Tories shouldn’t be attacking Ken on gay rights – they should be thanking him

9th February, 2012 7:27 am

The notion that Ken Livingstone has anything to apologise for when it comes to gay rights is so laughable that it’s a shame to waste time on it. Suffice to say that the person who set up the UK’s first Partnership Register in 2001 (paving the way for the 2004 Civil Partnership Act), ran high profile projects targeting anti-homophobic bullying in London schools and banned ads for holiday resorts that discriminated against lesbian and gay people (forcing them to change their policies) makes for a somewhat unlikely perpetrator of anti-gay hatred.

Perhaps it was a different Ken Livingstone whose GLC published “Changing the world: a London charter for lesbian & gay rights”? Or maybe Ken Livingstone has a thirty year history of being on the right side of history when it comes to equal rights. Like Chris Bryant, I’m sickened by the faux-outrage.

That the Tory Party are so keen to go on the attack over perceived homophobia only serves to highlight the successes of gay rights champions like Ken Livingstone. This, let us not forget, was once the party of section 28 (opposed by Livingstone) and prominent Tories have consistently opposed civil partnerships, gay adoption equalising the age of consent and gay marriage. Perhaps the most important blog post written by anyone of any party this week was by ConHome’s Tim Montgomerie, who argued in favour of gay marriage from a conservative perspective. That would not have been possible with pioneers like Ken Livingstone. Instead of lambasting him, Tories should be thanking him for sticking with the fight for gay rights when so many within their party were shamefully opposing gay equality.

Ken’s language was – at worst – inelegant. But if we are going to make wild and unwarranted assertions about the mayoral candidates based on their inelegant language then this contest is going to get rather dull rather quickly. And if we must talk of such matters, Ken was nowhere near as inelegant as Boris Johnson, who once made the following statement on gay marriage:

“If gay marriage was OK – and I was uncertain on the issue – then I saw no reason in principle why a union should not be consecrated between three men, as well as two men; or indeed three men and a dog.”

You’ll remember the outrage from that remark, right? Tory MPs calling for Boris to apologise? I’m sure it happened, but I must have missed the precise moment when that happened. Otherwise you might say the Tory Party was “riddled” with hypocrisy…

Ken is many things, and like us all, he has flaws – but he patently doesn’t have a homophobic bone in his body. Those throwing rocks at him today should be aware of the glass based dwellings in which many of them reside. If you’re going to attack Ken, at least make it credible. And not hypocritical. And if possible not laugh out loud ridiculous and ahistorical. Please.

  • Anonymous

    Like it or not you have to write about it because Ken who I have spoken to a few times especially going way back, has used words again which mean something different then he was meaning.

    What he did say will mean that people can take it as a mistake or they will be angered by it, so why say it, why not think  first and then speak, not speak and then have to have people writing to tell us he did not mean it.

    Ken is like many politician desperate to win an election, but for god sake think before you speak, New labour and Brown always spoke about something after taking the advise of so called new labour advisor who had spent the morning reading the media.

    Ken started it not to long ago with a band wagon about people not working in a city which has the highest unemployment in the country, because he believes that is what his voters wanted to hear.

    Then again we do have so many work shy scroungers and now an infestation in the Tories, god will people stop  looking and thinking what people want to hear and speak as you think in truth.

    • Anonymous

      I like Livingstone.  He’s bright, intelligent and I’ve always got the strong impression that he “gets it” with ordinary people.  He’s always been a Tory ‘bogey figure’ and it’s no surprise they are “going for him” in this way.  He knows this too and that’s why he needs to make sure that he gives them absolutely no ammunition. 

      I’m sure that what he has said is being represented out of context by his opponents, but if I was him, I would draw a line under it by holding my hands up and agreeing that “riddled with” was a poor choice of words that doesn’t in any way represent what he thinks – and what everyone knows he thinks?

      • Anonymous

        However, even some old warriors of the left are willing to look at
        more controversial elements of coalition’s drive to get people off

        Ken Livingstone, the former Mayor of London who has his eye
        on another term in 2012, supports plans to force people who are
        unemployed to carry out community work, or risk losing their benefits.

        yes I think Ken was once socialist but now is desperate to get a job of work, that old wage packet  is nice, but Ken can always sign on and work  for a charity.

        See I have a problem with people who read the Daily Mail comments section to get a view with what people think

  • Roger McCarthy

    All true except for his literal and metaphoric embrace of viciously homophobic Islamist clerics like Yusuf al-Qaradawi.

    To quote Peter Tatchell in the 24 January 2005 New Statesman:

    ‘Al-Qaradawi’s views should not be a matter of contention. They are clear from his books, Modern Fatwas and The Lawful and the Prohibited in Islam, and from the Islam Online website – the content of which is approved by him in his role as scholar to the site. Among other things, he favours female genital mutilation, wife-beating, the execution of homosexuals in Islamic states, the destruction of the Jewish people, the use of suicide bombs against innocent civilians and the blaming of rape victims who do not dress with sufficient modesty’ 

    And the Assembly debate over his invitation to Qaradawi where he accused Darren Johnson of:   

    “pandering to Islamophobia” and being “used as a stooge by a Zionist front organisation”. Is also all too revealing.

    Now I’ll be travelling up to canvas for Ken and if I still lived there would vote for him, but his support for gay rights is clearly not a matter of absolute principle and takes a much lower priority than the striking of ‘anti-imperialist’ and anti-Israeli poses.

    From a Machiavellian POV I suppose this might make political sense – the network of Salafist mosques and organisations Ken was pandering to were at that point wavering and if they had all lined up behind George Galloway and Respect (as many of them did in the Bethnal Green GE that summer) this could have posed a serious electoral problem for Labour in London – whereas gays (and for that matter Jews) are now too dispersed and no longer vote in easily mobilisable communalist blocs anyway so their disgust at Ken’s antics was unlikely have lasting political consequences. 

    But in this dark age politics is almost always about choosing lesser evils over greater ones and you still couldn’t have a clearer case of that than Ken vs Boris.  

    • Tom Miller

      So, what does Tatchell reckon of the Catholic church? Didn’t see that getting much coverage in the comment. 

      Should Ken refuse to engage with learned Catholics?

      Didn’t think so.Homophobia is a downside to many religions. The fact that allegations of it only seem to come out around Islam (and indeed someone who happens to be running against a Tory mayor) says something a little deeper that our society could do with exploring.In the meantime, the cost of a bus fare has doubled. Why won’t Boris talk about it?

      • Hugh

         Does the pope support killing gay people? I never knew.

        • Tom Miller

           Many Popes obviously have.

          They still oppose the right of gay people to adopt or to marry a partner as straight people might. They oppose the ‘teaching of homosexuality’, and generally the idea of gay relationships as acceptable or comparable to straight ones.

          Hence Tatchell’s life of agitation against the church (for some reason Peter Tatchell no longer sets the moral standard of this conversation, I wonder why!).

          The scripture itself doesn’t look that great either really.

          As per Leviticus 20:13, “If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have
          done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be
          on their own heads.”

          The question regarding many religions, rather than ‘homophobic or not?’, is ‘how homophobic?’.

          None of this is any reason to disengage with them – especially bearing in mind that Islam is the world’s second most popular religion, and that there are many Muslim Londoners. It is a good reason to remain critical of those parts. I’ve never seen any evidence that Ken shares homophobic sentiment, myself. Because he doesn’t.

          Faux outrage.

          • Anonymous

            Came across an interesting approach to that line in Leviticus in a review of   The Bible Now by Richard Elliott Friedman and Shawna Dolansky  yesterday – it only really makes sense in the context of the profoundly sexist and patriarchal society that produced it (remember even today many orthodox Jewish men daily thank God for not making them a woman).

            For the ancient Hebrews for a man to lie with another man as a woman represented an act more akin to brutal prison rape than consensual sexual relations – it reduces the passive male to a woman and this act of symbolic emasculation and enslavement is the abomination. 

            And of course Leviticus contains so many abominations that I can commit several without even leaving my armchair (I am wearing clothes made out of mixed fibres for one) – funny how the only Jewish ritual law Christ didn’t free us from having to follow just happens to be that one.

          • John Reid

            And if Popes didn’t directly say “kill gays” even in hte last 100 years, Saying they’d burn in hell and go to the underworld in the after life, and that they were dong Gods work by preaching such hate, those sort of Phrases sent people to carry out their work.

          • Hugh

             That must explain all those Catholic extremist bombings on gay bars.

          • Hugh

             “The question regarding many religions, rather than ‘homophobic or not?’, is ‘how homophobic?’.”

            Yes, indeed, and it’s a fairly vital question.

            I suspect you are capable of seeing a fairly important distinction between the current position of the Catholic church on homosexuality and a position that supports the state-sanction murder of homosexuals. Should we “engage” with Stormfront (not the Apple retailer) do you think?

          • Hugh

             Faux blindness.

      • Anonymous

        Whoever our current Cardinal-Archbishop in London is I am pretty sure he doesn’t advocate killing gays, hacking away little girls clitorises or blowing up Jews.

        To find a Catholic of even vaguely equivalent views to Qaradawi (who as we were frequently told counts as a ‘moderate’ Islamist) you’d have to go to Mel Gibson’s crazed holocaust-denying dad or that schismatic anti-semitic bishop Herr Ratzinger let back into the church a year or two ago. 

    • charles.ward

       “Now I’ll be travelling up to canvas for Ken and if I still lived there
      would vote for him, but his support for gay rights is clearly not a
      matter of absolute principle and takes a much lower priority than the
      striking of ‘anti-imperialist’ and anti-Israeli poses.”

      Can I suggest a campaign slogan? “Vote Ken, he’s more of a anti-semite than a homophobe.”

      • Anonymous

        So what part of ‘choosing the lesser evil’ did you fail to understand?

        Ken may be willing to embrace homophobic anti-semites in pursuit of street cred with what’s left of the far left and of Islamist votes – but that really is just politics for him.

        Boris Johnson on the other hand is Boris Johnson.

  • Tom Miller

    Great excuse not to talk about fares.

  • Paul Barker

    Essentially Labour chose Ken this time because he would have stood anyway & taken enough of your voters to destroy his own chances & yours, he didnt need to threaten, everyone knew what was what. You cant drop Ken for the same reason. Whatever he says Or does your all stuck with defending him or giving up. Prepare to wriggle & squirm.


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