Ken Livingstone: what he really thinks about Jews

One of these men has called for Jews to be "killed, down to the very last one"

Labour-supporting Jews in London have written a devastating private letter to the party leader, Ed Miliband, after a group of them including Jewish Labour councillors, Labour members of the Board of Deputies and Labour Friends of Israel met Ken this month to try to build bridges. Previous discussions, they said, had been “acrimonious” and this one doesn’t sound any better.

In the letter, obtained by the Jewish Chronicle, the Labour supporters write: “Many of us had just about managed to vote for [Ken] in 2008. Today, many of us who would otherwise normally vote Labour are finding it harder and harder to consider voting for Ken, despite agreeing with his policies for London.”

Part of their problem, they said, was that

Ken determines Jews as a religious group but does not accept Jews as an ethnicity and a people… [though] black, Irish, women and LGBT groups are afforded the right to determine their own identity, many of us feel that Ken doesn’t afford Jews that right…

At various points in the discussion Ken used the words Zionist, Jewish and Israeli interchangeably as if they meant the same, and did so in a pejorative manner. These words are not interchangeable and to do so is highly offensive, particularly when repeated over and again as was done. For example, when discussing Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi’s extreme views on homosexuality, Ken said “one would expect the same views on homosexuality from extreme Christians, Muslims and Israelis” and using the word “Zionist” as an adjectival negative to criticise much more widely than what can be attributed to the ideology of Zionism…

Ken toward the end of the meeting stated that he 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. When we pointed to research undertaken by the Institute of Jewish Policy Research that demonstrates the Jewish community in the UK has a propensity to vote much more radically than its wealth, and this is attributed to Jewish values and sociology and history and also alluded to Democrats in the USA, Ken begrudgingly accepted this.

The real and more pressing issue is that of the strong perception that Ken is seeking to align himself with the politics of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Iranian regime, whilst at the same time turning a blind eye to Islamist antisemitism, misogynism and homophobia, even when overt and demonization of Zionism and the derogatory use of the word Zionist and use of antisemitic memes.

We are concerned that this is more about infantile far left politics, being seen to take a stance against whatever the anti-establishment or anti-imperialism cause of the moment is. Boiled down, it’s hard to interpret this in any other way than Ken basically having no sympathy for those that he perceives as bourgeois , which is why he isn’t really attempting to appeal to, and perhaps why he is losing progressive as well as Jewish votes.

Ken’s continued defence of al-Qaradawi (pictured) has been condemned even by Val Shawcross, his own running-mate. It is chilling that Livingstone gave no ground even in a private meeting and instead invoked the stereotype of the fat, rich, selfish Jew – a favourite of anti-semites throughout history. This document is testimony to the fact that relations between Ken and one of London’s most important minorities have quite simply broken down.


Boris Johnson takes 8-point lead in latest mayor poll

After more than five weeks without any mayoral voting intention polls, YouGov’s latest, just published, shows Boris regaining a clear lead over Ken Livingstone. On first preferences he is on 49 per cent to Livingstone’s 41, with Brian Paddick on 5 per cent. On the “forced choice” between the top two candidates, intended to simulate the outcome including second preferences, he leads by exactly the same margin, 8 points, 54-46. The poll was taken last week.

As YouGov’s Anthony Wells puts it:

Following a month in which he has faced criticism over his personal tax affairs, there have been significant drops in the public’s perceptions of Ken Livingstone. The proportion of people who think he sticks to what he believes in has dropped to 34% (down 6 points.) The proportion who see him as in touch with ordinary people is down to 32% (down 5 points.)

There has also been a shift in how the public perceive the respective records of the two main candidates. Last month 40% of people thought Ken had achieved more than Boris during his time as mayor with 31% thinking Boris had the better record.

Boris has now closed that gap, with 36% thinking he has achieved more, compared to Ken’s 34%.

More later.

Ken Livingstone: I will make London a beacon of Islam

Here is the full version of a story which appears in the print edition of today’s Daily Telegraph:

Ken Livingstone has promised to turn London into a “beacon” for the words of the Prophet Mohammed in a sermon at one of the capital’s most controversial mosques.

Mr Livingstone, Labour’s candidate for mayor of London, pledged to “educate the mass of Londoners” in Islam, saying:  “That will help to cement our city as a beacon that demonstrates the meaning of the words of the Prophet.” Mr Livingstone described Mohammed’s words in his last sermon as “an agenda for all humanity.”

He praised the Prophet’s last sermon, telling his audience: “I want to spend the next four years making sure that every non-Muslim in London knows and understands [its] words and message.” He also promised to “make your life a bit easier financially.”

Mr Livingstone was speaking at last Friday’s Jummah prayer at the North London Central Mosque, also known as Finsbury Park Mosque, formerly controlled by the terrorist recruiter Abu Hamza.

Hamza was removed in 2003 but the mosque is now controlled by an Islamist organisation, the Muslim Association of Britain, which has been linked to the banned terror group, Hamas. A man who has acted as spokesman for the current leadership, Azzam Tamimi, is on record as supporting suicide bombings. One of the mosque’s current directors, Mohammed Sawalha, is described by the BBC as a former senior figure in Hamas who “is said to have masterminded much of Hamas’s political and military strategy” from his post in London.

In 2009 Mr Sawalha also signed the Istanbul Declaration which calls for attacks against the allies of Israel, which include the UK. The British Government interpreted it as calling for attacks on British troops.

In 2010, the Labour MP Khalid Mahmood, a Muslim moderate, resigned from the mosque’s board of trustees and reported it to the Charity Commission, accusing the mosque of forging his signature on key legal documents.

Mr Livingstone has been dogged by allegations of links to Islamic fundamentalism. In 2010, in the London borough of Tower Hamlets, he campaigned against his own party’s candidate to back a controversial independent politician, Lutfur Rahman, sacked by Labour for his links to a Muslim extremist group, the Islamic Forum of Europe (IFE).

During his mayoralty, Mr Livingstone’s London Development Agency channelled hundreds of thousands of pounds to the East London Mosque in Tower Hamlets, controlled by the IFE, even though senior LDA managers strongly opposed the grant. In return, IFE activists campaigned strongly for him at the 2008 mayoral elections, boasting that they “got out the vote” for Mr Livingstone and achieving dramatic swings to him in their east London heartland.

Mr Livingstone also gave thousands of pounds of public money to the Muslim Welfare House, a charity closely associated with the Finsbury Park Mosque, which signed an open letter backing his re-election campaign in 2008.

In his last sermon, delivered in the valley of Mount Arafat, near Mecca in 632 AD, the Prophet Mohammed attacked discrimination, saying that “a white has no superiority over a black nor a black has any superiority over white, except by piety and good action.” However, he also said that men had a right to ensure their wives “do not make friends with anyone of whom you do not approve.”


Ken Livingstone will need a better defence against HMRC investigation than this

Ken’s tax troubles – unlike his tax bill – continue to grow. As we report today, the legendary progressive was taken to court twice in the 1990s for non-payment of taxes and now faces a new HMRC investigation into his “exotic” (Nick Clegg) current tax arrangements. KenCo has been setting his election expenses against tax, effectively getting the taxpayer to subsidise his campaign. This, not surprisingly, is against the rules.

In a fascinating sign of the panic the story is causing in Camp Ken, their first action when I put it to them yesterday was to leak a “pre-buttal” to Sunny Hundal, the sole blogger still bravely left on the burning deck of Ken’s tax arrangements. Give that man a (posthumous) VC! KenCo claims, through Sunny, that since he hasn’t filed his 2011/12 accounts yet, he can’t be accused of setting disallowable expenses against tax. Let me point out, as gently as I can, that Ken’s official campaign started in September 2010, within the scope of the accounts he has filed. And that Ken has at least three times  in the last week alone (here, here and here) explicitly admitted setting campaign expenses against tax.

Sunny also accuses me of making up a figure of £775,778 for Ken’s total earnings. I live in hope that he will actually look at the accounts at some point.  If he does, he will find a line each year saying that “the turnover shown in the profit and loss account represents amounts invoiced during the period,” ie the year. The £775k figure was produced by adding together these “amounts invoiced.”

Sunny’s also claimed that I’ve been “lifting out-of-context quotes posted by the [tax avoidance campaigner] Richard Murphy on [his] blog” in the story. Richard’s quotes in the story aren’t in fact the same as those he posted, and aren’t out of context – for the simple reason that I didn’t lift them from anywhere; he actually gave them to me over the phone when we spoke on Friday. I’ve also been attacked for citing a figure for tax avoided – a highly conservative £50k – which has been accepted even by Ken himself.

The transparent dishonesty and desperation of these attempts to attack the story will surely have the opposite effect to that which KenCo intends. It is all starting to remind me of the Lee Jasper affair, when instead of dealing with the issue Ken took refuge in denial and smearing the messengers.

Here’s the letter from Matthew Elliott of the TaxPayers’ Alliance that has gone to HMRC:

I write to request that HMRC conduct an investigation into whether Mr Ken Livingstone, through his company Silveta Ltd, has been setting disallowable expenses against tax.

HMRC rules state that to be set against tax, company expenses must be “wholly and exclusively incurred for the purposes of the trade.”

In response to publicity about his channelling his earnings through Silveta, Mr Livingstone has stated that he has employed three people, two of whom remain currently employed.  Mr Livingstone has made clear that he treats these expenditures as allowable expenses. On BBC London’s Vanessa Feltz show on Friday, 16 March, he said:

“I’ve formed a company, and you have company expenses, travel, research and you employ people. And I’ve employed three people at different times over this last four years. And after you’ve had all those expenses, then the money you pay yourself I’ve paid tax on.”

One of the people he employed, he made clear, was an economist to work on his re-election campaign. He said: “Literally you can’t, if you’re running for mayor, off the top of your head come and say I’m going to cut the fares – you need to employ someone to go through their [TfL’s] books. I got a really well-established economist who’d worked in the public and private sectors, who spent a long time ploughing through – imagine the size of the accounts of TfL – who cam back and said, yes you can make a fares cut. It takes time to do that and you need to employ people to do it.”

In an interview on BBC Radio Five Live, Pienaar’s Politics, on Sunday, February 26, Mr Livingstone said: “The other thing is I’ve used that [company money] to pay for people to work on the campaign for mayor.”

In an interview on the Andrew Marr show, BBC One, on Sunday, March 11, Mr Livingstone said: “I employ people. I mean that fare scheme we’ve come up with, it took someone, a talented economist, to sit down and spend a lot of time going over the books. I’ve got people handling the media. I employ at the moment two people.”

Mr Livingstone has declared to the Electoral Commission a donation to the Labour Party of staff time worth just over £19,000. His campaign states that this is for three months’ work of two staff. This implies that the staff were paid a total of £76,000 on a full-year basis.

It is my belief that the employment of an economist to come up with policies for Mr Livingstone’s re-election campaign and the employment of “people handling the media” for the campaign cannot be expenses incurred “wholly and exclusively” for the purposes of Silveta’s trade.

HMRC rules are clear that the purpose of the company is a matter of fact, determined by the revenues it raises and the objects set out in the Articles of Association. Silveta Ltd’s Articles of Association state that the Company’s objects are:

(a)     (i) To carry on business as a general commercial company.

(ii) To carry on any trade or business whatsoever and to do all such things as are incidental or conducive to the carrying on of any trade or business by it.

(iii) To undertake all or any of the following objects.

None of the following objects (b)-(z) specify political campaigning, the promotion of candidates, or anything related to the London Mayoralty or tube fares. Nor, clearly, can a political campaign be defined as a trade or business. [NB: he has since amended object (a) but still without any mention of political campaigning, the promotion of candidates, or anything related to the London Mayoralty or Tube fares.]

Silveta Ltd’s purpose is, as Mr Livingstone has stated, to handle his own personal earnings from “after-dinner speaking, TV stuff and all that” and not to further his re-election campaign. There is no evidence that Silveta Ltd received any revenues from its analysis of City Hall’s books, or the promotion of Mr Livingstone as mayor.

It appears clear to me that the salaries of a media assistant and an economist/policy adviser are not allowable expenses under HMRC rules.

Ken Livingstone: can he count up to five?

With his on-air radio meltdowns, personal corporations and fake battlebuses, Ken is less and less a politician, more and more part of the entertainment industry. But even by his standards, his latest campaign leaflet in south-west London is pure comedy gold. Here it is. Note the exciting “five-point plan for Sutton” that contains… four points.

Arithmetic has never, of course, been Ken’s great strength. How else can we explain his practice of going round London, promising to hand out free money? But my favourite bit of all was the quote from his spokesman.  Blaming a “minor typo,” the PR deadpanned: “Ken has so many policies that will improve residents’ quality of life, we could not fit them all on the leaflet.”

PS: Speaking of poor arithmetic, I enjoyed the valiant attempt by one lone lefty blogger to claim that Ken’s tax avoidance didn’t really save him the £50,000 I claimed but merely… er … £17,000. So that’s perfectly all right, then! There’s been an appropriate lashing of his sums in the comments thread (as someone pointed out, £17k a year over the company’s three years is – goodness me – about £50k.)  Would it also be too mean to point my little critic towards Ken’s LBC interview on Thursday? In it, the great man accepts the £50k figure, saying: “Andrew Gilligan [has been] saying that I could have paid £50,000 more tax. I could. Or I could use it, as I have done, to employ two people.”

Ken Livingstone: even his battle bus is a fake

Fake fare deal, fake bus
Real image (burgled from Wikipedia)

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Boris Johnson’s campaign team should be feeling pretty flattered this week. Hours after they launched their “Better off with Boris” campaign slogan, Ken’s people hastily rushed out a rather cobbled-together-looking campaign slogan of – er – “Better off with Ken.

And today, as Team Boris announced a 32-borough “battle bus” tour, Ken proclaimed that he too would be taking a “Fare Deal Express” of his own to that mysterious Terra Incognita, outer London. He has, to be fair, been taking more notice of the outer boroughs in this campaign. He’s making up for lost time – as a London Assembly answer revealed, in the first two and a half years of his second term as mayor Ken did not make a single official visit to ten London boroughs. Over the same period he managed to squeeze in official visits to Cuba, California, New York, Greece, Russia, Singapore, Italy, Paris and Cannes (twice.)

Alas, Ken clearly doesn’t have an actual bus yet. It is, of course, harder to cobble together one of those at short notice than to knock up a campaign logo on your computer. That hasn’t stopped him publishing what he describes as a “photo of” the Fair Deal Express (see above) this morning. Unfortunately, not-very-close examination reveals that Ken’s skilled web craftsmen have simply taken a pic of a regular London bus from Wikipedia and crudely Photoshopped their logo on the front and sides.  Tell-tale signs, lads, for future reference: the whited-out numberplate and the driver in the hi-viz vest!

This blog has lovingly chronicled the fraudulence of the Fare Deal promise – even if it becomes the first fares promise that Ken has ever kept, it will actually save the “average Londoner” £150 over four years, rather than the £1000 that Ken claims. But when even the battle bus is a fake you know that things are getting serious.

Brian Paddick scores at second mayoral hustings

To the London mayoral business hustings in the City tonight. The suits were always going to be a quiet, well-behaved gig after the massed ranks of walking-stick-wielding pensioners last time – and so it proved. More Punch and Judy politics, please!

Unlike at the elderly hustings, Boris fairly clearly beat Ken this time. Even Livingstone only claimed it as a “score draw.”At one point, he was decrying health’n’safety rules that stopped his children jumping into their local swimming pool. There was too much overcoddling: “I would let people take the rational choice,” he said. “Like an open-platform bus!” interjected Johnson, to much laughter.

Ken sought to be less partisan than usual, at several points agreeing with Johnson. “I follow exactly that line and won’t waste your time talking about it,” he said once. “You should do that more often!” broke in Boris, winning a big laugh.

I still didn’t think Boris was sharp enough, though – as I wrote in the Spectator last week, he needs to hit Ken harder on the fantasy economics behind his plans. No doubt Boris would like to go round London, as Ken has been doing, offering free money to every voter he meets. But there is no money and there are no free lunches. Ken is risking projects vital to London’s long-term future for a short-term electoral bribe. That sort of thing.

The best speaker of the night was the Lib Dems’ Brian Paddick, who went down rather well with a simple, focused message: businesses will not come to London if they don’t think it’s safe.  Crime, he said, was going up and he, the ex-copper, was the man to tackle it. Paddick also had the two best jokes – a lovely dig at Ken’s exotic tax arrangements (Paddick, like Boris, pays full income tax on his freelance earnings – another contradiction of Ken’s claim that “everyone” in his position avoids this tax by turning themselves, like him, into a personal company.)

My favourite Paddick joke, though, was about the new Borismaster bus. “Boris likes his bus because it’s like his house – it has two staircases and three doors,” he said. That got the biggest laugh of the night.