty of the law has finally accomplished what the Standards Board, his party colleagues and a thousand newspaper columnists have failed to achieve. The ex-King Newt has been forced to apologise and pay damages after lying about and libelling his Labour Party colleague, Michael Keith, former leader of Tower Hamlets council.
Earlier this year Livingstone, a long-term ally of Islamic fundamentalism, joined George Galloway’s Respect party and the Islamic supremacist group, the Islamic Forum of Europe, in their campaign for a directly-elected mayor in the east London borough of Tower Hamlets. The issue will be decided by public referendum on the same day as the general election.
In an inflammatory speech at a public meeting for the campaign, Livingstone accused Keith, an opponent of the mayor idea, of spreading Islamophobia and smears and said he did not live in the borough. These allegations are false. After Keith engaged solicitors and threatened legal proceedings, Livingstone has apologised and agreed to pay a sum of money to a charity of Keith’s choice, plus his legal costs. Sources close to the case say Ken will be out of pocket by around £11,000.
Michael Keith told me: “I am very glad that Ken Livingstone has accepted that he cannot libel people and has withdrawn his false allegations. I accept his apology.” Ken put the phone down when I asked him about the case.
Ken has been allowed to get away with lying about his opponents for too long, and it is richly satisfying to see him held to account. I strongly recommend taking legal action against liars, and have myself used the route to successfully shut up one of Ken’s little echoes in the blogosphere.
But there is something bigger at issue here. As the Telegraph and Channel 4’s Dispatches have exposed, the IFE sees the mayoralty as a way of tightening its already substantial influence on the council. We secretly filmed one IFE member, Abu Talha, saying: “The [new] mayor is going to have a lot more control. That’s why we need to get someone, one of our brothers, in there. Which we will do.”
The mayoral referendum is perhaps the most important battle to hold back Islamism on May 6. The commonest tactic of the IFE and its sympathisers is to accuse their opponents of “Islamophobia.” It’s useful, therefore, that in at least one case this technique has been exposed for the smear that it is.