After the expulsion last night of eleven people from the Labour Party for backing the fundamentalist sympathiser, Lutfur Rahman, over their party’s own candidate for Tower Hamlets mayor, the price of disloyalty has become clear. A few hours before, however, another Labour member performed an act of blatant disloyalty to the party which probably won’t be punished.
In this article for the Left Futures website, Ken Livingstone, the Labour candidate for mayor of London, rather conspicuously fails to ask people to vote for the Labour candidate in Tower Hamlets, Helal Abbas. Indeed, he seems to be giving Labour voters permission not to support him. “The reality is that the Labour vote is going to be divided between the candidate imposed by the National Executive Committee, Helal Abbas and Lutfur Rahman, the candidate chosen by Tower Hamlets party members,” says Ken.
He says there “must be no wave of expulsions of those who have campaigned for Lutfur Rahman’s candidacy.” Oh dear, Ken – overtaken by events again! His sole voting recommendation is that “all those voting for Helal Abbas or Lutfur Rahman must use their second preference votes for the other.” Sadly – it’s confusing for the elderly, I know – Ken seems to have misunderstood the electoral system which will operate in Tower Hamlets. If, as seems very likely, both Abbas and Lutfur come in the top two, their suppporters’ second-preference votes will not be counted and will make no difference.
Ken, of course, has been an ally of Islamic fundamentalism for far longer than Lutfur Rahman. His embrace of Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a man who has justified rape and suicide bombing, certainly made me, and quite a lot of swing voters, see him in a different light. And the Islamic Forum of Europe – the Muslim supremacists backing Lutfur – played, shall we say, an interesting part in collecting votes during his 2008 mayoral election campaign.
Ken has also directly backed Lutfur’s campaign. Before Lutfur was sacked, he spoke alongside the great man at an event in favour of a directly-elected mayor organised by the same powerful local businessmen who are Lutfur’s other puppetmasters. He has been sending Lutfur staff – at last week’s Labour conference in Manchester, I met a young man who told me he’d been seconded from the Livingstone campaign to Team Rahman.
Ken’s attitude is causing deep concern in the Labour Party. “He expects our support as the Labour candidate, but he won’t give his own support to another Labour candidate,” says one source. Another person told Ted Jeory that Ken had the wrong attitude and added: “People have to realise that you’re either with us or against us in this. I’m not happy about what Ken said.”
Ken may not be as quick on the uptake as he once was, but he should have realised by now that his alliance with racists, homophobes and woman-haters like Qaradawi was perhaps the single most damaging blow to his moral authority and progressive credentials, not to mention his re-election chances. Still, at least he’s consistent – he’s trying his best to lose Labour not just the Tower Hamlets mayoralty, but the London mayoralty too.