Ken Livingstone loses a few thousand more votes

One of the ways in which Ken Livingstone gives us all so many hours of family entertainment is his endless attempts to blame Boris Johnson for absolutely everything – from global warming, to the death of Ian Tomlinson at the G20 protests, to (doubtless soon) the demise of Shergar.

So I couldn’t have been more thrilled to read Ken’s piece in today’s Standard, blaming last week’s student riots on – you guessed it – the mop-headed Mayor Of Evil. Did I miss something on Thursday? Was it a group led by Boris who broke away from the route agreed with the police? Was it Boris who came along to the march armed with fireworks, snooker balls and clearly intent on a ruck? Was it Boris who issued that group of “peaceful students” with identical green hard-hats and metal poles for hitting the police?

No, apparently the Mayor’s crime was not to “have pressed the different legitimate protest organisations that there should have been one, unified demonstration… to help give a clear framework to policing to help avoid a risky fracturing of the protests.”

I think this tortured syntax is Ken’s tacit admission that the organisers of Thursday’s demo fell down badly on the job, not stewarding the march properly and losing control of their troops. That can hardly be blamed on Boris, though, can it?

My running-dog thesis is that both the major events of the past week – the arrest of Wikileaks’ Julian Assange on rape allegations, and the student ruck in Parliament Square – were specially arranged by some sort of Tory deity to confuse the Left and make it look stupid.

What else are we to make of the defence of Mr Assange by feminist campaigners against rape? And what else are we to make of the quite hopeless argument that the students were only violent because the police were nasty to them?

At the first big London student demo, the Met in fact played it very softly-softly – and was rewarded with having Tory HQ smashed up. Last week, the kettling did not start until after the students started throwing things. I’ve no doubt innocent people got caught up in it – and some police behaved disgracefully. Indeed, a friend of mine, an entirely peaceful and inoffensive journalist, was beaten up by the Met.

But the fact is that huge numbers of students, not just a small minority, broke away from the route they’d agreed and went into Parliament Square. Very large numbers of those students then attempted to break through barricades around the Palace of Westminster. Faced with a mob attacking them, what were the cops supposed to do? Let them smash Parliament as well as the Treasury and the Supreme Court? Let them paint graffiti on the Commons’ green benches as well as on the Parliament Square statues?

Last Thursday, the students didn’t just lose the vote in the Commons. They lost the sympathy of a lot of middle-of-the-road people – and most importantly, they lost control of the agenda. We should be talking about the injustice of some of the cuts, and the hopeless mess the Lib Dems found themselves in. Instead, we’re talking about the violence of the students.

Ken is still not behaving like he has an election to win; his piece will no doubt delight lots of people who were already going to vote for him, but I fear it will do little for his broader appeal. His weighing in is the final sign that the cause is a lost one.

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