He never stops surprising us, does he? Today, Ken Livingstone joined a very select company – the Taliban and the leader of Hamas – in condemning the killing of Osama bin Laden. He denounced President Obama’s role in the operation as the act of a “gangster” which made the President “look like some sort of mobster.” Even his supporters are aghast, incredulous, clutching their heads in horror. Shamik Das, editor of the Left Foot Forward website, calls it “madness.”
In one sense, of course, Ken is right. Bin Laden probably should have been arrested and tried – though who can doubt that the outcome would have been exactly the same? And would it, in fact, have been better for the security of the West? Mightn’t the deliberate, drawn-out nature of a trial and execution have increased the risk of making bin Laden a martyr?
Ken lost the last election partly because he pandered to Islamic extremists and spent too much of his time talking about foreign policy instead of bus priority schemes. He is now, at least theoretically, fighting another election. How many of the people whose votes he needs hold a candle for Osama bin Laden?
Ah, that’s the beauty of Ken, some people will say – a man of sterling principle unafraid to express a view merely because it’s unpopular. But the mayor has no influence over US counterterrorism policy, so his intervention served no purpose. And with the hopes of your party resting on you, this wasn’t an act of principle – it was an act of pure self-indulgence which suggests, yet again, that Ken is simply not serious about winning this election. It’s not the first, either (remember Lutfur Rahman?) Not content with all his existing skeletons, Ken is giving his grateful opponents entire new self-storage warehouses full of the things.
That is why so many Labour people like Shamik Das are tearing at their hair.