A reader alerts me to a fascinating moment on the BBC’s Daily Politics show earlier this week. At the start of the programme, Ken Livingstone quite rightly condemned the lies told by supporters of the disbarred former minister, Phil Woolas, about his opponent. But when the questioning later turned to the extremist-backed Lutfur Rahman, someone whose supporters told far worse lies than Woolas? Well, that was rather different.
This was also the first time, I think, that Ken has been put directly on the spot about his campaigning for Lutfur – and against Labour. Watch how easily Andrew Neil bats away his feeble defence: a properly-briefed interviewer is a marvellous thing. Ken also has his usual go at me – it’s amazing how large I seem to loom in the poor man’s life, but always good to know he keeps up with this blog…
The Lutfur section starts 13 minutes and 35 seconds in to the programme, but a full transcript is below.
“Andrew Neil: Why should Labour people go out and campaign for you when you campaigned for Labour’s opponent in the Tower Hamlets mayoral election?
Ken: No, no, I made it quite clear, I called for a vote for the Labour candidate. But this is one of these Alternative Vote things. What I said was, you must use your second vote for the person that the local Labour people selected.
Neil (laughing): You said the Labour candidate wasn’t credible or competent. That’s hardly campaigning for him! You said people should vote for a candidate that isn’t credible or competent?
Ken: That was the problem. And that’s why Labour got a quarter of the vote, and got a pasting. And I think Labour will learn a lot from that. You can’t impose people.
Neil: You did, really, campaign and wanted to see this Lutfur Rahman winning, and he wasn’t the Labour candidate, didn’t you?
Ken: He’d been selected by local people, I think the NEC was wrong to remove him. It’s had real shades of me ten years ago.
Neil: But he loved it. He said, I’m grateful to him for coming here to support justice, I’m very happy to have his support.
Ken: I know.
Neil: Against the Labour candidate!
Ken: I would have been quite happy to go down with the local Labour candidate, but he didn’t want me around, because he’s been one of my opponents for a long time.
Neil: You were attacking Phil Woolas, though, for smears and so on. But here are you, backing a man who distributed 90,000 copies of a Bangladeshi freesheet which carried smears [on] the Labour candidate, the man you’re supposed to be supporting, calling him “the wife-beating candidate” and a racist!
Ken (smiling): It’s very dirty politics down in Tower Hamlets. No-one denies that.
Neil: Much worse than anything Phil Woolas said. And you’re backing this guy!
Ken: I mean, I don’t believe Lutfur Rahman put that [out]. A lot of dirty stuff was circulated, always has been, and one of the reasons I wanted a directly-elected mayor in Tower Hamlets is so you move away from that very sectional politics to someone who has to appeal very widely. And Lutfur Rahman’s been subject to a long smear campaign by Andrew Gilligan. Well, that immediately suggests that he can’t be all bad.”
The fact that Lutfur is opposed by me appears to have become the main argument used by his supporters – see also here and, even more comically, here. Given the actual charge-sheet against Lutfur, I think you’ll need to do better than that, lads.