One of the greatest peculiarities of Ken Livingstone’s campaign to be re-elected mayor is his determination to strap himself to some fairly non-vote-winning causes. He is backing the Tube strikers (indeed his campaign is based out of their offices), and fighting hard for various Islamic fundamentalists and their puppets. Today, to add to the collection, he also backs the students who have occupied various buildings of the University of London. Here’s a picture of him this morning addressing the occupation of the School of Oriental and African Studies, and here’s his statement a couple of days ago backing the occupation at University College London. Another great signal to the centre ground!
The intention, no doubt, is to build support among interest groups (union members, Muslims, students) who can be relied on to vote for Ken. It’s a classic Livingstone play but has proved a failure wherever it has been tried, by him and by others. The support generated may be deep, but it is also narrow; it can never substitute for broad support among non-activists; and it often alienates that broader support that you need to win.
For us students (of Kenology) the statement is interesting, since it focuses all its fire on the Tories – who were in fact relatively honest about the issue of tuition fees at the election – and none at all on the greatest targets of students’ wrath, the Lib Dems, who of course campaigned on a pledge to scrap fees, then did the exact opposite.
I dare say there is, as always with Ken, some kind of complicated tactical consideration here – perhaps he’s hoping for some Lib Dem second preferences – but it underlines the inadvisability of students looking to him as their champion. He’s interested in his future, not yours.