Ken Livingstone has lost my vote, says influential Guardian columnist

In his Guardian column tomorrow, Jonathan Freedland says the following:

Ken Livingstone got my support in 2000, 2004 and 2008. I backed him early on in his late 1990s campaign to become London’s first mayor, defying the control freaks of the New Labour machine…His manifesto promises for 2012 are as appealing as ever. I like his plans to cut fares, slash energy bills and ease the capital’s housing shortage, all of which are superior to the policy black hole offered by Boris Johnson. I should be an automatic vote for Livingstone.

But I’m not. I am among the one in three Labour supporters in London who, according to this week’s YouGov poll, cannot bring themselves to vote for the party’s candidate for mayor. I can no longer do what I and others did in 2008, putting to one side the statements, insults and gestures that had offended me, my fellow Jews and – one hopes – every Londoner who abhors prejudice.

This is a significant moment for three reasons. First, Freedland was actually present at the disastrous March 1 “fence-mending” meeting between Livingstone and Jewish Labour supporters which culminated in several of them (though not him) sending the party leader, Ed Miliband, a private letter (leaked to the Jewish Chronicle) saying that Ken “does not accept Jews as an ethnicity and a people.” Livingstone has “absolutely” denied something else the letter-writers claimed, that he told them did not expect the Jewish community to vote Labour “as votes for the left are inversely proportional to wealth levels, and suggested that as the Jewish community is rich we simply wouldn’t vote for him”.

Freedland bluntly contradicts Ken’s denial, writing:

I can confirm that the former mayor did make precisely that argument, linking Jewish voting habits to economic status, even if he did not baldly utter the words “Jews are rich.”

For the 950th time, Ken is exposed as a liar. Though Freedland deplores Livingstone’s many offensive outbursts against Jews, accuses Livingstone of having used “the language of a pub racist from the 1950s” when he told a pair of Jewish developers to “get back where you came from,” he adds:

The case against Ken Livingstone is not that he is some crude racist. It is rather that, when it comes to this one group of Londoners and their predicaments, their hopes and anxieties, he simply doesn’t care. Consistently warm to some communities – this week he went to Finsbury Park mosque, quoted Muhammad’s final sermon and expressed the hope that as mayor he would educate Londoners in the teachings of Islam – he doesn’t care what hurt he causes Jews. He shows Jews, says one Labour parliamentarian, a “hard heart”.

Secondly, Freedland essentially agrees with something I’ve been writing about this election – that personality trumps policy. Finally he cannot, of course, be accused of being an evil member of the Tory lie machine and may give those on the left permission not to vote for Ken. What he says today throws into even sharper relief Miliband’s decision to back Livingstone so wholeheartedly, including over the Jewish issue. It may be a subtle attack on Miliband, too, about whom Freedland has been sceptical – but maybe I’m reading too much into it.


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