Ken Livingstone 'ridiculed' as he tries to help Lutfur Rahman

Ken Livingstone was openly laughed at by members of Labour’s National Executive Committee today, I am told, after he urged them to readmit the extremist-linked mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman, to the party and let him stand as the Labour candidate in the borough’s 2014 mayoral election.

The NEC’s organisation sub-committee was setting the process for selecting a Labour mayoral candidate in Tower Hamlets. He or she is now expected to be chosen in April, to give them time to build up a head of steam against Lutfur, who was sacked as Labour candidate in the 2010 mayoral election for his close links to an Islamic fundamentalist group, the Islamic Forum of Europe, which believes in turning Europe into a sharia state. Lutfur is also backed by a group of powerful local businessmen. In office, as this blog has documented, he has systematically given key positions, funding and favours to his extremist and moneyed patrons and is slowly turning a diverse, multicultural borough into a vehicle favouring a specific set of interests and segment of the community.

“Ken was ridiculed,” says my informant. “People were laughing out loud. He had absolutely no support whatever for his proposal, not even from the likes of [hard-left MP] Dennis Skinner.” A former member of the NEC, Luke Akehurst, tweeted tonight that the Kenster was “in a minority of one” at the meeting. Labour’s secretary in Tower Hamlets, Tarik Ahmed Khan, said: “Ken Livingstone still meddling in TH politics, [sought] to let Mayor Lutfur back into TH Labour Party. Thankfully, all voted against. Desperate.”

This must, I think, mark the final end for Lutfur’s hopes of readmission to Labour. Even the Dave Spart parody left, his main supporters in the party, have fallen silent in recent months as the true nature of his regime becomes clear. Labour know that if they let Lutfur back he becomes their new Derek Hatton. Outside the party, he’s still a scandal and a disaster – but he’s not their scandal and disaster.

Today is also clearly the latest sign of Ken’s fading influence in London Labour circles. His running-mate, Val Shawcross, was not selected to contest November’s Croydon North byelection – instead Labour chose the more Ken-sceptic figure of Steve Reed, former leader of Lambeth Council. Several of Lutfur’s Tower Hamlets allies were expelled from the party in July, an event unlikely had Ken won the mayoral election two months before.

More people than ever across the party now realise what plenty were saying all along – that Livingstone threw away a potentially winnable mayoral election last year. One of Ken’s countless self-inflicted wounds was his decision to campaign for Lutfur, and against the official Labour candidate, in the 2010 Tower Hamlets mayoral poll.

Does all this mean that Lutfur will lose his mayoral gig in 2014? Not necessarily. He still has almost total power over the council’s £1 billion budget and has been ruthlessly using it to promote his re-election. Every council tenant who gets a new window also gets a letter from Lutfur, on his famous picture headed notepaper, claiming credit – even though it’s usually the Government that’s paid. Every Tower Hamlets letterbox gets Lutfur’s personal taxpayer-funded Pravda, East End Life, through it every single week, complete with the statutory half-dozen or so pictures of the great man. Millions of pounds are being channelled into “capacity-building” (that is, vote-building) grants to Lutfur’s business cronies and extremist allies.

Egged on by such people, Lutfur’s Bengali bloc can be relied on to vote under all circumstances (even death shall not weary them.) Non-Lutfur Bengali, white and black voters (who still collectively make up the vast majority of voters in Tower Hamlets) are much less likely to turn out.

Yet Lutfur’s permanent isolation in that cul-de-sac marked “independent” will peel away more of the ambitious job and money-seeking opportunists who cluster around politicians in Tower Hamlets. If he cannot tap in to wider Labour power circles, his usefulness to such folk is less. Some of the Dear Leader’s backers have already drifted away in frustration at the severely local nature of what he can deliver them. The IFE’s secret is organisation. If Labour can match its level of organisation, it can win in 2014.

Labour’s choice of candidate will be important, though. Because of the aforesaid turnout differential between Bengali and non-Bengali voters, Tower Hamlets politics is Bengali-dominated and other groups feel less engaged. The trick might be to select someone who can appeal across all communities. The front-runner is probably the London Assembly member and former Tower Hamlets council leader, John Biggs, who came second to Lutfur in the 2010 Labour selection contest.

Labour should be proud that its representative bodies and its elected leaders (such as Newham’s Robin Wales and Hackney’s Jules Pipe, who will have nothing to do with Lutfur) are so strongly resisting sectarianism and sleaze and upholding the party’s core secular and democratic values.

Advertisements

Tower Hamlets: Labour finds 'concerted effort' to sign up fake members

An inquiry by Labour’s national executive committee into Tower Hamlets Labour Party has found that there was “membership abuse,” with a “concerted effort” to add fake members to the party. Last October, the inquiry found, 149 members of the Tower Hamlets party were not on the electoral register at the address they gave and in 75 of these cases there was no evidence that they ever had been on the register.

“It is membership abuse to claim to be a member at any address where you do not live,” the report concluded. “The number of cases strongly suggest that this would not have come about through accident or through individuals acting alone to abuse the system. The evidence outlined above is sufficient to suggest a concerted effort to add people to the membership list in Tower Hamlets was being undertaken by one or more individuals.”

Last year, one Tower Hamlets Labour MP, Jim Fitzpatrick, told this newspaper and Channel 4’s Dispatches how the Islamic extremist group, the Islamic Forum of Europe (IFE), based at the hardline East London Mosque, was infiltrating the local Labour Party in the same way as Militant did in the 1980s. Our investigation showed how Labour membership in one of the Tower Hamlets constituencies, Bethnal Green and Bow, had more than doubled between 2006 and 2008, at a time when Labour membership nationally was sharply falling. Ninety per cent of the new members were Asian, in a constituency which is only about 50% Asian.

Dozens of the new “members” joined on the same day, with up to eight “members” purportedly living in the same two-bedroom flats. Some of the new members were people with the same names as individuals we can link to the IFE. When we called to these places, we found that the actual residents often had no knowledge of the people who claimed to be living there.

In one of the clumsiest attempts at spin I have ever seen, one far-left, Lutfur-supporting Tower Hamlets resident, Jon Lansman, headlines his blog: “Tower Hamlets: membership inquiry reveals no conspiracy.” But he then goes on to give precisely the same passage about a “concerted effort” to recruit fake members which I just quoted! It’s the neatest demonstration for some time of the fantasy world inhabited by people like Mr Lansman, where words mean nothing beside political allegiances.

Seventy-five fake members would probably not have been enough, on their own, to swing Labour’s mayoral selection for the IFE’s chosen candidate, Lutfur Rahman. But Labour’s NEC has called for further investigations, and the inquiry isn’t complete. It does not, for instance, seem to have addressed some of the other membership abuses we uncovered – that people who are real and who do live where they claim to live were nonetheless signed up, without their agreement, as members of the Labour Party by Mr Rahman. These allegations played a part in getting Lutfur sacked as the Labour candidate for mayor. With the enthusiastic help of the IFE, he later won election as an independent.

The inquiry also takes someone’s presence on the electoral roll as proof of their existence. But you can manufacture fake electors just as easily as you can manufacture fake members of the Labour Party, indeed perhaps more easily. Just like the Labour Party membership roll, the Tower Hamlets electoral roll has gone up and down like a yoyo from year to year, depending on whether there are significant elections that year. And there were some very interesting results indeed at the 2008 mayoral election.

Some on Labour’s hard left are still trying to rehabilitate Lutfur – he’ll be speaking at the Labour Briefing AGM this weekend, a bizarre new direction for a man who supported David Miliband for the party leadership less than four months ago. But the deadly embrace of the Dave Spart crowd will probably only seal his exclusion from the party.

Also today, as Ted Jeory reports, there has been a new outbreak of hostilities between Tower Hamlets Labour and Lutfur. He won’t be getting back in the Labour Party any time soon, methinks.

Ken Livingstone: the antique's roadshow begins

Ken Livingstone in 2008 with his campaign poster (Photo: AP)
Ken Livingstone in 2008 with his campaign poster (Photo: AP)

Ken Livingstone’s victory in the race to be Labour’s London mayoral candidate is the best possible news for Boris Johnson and the Tories, but depressing for those of us who care about competitive politics.

I like Boris – but I wanted him to have to fight for re-election, to have to promise more than the minimum. Against Ken, the chances are that for all the sound and fury to come over the next eighteen months, Boris is reasonably assured of victory. Today, rather than the first Thursday in May 2012, will probably come to be seen as the day the mayoral election was decided.

The majority of Londoners have, I think, come to a settled view about Ken, and are unlikely to change their minds. Nor, more importantly, has Ken shown any sign of wanting to change their minds. His platform is a resurrection from the grave of all the policies and attitudes that turned middle-ground voters off. Elections are won at the centre, but he has turned sharply away from the centre since losing the mayoralty.

Perhaps that’s because he clearly expects to be swept back into City Hall on a tsunami of hatred against Lib-Con cuts. This could be a powerful issue for Labour, but it’s unlikely to work for Ken, for two reasons.

There is, I’m sure, a potentially fruitful argument Labour can make about whether the cuts need to be so big, and so soon. But the position Ken has taken – that there should be no cuts at all, and that the deficit, in his words at the Southall hustings, is a “scare” – just isn’t credible. Voters tune out. He has already, in effect, ceded this vital ground to the coalition.

Secondly, Boris is perfectly capable of separating himself from the government – just as Ken did from Labour, suffering no ill-effects from standing as a Labour candidate in 2004 despite the Iraq war.

Ken’s timewarp quality is also evident in the fact that he’s still running on his record. But if that didn’t work in 2008, it’s definitely not going to work in 2012. The record is in many cases an obstacle – Ken can’t attack Boris over ticket office closures and fare rises, for instance, without it being pointed out that he did, or proposed, exactly the same.

More fundamentally, people don’t vote in the mayoral election on policies. It’s a personality contest – and Boris is a far more likeable personality. Significant numbers of people hate Ken – a significant driver of voting last time. Relatively few hate Boris, though many are indifferent to him.

I can see only three ways Ken could win, all of them pretty unlikely. First is that some absolute catastrophe befalls Boris. Second is that such a perception of “foregone conclusion” takes hold that Boris’s voters don’t turn out – that is why the Tories have to behave as if this is a race. Third, most interesting, is the arrival on the scene of some dramatic third candidate whose transfers would go to Ken.

Conventional media wisdom has often been that Ken is a “wily” politician. Certainly, it was wily to get the Labour selection contest held so absurdly early that no heavyweight rival had time to enter it.

He’s good at that sort of party intrigue; but overall, I’d say he is perhaps the stupidest top-flight politician I’ve ever encountered. Ken’s besetting flaw is the sin of pride: an absolute refusal to admit he has ever been wrong about anything, and a stubborn determination to cling on to his mistakes (such as Lee Jasper) beyond the point of all political sanity. That’s what makes him such an ideal opponent.

Fundamentalist-backed Labour candidate: the transcripts

Here, by popular request, are the transcripts of two of the filmed interviews I did with some of the sham “vote-bank” Labour members signed up by Lutfur Rahman, the fundamentalist sympathiser who was chosen as Labour candidate for mayor of Tower Hamlets by the local membership on Saturday. A total of eleven people are involved at these two addresses alone. All 11 are still members, according to the membership list used in the selection. This is surely evidence of a prima facie breach of Labour Party rules – and I’ve got lots more in the locker.

Interview at an address in Old Montague Street

Andrew Gilligan: Hiya, is Syed Ali here?

Syed Araf Ali: It depends.

AG: Syed Araf Ali?

Mr Ali: That’s me…What’s it regarding?

AG: I’m from Channel 4. I’m doing a programme about Labour Party membership.

Mr Ali: I’m not interested mate…I don’t want no part with the Labour Party, anything to do with them.

AG: You’re down here as a member of the Labour Party.

Mr Ali: I’m not a member, somebody just put my name down… [Mr Ali is shown his name on the membership list] That’s my brother, that’s me and my brothers. We don’t want nothing to do with the Labour Party.

AG: Somebody just put your name down?

Mr Ali: Yeah.

AG: And your brothers, are they members as well?

Mr Ali: Same thing, mate.

AG: And what about [points at name on list]?

Mr Ali: That’s my sister. Same thing, mate. I’ll speak for everybody.

AG: So how come you ended up in the Labour Party – do you know how that
happened?

Mr Ali: One of my neighbours is part of the Labour Party. I think he’s a councillor or whatever [Lutfur Rahman, who lives three doors down from the Alis, is the only Labour councillor who is Mr Ali’s neighbour]. He asked me if he could put my name down or whatever… I said whatever, and that’s it.

AG: Did you pay any money?

Mr Ali: No.

AG: So somebody else must have paid your subscription, right?

No audible answer.

AG: Did you sign anything?

No audible answer – seems to be talking to someone else in the house.

Mr Ali: That’s it, mate. [Closes door]

Interview at an address in Collingwood House, Darling Row (small flat with six members)

Andrew Gilligan: Hiya is Abdul Malique here?

Abdul Malique: Yeah.

AG: You’re Mr Abdul Malique?

Mr Malique: Yeah.

AG: Hi, I’m Andrew Gilligan from Channel 4, doing a documentary about the Labour Party. Are you a member of the Labour Party?… I’ll tell you why we’re asking, there’s a lot of people on a list as members of the Labour Party here. [shows him list] Do all these people live here? [they go through list]

AG: Angura [Bibi], does she live here?

Mr Malique: Yes, she lives here.

AG: Tahmina Akhtar?

Mr Malique: No, she’s living at another address.

AG: Poli Begum?

Mr Malique: No, another house.

AG: Another house. Shah Alom Hussein?

Mr Malique: Another house.

AG: OK, so its Angura Bibi and you … [shows him another name on the list at this address] Nozir Miah? [Mr Malique points away to indicate Mr Miah also not living at the address]…

AG: So how did you come to join the party? You all joined on the same day I think? [In fact five of them joined on the same day]

Mr Malique: Same day, yeah.

AG: how did that happen, did someone come round and ask you to join or did you just decide to?

Mr Malique: Yeah, someone came round.

AG: Someone came round? [Mr Malique nods]. Who came round and asked you to join?

Mr Malique: Lutfur Rahman.

AG: Lutfur Rahman, OK, all right, OK. And what happened – did he give you the form, or did he give you the money to pay the subscription?

Mr Malique: Yeah, yeah. He gave me the form.

AG: He gave you the form. And did he give you the money to pay the subscription as well?

Mr Malique: Yes [and nods].

AG: He did. All right, OK. And you all signed the form at the same time as well? You were all in the house and you all signed at the same time? [Mr Malique nods]

AG: So these are your…

Mr Malique: Me and my wife.

AG: And the other four are your family?

Mr Malique: My family. They are living in other house…

AG: Just to re-check, how did you pay your subscriptions, can I ask? Did you pay with your own money, or did Lutfur give you some money?

Mr Malique: [Long pause] I can’t lie to you. My son, my son knows everything.

AG: Had you thought of joining the Labour Party before?

Mr Malique: About four or five years ago.

Fundamentalist-linked politician using sham Labour members to take control of £1 billion council

Lutfur Rahman, the fundamentalist-linked Labour councillor running for the top job in Tower Hamlets, has signed up entire families of sham “paper” Labour members – some of whom are explicitly opposed to the party – in order to provide him with a “vote bank” for tomorrow’s selection contest. Some of the paper members say that Mr Rahman also gave them money.

The paper members were filmed making their statements. The evidence will be passed to the Labour Party should it request it. Amid deep concerns about Mr Rahman’s links with the fundamentalist Islamic Forum of Europe (IFE), and a group of powerful local businessmen, Labour has already tried three times to remove him from the contest. It was only forced to include him after he took legal action against them. In his court case, and in previous legal threats to Labour, Mr Rahman used a solicitor closely connected to the banned pro-terrorist group, al-Muhajiroun.

In the course of researching our Channel 4/ Telegraph documentary about the IFE, we noticed some highly suspicious patterns in Labour Party membership. Between 2006 and 2008, leaked membership lists show, membership of Bethnal Green and Bow constituency rose by 110 per cent, at a time when Labour membership nationally was falling.

Ninety per cent of the new members were Asian, though the constituency is only about half Asian. Dozens of them joined on the same day, including improbably large numbers who appeared to live in the same small flats. We decided to investigate some of the new members and went knocking on doors. We found, and filmed, a number of new members who told us that they had no interest in joining the Labour Party, and in some cases did not even support it, but had been signed up – and in some cases paid for – by Mr Rahman.

We investigated, for instance, the case of six people supposedly living in the same small flat in Collingwood House, Darling Row, all with different surnames and most of whom joined on the same day.

The occupant of the flat, Abdul Malique, told us that Mr Rahman turned up on his doorstep one day with a set of Labour membership forms. “Lutfur Rahman gave me the form and he gave me the money to pay the subscription as well,” he said. “We were all in the house and we all signed at the same time.” Only two of the six members at this address actually live there, Mr Malique said. The other four signed up by Mr Rahman were people who were only visiting at the time. Mr Malique said he had thought about joining the Labour Party “four or five years” ago, but not now.

We looked at an entire family of five, apparently living at an address in Old Montague Street, who all supposedly joined on the same day. One of the family, Syed Arif Ali, told us: “I’ll speak for everyone. We don’t want nothing to do with the Labour Party. I don’t want no part of them. Somebody just put my name down. One of my neighbours is part of the Labour Party, I think he’s a councillor or whatever, asked me if he could put my name down. I did not pay any money.” Lutfur Rahman lives three doors down from this address and is the only Labour councillor who is a neighbour of the Alis.

Not all the new members were signed up by Mr Rahman, of course. However, a number of them – not those named – do have the same names as people we can link to the IFE. The IFE believes, in the words of one of its leaflets, in transforming “the very infrastructure of society of society, its institutions, its political order and its creed… from ignorance to Islam.” The local Labour MP, Jim Fitzpatrick, says that the IFE has infiltrated the Tower Hamlets Labour Party in the same way as the Militant Tendency took over the city of Liverpool in the 1980s. In an interview with me in March, Mr Rahman refused to deny this.  

Mr Rahman’s links with fundamentalism and extremism have been well documented by this blog. He was previously council leader of Tower Hamlets, a position which seven serving and former Labour councillors tell us he achieved with the help of the IFE. A senior IFE official, Hira Islam, helped run his campaign and canvassed councillors on his behalf. In his interview with me, Mr Rahman refused to deny this – though he did deny the councillors’ further claims that Mr Islam threatened them. Mr Islam has refused to comment on the allegations.

Under Mr Rahman’s leadership of the council, large and growing sums of public money were passed to community organisations controlled by the IFE. Extremist literature was stocked in the council’s libraries. The council’s schools were ordered to close for Eid, even if they did not have a majority of Muslim pupils. A project was launched to “Islamically brand” the multicultural neighbourhood of Brick Lane with so-called “hijab arches.” The key post of cabinet member for employment and skills was given to Alibor Choudhury, another councillor with strong IFE connections. A man with close links to the IFE, Lutfur Ali, was appointed as the council’s assistant chief executive, despite a chequered employment history and council-appointed headhunters saying he was unsuitable for the job.

After our expose, Mr Rahman was replaced as council leader. Lutfur Ali also lost his job. Now, however, Tower Hamlets is moving from a council leader system to having a directly-elected executive mayor. Mr Rahman is seeking a comeback – to a post which would be far more powerful, and far less subject to scrutiny, than his previous position. It would give him complete control of the council’s £1 billion budget.

Mr Rahman is backed not just by the IFE, but by a number of powerful local businessmen, including Shiraj Haque, owner of the Clifton group of restaurants. Mr Haque told me today: “The campaign for a directly elected mayor was my initiative. Whatever expenses were required, I had to pay for it. Tower Hamlets politics was corrupt. I needed someone to fix it, so I thought let’s try him [Lutfur].”

Mr Haque denied bankrolling Lutfur’s personal campaign – which has been notably better-resourced than that of any of the other candidates – even though Lutfur’s election leaflets are exactly identical in design and typeface to those produced by the campaign for a directly-elected mayor. “Many things look the same in the world,” said Mr Haque. “It’s the computer age.”

The horror Mr Rahman’s candidacy has caused in many parts of the local Labour Party cannot be overstated. But thanks to his “paper members” and other backers, he stands a realistic chance of winning the nomination tomorrow. That would instantly make him the frontrunner for the election itself, which is in October.

Mr Rahman did not respond to repeated telephone calls and text messages asking for comment tonight.

Is Labour handing Tower Hamlets back to the Islamists?

Labour’s candidate for the directly-elected mayoralty of Tower Hamlets will be selected by the entire local membership, it has been announced. What’s wrong with that? In somewhere normal, nothing. But in Tower Hamlets, it risks ripping up the whole of the last two years’ successful work by Labour to hold back the infiltration of their party by Islamic fundamentalists. 

As I’ve described in the Telegraph and on Channel 4’s Dispatches, there have been some exceptionally suspicious changes in Labour Party membership in Tower Hamlets.  Over a period of a few months, Bethnal Green and Bow constituency saw its membership more than double – from 550 to more than 1100. Ninety per cent of the new members were Asian, and dozens joined on the same day.

One of the local Labour MPs, Jim Fitzpatrick, says the fundamentalist Islamic Forum of Europe – which wants to create an Islamic state – has been infiltrating and “corrupting” Labour like Militant did in the 1980s.

Aware of this, Labour placed the local party under “special measures.” Members’ power to select councillor candidates was removed. Candidates were selected by a special panel, limiting the numbers of Islamists in the Labour group. Now, however, these measures are to be removed. Labour is throwing open the selection for the far more powerful post of mayor – who will be in almost total control of the council. This is a recipe for disaster.

Labour sources assure me that they are well aware of the issue. I’m told that some of the suspicious new members (whose numbers peaked in 2008) have failed to renew. It’s also true that an early “freeze date,” 6 May, has been applied. Nobody who joined Labour after this point will be eligible to vote in the mayoral selection, meaning that the IFE cannot sign up huge numbers of new members in the coming weeks. It’s also possible that the time-honoured tactic will be adopted of keeping some of the more problematic candidates off the shortlist.

But the fact is that this does create a huge window for the IFE, and one of its recent allies, Lutfur Rahman. Mr Rahman, who was until recently the council leader, was elected to that post with the help of a senior IFE official, something he has refused to deny; under his leadership, a number of IFE-friendly policies were pursued, an IFE sympathiser was hired as assistant chief executive and increased sums of council money were paid to organisations closely connected to the IFE.

Mr Rahman lost his job after our expose; the recent elections, a massive defeat for the IFE, saw a number of moderate Muslim councillors elected. They promptly voted for an opponent of the IFE, Helal Abbas, as leader. But he is hoping to use the mayoralty to stage a triumphant comeback to a position of even greater power. The way it’s looking, he might well manage it.

Has Labour stitched up the Mayoral selection for Ken Livingstone – and the election for Boris?

Nominations for Labour’s candidate for Mayor of London will “probably” close within the month and the successful candidate will be in place “by this September,” according to a Labour Party spokesman.

The accelerated timetable makes it much more likely that the only runner so far declared, Ken Livingstone, will be Labour’s candidate. Other heavyweights considering standing may not be ready or willing to throw their hats into the ring so early.

Two other things favour Ken. Unlike in the national party leadership selection, the votes of MPs will not be given special weight. Most London Labour MPs, in the last parliament at least, privately despised Ken (only three signed a Compass Group letter in his support during the 2008 election campaign.)

Also, whoever becomes Labour’s national leader is unlikely to want Ken as their standard-bearer in the 2012 election, Labour’s first big electoral test as an opposition party. However, they will now have no say in the matter, because the mayoral candidate will be chosen at the same time as they are.

All this raises the delicious prospect (for me at least) of an 18-month re-run of the last mayoral election campaign: there’s quite a lot more material in the locker I never got round to, and some interesting new stuff as well!

Ken is popular with the immediate electorate, Labour activists. But the results of the recent general and local elections should give them real pause about choosing him. Those results show that Labour should have a substantial chance of regaining the mayoralty in 2012: in the general election the party got slightly more votes in London than the Tories, and the capital was Labour’s second-best region, apart from Scotland. The Labour vote fell by less here than anywhere else in England and Wales.

Labour also won back control of nine London boroughs, more than doubling its tally (to 17.) In addition, by 2012 the Tories are likely to be pretty unpopular with the various cuts they have to make. Quite a lot of the Lib Dem vote in London which went to Boris last time might well go to Labour in 2012, now that the Lib Dems are in government.

As well as substantial achievements (the destruction of the Tube PPP – not something Ken ever managed) I also see some weaknesses in the Boris mayoralty – exemplified perhaps by its feeble compromising over the new “son of Routemaster” bus.

But one of the most important things which could prevent any Labour victory is Ken’s candidacy. The voters have already had a choice between Boris and Ken, and they have already made up their minds on the subject. Little has happened to change their minds.

In the two years since his defeat, Livingstone and his supporters have refused to learn any lessons or admit any errors, continuing to claim that he was only cheated of his birthright by the evil lies of the Evening Standard (no specific lies are ever cited, by the way, because there weren’t any.)  He has done nothing to address the actual causes of his defeat, reach out to the substantial parts of the electorate whom he alienated or talk about the things they care about. He remains a divisive candidate who attracts both passionate love and passionate loathing and is unlikely to be able to win the centre-ground voters where the election will be decided. I know many white working-class Labour voters who were happy to vote for the party this month, but will never vote for Ken.

What limited opinion poll evidence there is also supports this. The only public poll, for the Evening Standard last year, showed that if the election were re-run between Boris and Ken, the Tory’s winning margin would stretch from 6 to 16 points.

Ken will endlessly claim that he (in the mayoral election) outperformed his party (at the London Assembly election) in 2008. This is true – but it is simply not valid to compare a party election, like the Assembly, with a personality contest between two strong, polarising personalities. The unfortunate fact is that on this measure Boris also outperformed his party – by almost exactly the same margin.

It does appear that some movements of rival heavyweights may have been detected in the undergrowth. Speculation centres on Alan Johnson, the former home secretary, James Purnell, the former work and pensions secretary, and John Cruddas, the well-respected leftwinger. Cruddas has said he’d back Ken in the past – but his decision not to stand for the leadership has led to some wondering whether he’d step in to London. They need to make up their minds quickly, whatever they’re going to do.

No doubt some Ken tribalists will say that all the above is a cunning double-bluff on my part to derail the candidacy of the man Boris most fears. But I can tell you categorically that Boris does not fear Ken. A re-run of the 2008 election with the 2008 candidate is, quite simply, Boris’s best hope.