The irresistible fall of Ken Livingstone

5th May, 2012 1:03 pm

History repeats itself, “the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce” (Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon)

We had a rough idea of the outcome of the 3 May 2012 London Mayor election as soon as we knew we were running the same candidate as we ran in the May 2008 one.

The message then from the electorate was clear. This time we asked them the same question. We should not be surprised that they gave the exact same answer.

The tragedy for the London Labour Party is that we ran again with a candidate in the downward phase of their relationship with the London electorate, with deep and public flaws, at the same time as the nationwide relationship between Labour and the electorate is in its upward phase, demonstrated by fantastic results in the rest of the
country and for the GLA.

I have been working hard as a volunteer borough organiser in Hackney for nearly a year and a half. For most of that time I have known we were flogging a dead horse.

The professional leadership of the London campaign – Campaign Director Patrick Henegan and Ken’s Chief of Staff Simon Fletcher – deserve massive praise for getting as close a result as they did. In technical terms it was a superb campaign. Huge credit also goes to the lay membership in London, who made herculean efforts despite knowing that
the fundamental flaw in the campaign was the candidate. The one mistake I could identify is that pleas to run hard on crime in thefinal week to appeal to the suburbs were ignored.

The immediate problems with Ken are well chronicled and any one of them was big enough to account for the narrow margin he lost by:

  • The ambiguity over his tax arrangements, a self-inflicted wound that made him look dodgy and vulnerable to charges of hypocrisy.
  • His antagonistic stance towards the Jewish community. This must rank as one of the most bizarre electoral tactics any candidate in the democratic world has ever employed – deliberately shunning a group of 120,000 voters with a high propensity to turnout and a known record as a swing vote. The clumsy and insulting language Ken used at his meeting with Jewish Labour activists (set up by them to try to help his campaign!) came on top of a history of offending the community with his jibes at Jewish journalist Oliver Finegold and his embrace of extreme Islamist cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi. Ken appears obsessed by the Jewish community, and not in a positive way – entire sections of his autobiography are devoted to critiques of Zionism. For most voters this just made Ken look like a crank. For the Jewish community it caused real fear – I have had Jewish friends beg me not to vote for Ken because they fear his use of language that they perceive to include anti-semitic tropes will make their community more vulnerable to anti-semitic attacks. If you don’t believe this had an electoral impact look at Camden & Barnet, the GLA division where there is the largest Jewish electorate – Labour GLA candidate Andrew Dismore got about 20,000 more votes than Ken. This whole episode has caused permanent damage to Labour’s relationship with the Jewish community which could damage our chances of winning back a number of North London parliamentary marginals. They cannot believe we tolerated his behaviour. It left me, for the first time in my life, feeling morally compromised by my party’s choice of candidate.
  • Ken’s backing for independent candidate for Mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman, was inexcusable and alienated two key groups in Tower Hamlets – the wing of the local Bengali community opposed to Lutfur and the loyalist Labour activists running the local party. Any other person who had appeared to campaign against Labour like that would have been auto-excluded from the Party. Ken got away with it on a technicality. But he paid a price for it electorally and organisationally on Thursday.

But these were just the latest episodes in the story of someone who has been playing a destructive role in the London Labour Party for four decades.

The wider phenomenon of Tony Benn and the Bennites was seen off by Neil Kinnock in the 1980s, with its Trotskyist entryist wing, Militant, expelled.

The London variant of Bennism, Ken and Livingstonism, was never comprehensively tackled. Its Trotskyist entryist wing, Socialist Action (formerly Tariq Ali’s International Marxist Group) wasn’t just not expelled, it ended up holding most of the key jobs in City Hall from 2000 to 2008. The sinister praising of totalitarian and authoritarian Latin American regimes and Middle Eastern religious wingnuts comes from the politics of this group.

A specific feature of the London Hard Left has been politically corrupt communalist deals – attempts to trade influence for votes with the self-appointed leaders of blocks of ethnic minority voters. This is what ultimately was behind the Tower Hamlets scenario that was part of Ken’s downfall.

This flying circus of 1980s vintage ultra-leftism was only kept in the air because its ringmaster, Ken, had a machine and a populist charisma and an administrative ability that no one else on the Hard Left had. This carried him through the 2000 and 2004 elections and enabled him to thrive outside Labour for a few years when he was expelled.

But his uniqueness meant the left had no one else to run in 2010, and fearing a moderate Labour Mayor of London and loss of their City Hall powerbase, they arm-twisted Ken into running again even though he probably knew the electorate had delivered a decisive verdict in 2008.

Unlike many I don’t think the timing of the selection or the nature of the Electoral College was the reason we ended up with the wrong candidate. I think it was political fear. The fear of losing to him that made Tony Blair bully the NEC into readmitting Ken in time to run as a Labour candidate in 2004 when he had further time to serve outside the Party for having run as an independent. The fear of losing to Ken (who was undoubtedly popular, or rather had massive name recognition, with the London membership) or being character-assassinated by his machine like Frank Dobson was that stopped heavyweight moderates running against him in 2010. The fear that even if they beat him he would run as an independent again.

The London Labour Party has allowed Ken to bully, charm and organise his way to dominance over our city’s centre-left politics for four decades.

Our corridors are littered with the political bodies of his victims, many of them better men than him, from Andrew MacIntosh to Frank Dobson to Trevor Phillips.

Enough now. This story has gone on decades too long. Let’s allow Ken to retire from the political frontline as his dignified concession speech said. Let’s remember his practical achievements as Mayor in transport, crime, and the Olympics. They were fine ones and ironically not the least connected to his leftwing branding. But let London Labour at long last move on from the influence of an outdated 1980s model of factional leftism and start a new chapter with new leadership.

Livingstone and Livingstone’s supporters have run their course. Sadly they already lost the race in 2008 and this extra, unnecessary lap has merely gifted the mayorality to Boris in a year when any other Labour candidate with less baggage would enabled us to join the rest of the country in celebrating a Labour victory. We need a new model of London Labour politics that is about uniting, not dividing the Party and the city.

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  • S K Lee

    The only fault I can find with this article is that it is cobblers. It’s basic premise is wrong.

    Ken Livingstone polled nearly 41% of first preference votes and 56% of second preference votes. He was within 1% of the vote for Labour London Assembly candidates and actually outperformed the party nationally.

    The problem was not Ken, but Boris. Despite being an appalling Mayor, large swathes of Londoners vote for him on the basis that he makes them smile – as sort of upper class George Formby or superficially likeable Jeremy Clarkson. Labour would have had to put up Charlie Cairoli to compete with Boris Johnson at this election.

    • John P Reid

      Boris vote fell from 1.5million in 2008 to1.05 million this time,  Kens vote fell from 1.03million in 2008 to 992,000 in 2012,
      Boris has been a Awful Mayor Cutting police from outer london and Getting British transport police to cover the gaps, The fact that Boris vote fell shows how bad teh Public felt of him, But ken tried to play the Divide and rule game with Coded Messages that he felt Gays wouldn’t interprit as being anti them ,but would appeal to the so called “muslim vote” Kens vote fell becuase of this too,

      regarding Dan Hodges, that’s One Blairtie who didn’t vote for Ken, Lord sugar Lord winston or Lord darsi, Alex Hilton Sunny hundal weren’t blairites and they didn’t either,

      and Who were kens biggest supprters ,Stephen pound Denis Mcshane David Lammy and Tessa Jowell all blairites

      • S K Lee

         Turnout was down, independents were up.

    • Chilbaldi


      Ken polled below our Assembly candidates on first preferences by some way.

      He polled below the party nationally.

      We should be making sure he never comes back now, despite all his ‘this is my last election’ stuff which I don’t necessarily believe. Not making apologies for the worst candidate we could have put up.

      • AlanGiles

        He is 67 now and will be over 70 at the time of the next Mayoral election. He knows that if he were to stand as an Independent, the bile Labour pour out would finish him.

        Anyway if he is so over the hill and past-it, what are you worrying about?.

        Why do the New Labourites need to twist the knife the day after?

        I imagine KL will be feeling as John Major did on 2nd May 1997 “When the curtain falls, it’s time to leave the stage”.

        We could at least let him leave with dignity.

        • jonathanmorse

          I think they fear if we do not blame Ken we will have to realise that the same weapons used against Ken will be used against Ed at the GE and they don’t want us, or at least the Labour leadership, to realise this, or at least act on it.

      • S K Lee

        You really should check your facts.

        He was 1% behind across London.

        The Party nationally did not poll 41% – more like 38% national equivalent share.

        You are, like so many on here, simply rehearsing your prejudices. It’s tiresome and depressing in the extreme.

        Look at the FACTS; reflect calmly and rationally – don’t knee-jerk; try to learn something; and for God’s sake, stop fighting long dead battles within the party and fight the bloody Tories.

  • Blairite Claptrap.

  • Taburke

    Ken lost, it is a sad day for him and a desperate day for London.
    The main reason Ken lost was that the inner London voters (presumed to be mainly ‘natural’ Ken supporters) stayed at home, disaffected and alienated from the democratic process. This was compounded by the sabotage of certain Labourites who told their staff and constituency members NOT to campaign for Ken, hoping to rid this particular banquet of the spectre of socialism.
    Congratulations, you got what you wanted, meanwhile, we Londoners will suffer from the policies of Boris and his cohorts. 4 years of underinvestment, rising prices, fewer public services and worsening crime.
    Thanks, thanks a bunch.
    Kinnock said “You don’t play politics with peoples lives”, you did during this campaign, may your god forgive because I certainly will not.

    • Luke Akehurst

      The only thing I did during this campaign was hours of canvassing FOR Ken and organising his campaign in Hackney one of the boroughs that delivered the best votes for him (and with a 40%+ turnout so your argument about switched off inner city voters is cobblers).

      Having spent much of my spare time for 18 months working for a Ken win I have a right to analyse why he lost.

      I wanted Ken to win. His own mistakes and flaws cost us victory.

      • treborc1

         Perhaps that’s why he lost then.

      • The other option would have done even worse – Oona King would have lost far more Muslim votes than the claim that Ken lost Jewish voters. I don’t think an Iraq war supporting pro-Zionist candidate would be a good idea.

        • JTurner

          This sort of sentiment – that Ken should be chosen over Oona because of her Jewish background – is exactly the type of divisive and damaging attitude which has no place in politics at all, let alone the Labour Party. No wonder many socialist voters from the Jewish community chose not to vote for Ken when this is the type of thing that certain of his supporters (and many feared Ken himself) believed.

        • Mike Murray

          Israel is a democracy. What’s wrong with supporting a democracy, all of the inhabitants of which have been threatened with being driven into the sea? I believe if Oona had stood we would have walked it.

          • S K Lee

             I’m not interested in arguing about Israel. It’s of absolutely no interest to the vast majority of working class people and Laour voters.

            You could not be more wrong about Oona King. She’d have been washed away by the Boris tide.

          • treborc1

            Labour is now looking for applications for the role of Mayor.

            They will need to be White Black, Irish, Scottish, Welsh, Jewish, Muslim, gay, straight, married, single, with  kids or without kids, living in a council house, but with a mansion down the road.

            Thank god I live in Wales where the mayor has the power of the local cat

          • Mike Murray

            Just like we were on the GLA?

        • Raviharrow

          Mike ken’s pro muslim vote pledge of making a london beacon of islam lost him the hindu vote big time in Brent Harrow so it was not only jewish voters he lost but loyal hindu votes too, just does’t playing one faitth community aganist another, Ken was not a unighter which a multi cultural london needed, he as simply old school.

          • As a muslim I agree with this, though the article itself is complete bin-filler, Ken should have played a more unifying role. As a representative of all facets of London life he needed to show support for all. Not just the few.

      • Taburke

        Well ‘Comrades’

        The total difference between Labour’s vote, as defined by the vote for the labour list in London, is 21,296 (See here: ) So no ‘Ken drag’.

        The same document shows that the highest turnout at 40% in the ‘South West’ super constituency. Personally, I don’t think less than 2 in 5 turnout to be anything to crow about and if anything supports my argument of a disaffected and disillusioned electorate.

        Saying Ken lost the ‘Jewish vote’ treating all London Jews as a heterogenus group is plainly wrong and a road that no-one should venture down.

        You, studiously avoided my main charge of sabotage, let me direct you to these tweets by a Guardian journalist I think you may know:!/DawnHFoster/status/198675961691123713  
        “Second Labour party staffer has now DMed me to confirm this: Also, Labour party member told me last night several labour MPs/councillors told people not to campaign for Ken. Stupid, spiteful people.” 

        And, this: captioned ‘Lynton Crosby and “Labour activist/ blogger” Dan Hodges sharing a hug and grin after Ken loses’ 

        Let me just remind you that this sabotage results in a very real and present danger to the people of London;
        No funding on action against homelessness, 
        Reduced funding for shelters for abused women,
        Disgraceful ‘fiddling’ of the figures that condemn over 4,000 people to die a year from complications due to air pollution.
        50% and higher rises in public transport fares
        Reduced Police on the streets, resulting in more crime, of which traditional labour voters are vastly more likely to be a victim.

        The only hope, Londoners have, is if the Labour AM’s block, stymie and frustrate Boris’s plans. It is a job that requires total commitment & iron discipline. I hope they are up to it.

        • AlanGiles

          And, this: captioned ‘Lynton Crosby and “Labour activist/ blogger” Dan Hodges sharing a hug and grin after Ken loses’ ”

          Surely this picture alone should be enough evidence to expel Hodges?

          Crosby is an obnoxious little man

          • treborc1

             Then again you never know what is in the labour parties minds, maybe Mr Hodges will be seen as a labour party hero.

            Little wonder so many people say they are all the same, they never care about us or they never listen to us.

    • Put frankly and bluntly, Ken Livingstone, with all due respect to his record as a politician was the WRONG candidate. It’s bad that some are choosing self-pity over a ‘desperate day’ for London. Labour made gains elsewhere, but for the mayoralty, Ken brought nothing fresh to encourage people to vote for him as the candidate. I admire the effort that Labour activists put in, but it’s ironic that they showed more energy and vigour than Ken himself. This defeat was a triumph of political ego and failure to find a better candidate and upwardly mobile message for hard pressed Londoners.

      What we need to do now is figure out how Assembly members can uplift the people in London, instead of losing ourselves to the trappings of self-pity and loathing over this result.

      Quite rich that you’re getting holy with the words ‘May your God forgive you’. Grow up, comrade.

    • Anyone who thinks there wasn’t a “Ken drag” is either wilfully ignorant or wasn’t there.

      Likewise anyone claiming he did quite well in terms of share of the vote. It was primarily a Ken v Boris personality fight, and less one of party against party. Hence the Lib Dem vote was lower than it would otherwise have been.

      It wasn’t all Ken’s fault, but a lot was.

      • Taburke

        Whatever you do don’t let the facts get in the way:

        As the figures show the biggest difference was in Barnet & Camden of 5,334 votes approx 3%. That correlates to 5k Labour voters not voting for Ken. 

        However in the North East Ken has 2,551 more votes than the list. How does that fit with a “Ken drag” narrative?

        Again, the highest turnout was 40% in both; Merton & Wandsworth, and South West the lowest at 35% was City & East.

        Succinctly, Ken lost because of low turnout, exacerbated by non- and anti- campaigning by some Labourites.

        • “Whatever you do don’t let the facts get in the way”.

          Speak for yourself Taburke! Labour beat the Tories convincingly in the Assembly elections, yet lost the Mayoral. You mentioned Merton and Wandsworth for example, in which Labour narrowed the GLA margin substantially while Ken actually lost share. How on earth does this prove there wasn’t a Ken drag?

          I really don’t know why anyone needs to be saying any of this though: it is obvious.

          • Taburke

            The Labour list – Assembly members, got 41.04% of the votes cast. Ken got 40.19% of the votes.

            The 21,296 votes I stated above represents 0.845% difference, which I hope you will agree is not evidence of a significant “Ken drag” furthermore of the 14 constituencies Ken outperformed, that is garnered more votes, the list in 4!

            Again, how does that fit into the “Ken drag” narrative?

            >40% turnout AND sabotage defeated Ken.

          • It’s not comparing like for like. When people were given a choice of candidates, Ken lost out to Boris while our Assembly candidates thumped the Tories. Ken gets a natural boost from the Mayoral being presented as a slugfest between him and Boris. In the past the personality side worked for him, but now it works against him.

            Mentioning “sabotage” is not cool by the way, whatever you think of some people – it is very totalitarian, Soviet-style language, like “enemies of the people”.

            When it comes to the crunch freedom of expression quickly takes a backseat to loyalty for many people (both on the Left and in the past on the New Labour wing). We have to live with differences of opinion, and if not respecting them, at least respect their right to be expressed in a free country like ours.

            Ken and supporters should really be facing up to this given his history.

          • S K Lee

            You lot can’t leave it alone can you?

            You ignore facts in order to bang-on about your own prejudices.

            You’re incapable of looking forward – stuck in an obsession with proving your own prejudices right.

            It’s tiresome in the extreme a staggeringly depressing.

          • What do you mean “you lot”? Whatever “lot” it is, it’s news to me I’m a part of it.

      • S K Lee

         No, some of it was Ken’s fault. It always is when a candidate loses.

        You are simply ignoring facts and rehearsing a pre-held prejudice by persisting with the ‘Ken-drag’ theory. I don’t say it didn’t exist for a number of individuals, but the FACTS prove it was statistically insignificant and could not have altered the result.

        You are also willfully ignoring the Boris Boost for the Tories. Jus because we hate his guts doesn’t mean that everybody does. He MASSIVELY outperformed his party and this in my view was the decisive factor.

  • AlanGiles

    Luke, I know revenge is a dish best eaten cold, but is it really necessary to gloat?

    Some of you on your particular wing of the Labour Party wanted KL to lose, and just to make sure several of your number wrote damning pieces for Labour Uncut, and LL.

    Well you have got what  you wanted. Livingstone is not going to stand again, so you are free to nominate Oona King or even Dan Hodges himself next time.  I am sure the Telegraph would support him.

    Livingstone, like all of us was flawed, but at least he never took this country to war on a false prospectus, and then went off to make obscene amounts of money on the back of it.

    • Luke Akehurst

      I’m not gloating, I’m mourning. I wanted a Labour Mayor and campaigned hard for Ken despite his flaws.

      I assume you know I am Dan Hodges bete noire on Twitter and spent much of the campaign attacking his failure to back Ken?

      • AlanGiles

        Luke, Time and again on LL when Labour voters said they would vote Labour for the GLA but not vote for KL, several of us made the point that there could only be two people who could win – Johnson or Livingstone, and not to vote for KL was to support albeit, tacitly Johnson.

        It seemed to me that many Labour voters regarded another four years of the woeful Johnson as a price worth paying to be rid of KL.

        If I misjudged your position originally, I apologise, but with all due respect, if so many people were so sure KL was the wrong candidate, why wasn’t something said earlier?. The choice was between him and Ms King. Frankly I doubt she would have done any better – this after all was a narrow defeat not a Ronnie O’Sullivan-esque victory for BJ. If it was thought KL was too old, it might have been better to have put this to him plainly. If he is so flawed even if he had stood as an independent, if labour had fielded a viable candidate, I imagine KL would have been the “Benita” candidate and come 5th – after all even as the official candidate, some rather toxic things were said about him by big names in the party, you can just imagine all the extra stuff that would have been gthrown if he had been running as an Independent.

        I got into a lot of trouble from one LL poster the other week, because I suggested that unless, to put it bluntly, people like Marchant buttoned it, KL would lose – condemnation from your own party is a much bigger problem to fight than from your opponents. By early April it was obvious there were people within Labour seriously  gunning for him, and I think the election was lost at that point – not earlier. If all the people who started the press campaign against KL had kept their own counsel there was a good chance of Labour winning.

        As the slightest remark can now be taken as anti-Semitism, I will have to be careful how I put this, but the intervention from Alan Sugar just two weeks ago probably did more damage than that of Dasai this week, in that, these days he is a “TV star” and his utterances get more attention (disproportinate in my view) than “lesser” figures. The irony is KL was going to appoint Nicky Gavron as his deputy, who, I believe is Jewish. I don’t think Livingstone is an anti-semite, and with all due respect all those LL writers and others elsewhere who have displayed such faux outrage know that perfectly well too.

        • Ian Pace

          On top of everything else, Alan Sugar chose to write about why people should not support Livingstone in the Sun on Sunday (or News-of-the-World-under-another-name-after-it-encountered-some-local-difficulty-last-year), of all papers.

          With friends like Sugar, who, including Labour, needs enemies?

  • Tower Hamlets hurt, but when you say “Any other person who had appeared to campaign against Labour like that would have been auto-excluded from the Party”, does that mean we can look forward to the purge of celebrities and centrists – Hodges, Sugar, Marchant etc? I know you’ll say you can’t comment because you’re a member of the NEC and might be called to judge, but since you’ve raised the issue…

    I think it was the tax stuff that damaged Ken the most. It was so close that he might have won if he’d paid a standard rate of tax on his income – whatever the niceties of the law politicians have to be above suspicion. Ironic for a left-winger really, and something we couldn’t have known at selection time (though maybe candidates should have to disclose skeletons well in advance, they’ll come out in the end anyway).

    • Luke Akehurst

      I can’t comment on the rules aspects but I can say and have already repeatedly said that my political view is I deplore anyone who is a party member not campaigning and voting for ALL Labour candidates. Ken should not have run vs Frank. He should not have backed Lutfur. And Hodges et all should have backed Ken. There are NEVER circumstances when it is acceptable to campaign or vote against the Labour Party if you are a Party member. This is non-negotiable.

    • John P Reid

      Sugar and Merchant diodn’t back another candidate they just said don’t vote for ken, Also Alex Hilton who backed Diane Abbott for leader in 2010 backed Siobhan, Knowing that she wouldn’t win, but voted Ken second

      • AlanGiles

        Sugar and Merchant diodn’t back another candidate they just said don’t vote for ken”

        Come of it, John. They knew what would happen if they didn’t vote for KL, and “telling” others just compounded their behaviour.

        If  they genuinely couldn’t bring themselves to vote for him that should have been a private and personal matter – to be frank if the “other” Miliband had won the Labour leadership, I would not have voted for the party while he had remained leader – but I certainly wouldn’t suggest – let alone tell – anyone else not to do so.

        Sugar is I think the same age as KL so perhaps it’s time he retired too, and why is he egotistical enough to believe anybody wants his Twitter advice?

  • Rooksby Ed

    A witch-hunt so soon Luke?

    • Luke Akehurst

      It’s not about individuals it’s about behaviour. If people close to Ken drop divisive politics they have a role to play.

      • Rooksby Ed

        Divisive? I can only admire your sheer nerve. You don’t think that you are being thoroughly ‘divisive’? You don’t think that the tightly organised minority of Blairite headbangers – the Tony Blair Martyrs Brigade – is a divisive, out of date faction to be rooted out?

        • If you think Blairites are dividing the party, you can have that view, but they’re no different from any other faction trying to further their vision for the party and where it should stand. Dividing the public, which some of Ken’s comments and actions have done, is a different matter.

          • Daniel Speight

             So Elliot was Hodges correct to write in the Telegraph that he was voting for Johnson? Was Sugar right to call for voters not to back Livingstone?

          • Okay, fair point. Some of the bile on LabourUncut of late has angered me. I also can’t stand what Hodges and Sugar did, but Sugar isn’t neccesarily a Blairite and even with Hodges, his Blairism wasn’t the sole defining factor in his decision. I’ll point to a line of Luke’s:

            “[Ken’s stance towards the Jewish community] left me, for the first time in my life, feeling morally compromised by my party’s choice of candidate.”

            I can’t lie, I felt like that at moments. I fought on, as did Luke and plenty of others, and Dan Hodges should have too. But if you read his article, to say the entirity of Hodge’s final objection was due to his Blairism and dislike of Ken is an oversimplification. “Labour not Ken” voters I talked to on the doorstep who were angry at Ken over his tax affairs or who simply felt he’d been around too long weren’t Blairites either.

          • Ian Pace

            It’s telling, though, that Johnson’s comments on ‘piccaninnies’ and ‘watermelon lips’, not to mention those on Muslims, have not attracted anything like the same attention – and do not seem to have deterred the likes of Hodges from voting for him.

          • Hence my belief that Ken was the lesser of two evils. But Ken’s “rich Jews” gaffe and tax issues were in the past two months, whereas Boris has been more disciplined ever since he started running in 2008, at least publically. Also, there’s perhaps an element of Labourites expecting better from their own.

          • Ian Pace

            In the New Labour period, if I remember the figures correctly, Labour lost 6 million voters between 1997 and 2010. 5 million of these were lost whilst Blair was leader.

            Also Blair is responsible for the deaths of more Muslims than any other post-war Prime Minister, and more than any far-right politician or boot boy either.

            That’s what I call dividing the public.

          • treborc1

             Do not worry he made it up now he has his faith charity.

  • Great analytical & honest piece. 

  • You seem to to be viewing this a Progress purple  coloured haze there Luke. Londoners certainly didn’t want a Neo-Labour Blairite candidate. 

    • Luke Akehurst

      Nor do I. Hence my reference not to a Blairite but to needing a candidate who can unite the Party and city. This COULD be a Blairite or a leftwinger if they are able to work in a non-divisive way.

      • Ian Pace

        The truly divisive faction in the party today are the Blairites – they have been sniping and briefing against their leader ever since he was elected, like sore losers. I have not seen anything like the same spite come from the centre-left of the Party towards them.

        Ed Miliband needs to assert his authority and take these people on, as Kinnock did with Militant in the 1980s.

        • “Ed Miliband needs to assert his authority and take these people on, as Kinnock did with Militant in the 1980s.”

          Whilst I agree that Progress and Akehurst are deeply dangerous to the Labour party, I think that comparing them to Militant is unfair on the Militant.

          Say what you like about them, and there’s plenty of scope for criticism, the Militant were sincere and dedicated in their concerns for working-class people facing the onslaught of Thatcher. The Militant were never a front group for big businesses that are deeply hostile to working class people, they never defended privatization and PFI deals, they never supported needless and bloody wars in the middle east. I mean I could go on, frankly the Militant were head and shoulders above the Tories-in-disguise entryist group Progress.

          • John P Reid

            Militant were dedicated to the working class?, And there deputy leader in Liverpool just happened to Have A porsche with personalised number plates and designer clothes, adn all the contracts that took away money for schools was just spent on paying his freind in the building game, I suppose where Progress helped make Labour electable so we could have done stuff over 13 years rather than sniping for from the opposition wasn’t dedicated to the working class,

            Last time the right of the party was Ousted was When militant used bullying tactics of getting their members to turn up to meetingand used block votes to deselect already sitting (to theright of the party)members, they went off to form the SDP …And took 3.5 million votes witht them.

          • That’s a bit simplistic. Some of the things the Militants did in Liverpool were popular – the housing policies, for example. What was the problem was simply the way they worked and organised – far from democratic. That meant it was very difficult to argue against them because the atmosphere created was so threatening.
            And the people who joined the SDP in Liverpool were largely time-serving MP’s who hardly went near their constituency and feared deselection. 

            I have no problem with the existence of Progress or any other group but I don’t like the way they organise and I think they take money away from the party itself. Why does Sainsbury find it better to fund his own group than to give money to the party itself?

            Politically, I think Progress encapsulate everything wrong with New Labour

          • treborc1

            We know that New labour would not just die, Blair will not allow that, sadly Progress is a Party within a party, refused to stand as a party it’s self it piggy backed onto labour.

            So you either kick it our or you live with it.

          • I don’t object to them as individuals – I think their politics can be argued against, but I do think their organisation needs some looking at

          • Ian Pace

            I have no problem with there being such a faction in the party either – I do think there is a real issue when they try to sabotage the party, its leader, and some of its candidates, when they don’t get their own way.

          • treborc1

             have you been to a meeting John, have you been to any political meetings, nobody forces people.

        • Stuart Madewell

          Luke you say you did not thjink Oona could win in 2010 so did you back her or not? You also claim that the left wanted Ken to run but my recollection was that the Labour Group on the GLA was unanimous in backing Ken. His biggest cheerleader was Len Duvall. To pretend that they took that stand out of fear of Ken is absurd. David Lammy chaired his campaign. Even Tessa Jowell spoke repeatedly in his favour.

          The problem was that the NEC decided to hold teh Mayoral selection at the same time as the leadership election when they should have waited until after the Leader was chosen.

          I also take exception to your use of the term ‘communalist’ to describe the politics of Tower Hamlets. You refer to ‘attempts to trade influence for votes with the self-appointed leaders of blocks of ethnic minority voters.’ That has been going on in Tower Hamlets and other boroughs by Labour politicians for years!!! I can remember Michael Keith speaking to an all male Muslim audience prior to the 2005 election.

          Please can you clarify what you mean by this term ‘commmunalism’? Do you consider pioneering a replacement to the EMA in Tower Hamlets as ‘communalist’. Sixth form students in Tower Hamlets currently enjoy the Mayors Educational Adward which is a watered down version of the EMA which Ken was promoting.

          I am not advocating allowing Lutfur back into the party at this point in time as I don’t think enough preparation has been made for such a move, but I would remind you that when Respect split in 2009 and some of their councillors were invited to join the party the local party in Tower Hamlets was not consulted about the matter and was unanimous in opposing it (including the hard left). The only person who argued in favour of letting Respect cllrs join the party was our MP Jim Fitzpatrick – and of course he got his way with the agreement of the NEC. 

          Ok you were not on the NEC when that happened but you know plenty of people who were.   

      • But there ARE divisions. Oona King, for example, would have been a far worse choice, given her pro-Iraq/Friends of Israel associations. That would be equally divisive only in a different way

        • Mark

          Oona King has actually made some virulently anti Israel remarks.

          Whether she stoops to the depths of being anti Zionist –  which is objectively anti semitic (it denies the Jews and only the Jews a national right) I don’t know.

    • Bill Lockhart

       Er, right…they wanted a proper left-winger so badly that they elected…a Tory…?
      Got it.

  • Jns01

    It’s a shame, because it’s obvious this was written long before the results were announced last night. As last night’s close finish proved, Livingstone’s loss was never inevitable, and though he may well have been the wrong candidate the factors this article examines as contributing to his loss are, in my opinion, unimportant. Some people were not happy to vote for a mayor they already had for 8 years, but there were still plenty of people willing to vote for him. I think this shows how strong Labour are currently, and how little support Boris and the Conservatives actually have.

  • Russell Fraser

    I’d be interested to know who the author thinks would have beaten Boris? Yes, Ken has “baggage” but only as much as does Boris.

    You praise the “professional leadership” of the London campaign as though Ken has nothing to do with it. Yet, given that leadership was also responsible for the egregious martians poster perhaps the praise is a little overdone.

    The attention on his tax arrangements certainly didn’t help. But he went ahead and published his accounts. What chance a Blair or Milburn or Prescott would have done the same?

    Ken undoubtedly offended a section of the Jewish community following the meeting. He denied saying anything in the terms put and another group of members of that community also wrote a prominent letter supporting him, flaws and all. He is at times cavalier in his language and insensitive but one tends to respect that more than most other politicians who speak a lot but in fact say little, so in fear are they of upsetting anyone. You then claim Ken suffered in Barnet and Camden for his stupidity and conclude that so damaged is Labour there than no members of the Jewish community will vote for us. You then contradict yourself by heralding Dismore’s share of the vote. It’s contradictory. You also fail to acknowledge the part Brian Coleman’s rank obnoxiousness surely played in his own downfall.

    Alan Sugar recently very publicly campaigned against the Labour party and remains a peer. So your analysis there is also found wanting.

    • Luke Akehurst

      Russell, Ken has been insensitive to me but that’s about my politics, which I choose and can walk away from. Members of a faith or ethnic group can’t choose to be someone else so generally it isn’t acceptable to denigrate people’s identity or community.

      The guys who wrote saying back him despite what he said stand by their original letter which detailed what he said in the meeting.

      I didn’t think Oona could beat Boris back in 2010 but given how well we polled yesterday I think virtually anyone other than Ken could have – certainly almost every London Labour GLA member, MP or council leader would have done better.

      • Ian Pace

        Was Ken not one of the few candidates against who Respect would not have put up an opponent? A Respect candidate could have taken away significant numbers of votes in areas such as Bethnal Green and other parts of Tower Hamlets. In light of results in Bradford, should we not be glad that we had a candidate who did not alienate significant sections of the Muslim community? 

        • So we should let Galloway and Respect drag the party left? That’s the road to oblivion. Also, although I’ll cede that I did have concerns about whether the wounds of 2005 had healed enough for Oona specifically to run strong in Tower Hamlets and Muslim communities, the idea that only Ken or only a hard-left candidate could run strong among Muslim voters is questionable. And that’s before we get to Ken’s overt alienation of other groups, especially Jews, which Oona or any other candidate would have avoided.

          • Ian Pace

            The Asian community in London accounts for over 12% of the population of the city. The Muslim community accounts for 8.5% of the population of the city. A successful Labour candidate needs to be able to convince these communities that they are serious about their interests; otherwise, like it or not, a Galloway-like figure will do that instead. In purely demographic terms, these communities are much larger than those Ken is said to have alienated.

            I wouldn’t accept the idea that Ken is a ‘hard-left candidate’ – maybe in the 1980s (though many of the things he championed then – gay and lesbian rights, multiculturalism, dialogue with Sinn Fein, and so on – are now relatively mainstream), but not now.

          • John P Reid

            its mainstream to tlak to SinnFein/I.R.A now as tehy’ve disarmed, ti was A mass turnoff from the public when they were still killing 1000’s of people, thats’ why it’s aminstream now, not anything Ken did.

          • Ian Pace

            The Thatcher Government were talking to Sinn Fein and the IRA as well whilst they were still killing people (never ‘1000s’, though) – 

          • Bill Lockhart

             Talking to them is different from gushingly praising them as Livingstone did. Odd that “progressives” like Livingstone and Galloway tend to have schoolgirl crushes on murdering totalitarian thugs. Vicarious wish fulfilment I guess.

          • Ian Pace

            Whereas having crushes on George W. Bush or Colonel Gadaffi is perfectly acceptable?

            Livingstone did not gushingly praise Sinn Fein, though he had sympathy with the fight against centuries of British colonalist oppression against Irish Catholics.

            (by the way, some schoolgirls will be first-time voters in 2015)

          • Depends on what you mean by “serious about their interests”, though. For the most part, Asian and Muslim voters have the same concerns as other Londoners anyway- fares, economic hardship etc. In terms of specific stuff, not having supported the Iraq war (e.g. not Oona) is maybe fair enough. But I reject that backing Lutfur Rahman, for example, was a neccesity to gain the support of the Muslim community. Even if we presume it was, then we’ve got bigger problems, which Labour should address rather than pandering to. And we certainly shouldn’t kowtow to Respect’s approach to sectarian politics.

          • Ian Pace

            ‘For the most part, Asian and Muslim voters have the same concerns as other Londoners anyway- fares, economic hardship etc. ‘

            So racial discrimination, fear of being attacked on account of the colour of their skin, or having to deal with a wider culture of Islamophobia which views many Asians and Muslims as potential terrorist (which, to his great credit, Ken did much to try and keep at pay after 7/7) are just minor details, then?

          • Of course, you are right. Muslims should be robustly defended from Islamophobia, and his response 7/7 was indeed the pinacle of his career. Further, the striking contrast between that and Boris’ horrific and irresponsible remarks about Islam in the wake of the bombings (“Islam is the problem…it is the most viciously sectarian of all religions in its heartlessness towards unbelievers”) was one of the reasons I campaigned for Ken against Boris, despite reservations I had about Ken.

            However, I would also argue that Ken’s association with Qaradawi, for example, was a mistake in it was counter-productive to precisely that cause, as he was not neccesarily the hallmark of a moderate Muslim cleric in the eyes of many people and was instead just the kind of fringe voice that puts mainstream Muslims in a difficult position. Lutfur Rahman was more ambiguous, but local Labour councillors, including moderate leaders in the Muslim community such as Helal Abbas, had concerns about his alleged IFE links, which the NEC chose to act upon and Ken ignored. For another example, Ken’s “beacon of Islam” line, though well-intentioned, was also counter-productive. It led people to ask why Ken didn’t tell Jewish voters London should be a “beacon of Judaisim” or Hindus a “beacon of Hinduism”, again providing fodder for Islamophobes who believe Muslims are seperate from society. There is a careful line between defending a community and responding to its legitimate needs on the one hand and being sectarian on the other, especially when the division puts the community you seek to help at further risk.

          • Ian Pace

            I can agree with a lot of the above, and did not particularly like Ken’s ‘beacon of Islam’ comment – though I can understand why he made it, and because of Islamophobia it had different resonances to the equivalent about Hinduism and Judaism.

            Sectarian approaches towards communities are rarely productive (though just as bad amongst, say, Labour Friends of Israel), but in order to establish meaningful dialogue, one does have to take on board the very reasons why communities feel themselves to be separate (often not by choice) in the first place. And also sometimes it is necessary to have a dialogue with the types of religious leaders one might find otherwise distasteful, if they generate enthusiasm from within communities. Ken didn’t necessarily go about this the best way, but I think he did at least have some understanding of the difficulties entailed.

          • I agree with most of that too.

          • Stuart Madewell

            Helal Abbas has also had links to the IFE as have most Bengali Labour politicians in the sense that they work with the IFE. 
            To claim that Helal Abbas was a moderate is a bit odd as he has been suspended as a councillor following an enquiry by the standards board and a First tier tribunal.

            The NEC chose to IGNORE the allegations and suspend Lutfer on the basis of allegations which have subsequently been exposed by the Guardian journalist Dave Hill as false.

            Ken deserves credit for standing up for natural justice in the Labour Party something that Luke doesn’t appear to understand  

          • Personally I don’t think that Respect should even be thought of as being a left-wing party any more. It started out as a kind of ad hoc coalition between anti-war muslims and the Socialist Workers Party. Back in 2005 it could’ve been called left wing, but the SWP became uncomfortable with pandering to socially conservative attitudes within the muslim community like Galloway specialises in, and Galloway became sick of the control freak political tradition that exists within the SWP. Galloway never took orders from the Labour party, he wasn’t about to start following orders from the central committee of the SWP. So they went their seperate ways, and now Respect is a tiny grouping based around Galloway’s massive ego, with very little left-wing influence.

            I really don’t care what they do, Respect exist as a product of Labour’s failure and as a reminder of the political disaster it made by indulging in reckless and destructive foreign wars. It’s more than just party politics, thousands of British people have died in those wars that were supported and encouraged by Luke The Nuke and his Blairite pals, countless thousands have died in the countries we invaded, millions have been made refugees, they quite literally have blood on their hands and we must never let them forget it. Remind yourself of this every time you pass a war memorial.

            And the road to oblivion is to cling onto the failed neo-liberal political consensus that has led to record unemployment, cuts and recession, instead of trying to fight for working class people. It’s amusing to see Akehurst, who has a habit of goading the left-wing of the Party like any good Tory would, quote Marx in the opening line of this article. No doubt he had a chuckle over that. It’s also amusing to see him attack Tony Benn, because practically all that Benn predicted would come to pass as a result of Thatcherism has been vindicated by events, and whilst Luke and co were cosying upto the destructive anti-working-class ideology of Thatcher, Benn used his career to fight against it. A bit of Bennite socialism is probably closer to the mood of the nation now than Blairism is.

            The prevailing mood in the country is that the Tories are an out of touch government of the rich, that the cuts are vindictive and ideological, and that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are/were a failure and we should bring our troops home. On all of these issues, Akehurst and New Labour are out of step with the general public, and unless they are marginalised Labour will remain out of step too.

            Don’t forget it was Blairism and New Labour that lost the last general election, and it was Blairism and New Labour that lost the last party leadership election. The game’s over. They’ve already been down the road to oblivion. The political certainties that New Labour based themselves on in the 80’s are no longer there, and the task now is to take the initiative, not to live in the past.

          • AlanGiles

            Elliot. The party needs to go left just a little. At the moment we have the Conservatives, Lib-Dems and a large swathe of Labour all more or less agreeing with each other. I’m sorry to use my favourite example but Liam Byrne, one of the most dissembling ministers makes great play of “opposing” the Welfare Reform Bill, even though the Coalition is merely continuing what  James Purnell – and Liam Byrne – started, which itself is based on the prejudices of David Freud, a self-described welfare expert. Despite Byrne’s strong “opposition” he has said publically that he “agrees with three quarters of the bill”.

            When you have three parties all basically saying the same thing, trying to pander to the same prejudices of the public, is it any wonder we have hung parliaments and disinterested voters.

            The big thing going for Ed Miliband is that his hands are clean on Iraq and the expenses scandal. He has had a good week, and now is the time to exert his authority. There are disenchanted Blairites, who, like the Livingstone situation, are content to see a traditional Labour personality lose or be traduced, in the hope of keeping the party on a rightward drift.

            Every party leader eventually has to draw a line: Mrs Thatcher didn’t tolerate what she called “wets” in her cabinet for long – you had to be “one of us”. Blair had only a token leftwinger or two (Clare Short, Michael Meacher, Frank Dobson they didn’t last long)). The only PM who was perceived as weak and never took on what he called his “b*stards” was John Major and look what happened to him. If Ed Miliband does’nt reshuffle his shadow cabinet and be his own man he could be another John Major

          • Who said anything about hard left? You can be against the liberal interventionist project without being on the hard left. Oona would have been a disaster – she went out of her way to support the Iraq war when every bit of common sense and soundings from her own constituency should have told her it would finish her off. She must have believed it was right. therefore, she’s not the right person to represent Labour in London. Simple as.

        •  I don’t think Luke cares about alienating large sections of the muslim community to be honest Ian, he wouldn’t have been such an enthusiastic supporter of George W. Bush’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan if he was.

          And it’s worth remembering, had Labour had the sense to listen to people like Robin Cook, instead of letting their warmongering wing, bought and paid for by the defense industry of course, led by the likes of Luke “the Nuke” Akehurst, there would be no Respect and there would still be a Labour MP representing Bradford West.

          • John P Reid

            there’s no such thing in Politics as A muslim community, Barones Warsi is Muslim She’s a tory, the Point was that Ken may have not got respect to stand agaisnt him and get votes in Tower Hamlets ,but how many more 1000’s voted Tory in Bromley and Richmond, and they’re the place Boris cut most police from,

          • absolutely, Delroy. At least we now have a leader who didn’t support Iraq, but we are sill stained by that memory

          • treborc1

             I suspect if he was an MP when Blair was in power Ed would have  been voting for that war, but of course he was not he was bag carrying learning his trade from the master.

          • No, he wasn’t. He was teaching at Harvard and not in the country for that period of time – but it is on record that he didn’t support the war. Its really rather pathetic to say anything other when its been known that he didn’t support the war since the leadership campaign . No-one has actually got a scrap of evidence that he took any other position

          • Bill Lockhart

             He voted against the Iraq inquiry. His voting record is 100% Blair/Brownite

        • Bill Lockhart

           So you’re just glad you didn’t lose by more?

      • Russell Fraser

        You’re a little selective in what you respond to. I agree to the extent that he made a stupid generalisation about the likely voting intentions of the Jewish community. 

        I don’t know how you can claim anyone else would have done as well. Ken’s manifesto was radical but not radical enough. No one chosen by Labour central would have promised rent controls and lower fares. These things resonated at a time when people are suffering.

        • Bill Lockhart

          Livingstone lost to a Tory, but you don’t think he was Left-wing enough? How does that work then?

      • Not if they were supporters of the Iraq war, or outspoken pro-Zionists.

        • RogerMcC


          Where’s your evidence?

          And if it amounts to x% of London Labour voters are Muslims what does that say about such voters that they care more about two far away countries of whom the rest of us know and care nothing than they do about their own jobs and services?

          If Labour can really only win in London by kowtowing to anti-semites and apologists for Jihad then maybe London deserves another 4 years of Boris. 

          • RogerMcC

            I should add this is not my view of the Muslim community but it does appear to be Mike’s and Ken’s  and every other leftist who projects his own pet obsessions onto them.

  • Ian Pace

    ‘The sinister praising of totalitarian and authoritarian Latin American regimes and Middle Eastern religious wingnuts comes from the politics of this group.’

    Do you feel the same way about Blair’s actions towards Gadaffi? Or how about his sinister praising of one authoritarian and religious wingnut US President?

  • The usual sub-Bozier drivel from Akehurst. 

  • MattWales

    Good piece. Totally wasted on those willing to countenance Ken’s rather disturbing Jew bashing and clerical fascist hugging as long as their good old boy got in.

    • Just out of curiosity, is everyone critical of the illegal occupation of Palestinian land also an anti-semite?

      Sounds like the kind of argument I’m more used to hearing from the EDL than from Labour supporters.

      • No, but anyone who says “Jews are too rich to vote Labour”, doesn’t understand why Jews might be disturbed by his relationship with a man who condones suicide bombing in Israel and doesn’t have the social awareness to apologise after (accidently, admittedly) comparing a Jewish reporter a concentration camp guard clearly isn’t the most switched-on person when it comes to community relations, to say the least. I don’t like Israel’s occupation of Palestine either, but muddling that view with the above plays directly into the hands of CFI hawks who can’t tell the difference between legitimate criticism of Israel and anti-semitism.

        • Ian Pace

          Many of those who criticise Livingstone for what he said to a reporter have no problem comparing critics of Israel government policy to Nazis, regularly.

          I don’t see why condoning suicide bombing in Israel is worse than condoning the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

          • I don’t condone that either. Like I said, there are people who think even measured criticism of Israeli policy is anti-semitism, which is lunacy. It’s also counter-productive to the peace process. However, that doesn’t justify actual anti-semitism. Criticise the Israeli government all you like, but don’t get that muddled with prejudicial comments against people of Jewish faith. Indeed, keeping those two apart is crucial if Israel critics are to have legitimacy against those seek to use false charges of anti-semitism to silence legitimate criticism of Israel.

            And suicide bombing in Israel usually targets civilians, on purpose. Jews often feel kinship with what happens to their brothers in Israel, just as Muslims often do with their brothers in Palestine. Whatever you think of our presence in Afghanistan, and I myself am a sceptic, US, UK and Coalition forces generally seek to avoid casualites. Killing Israeli civilians on purpose is terrorism.

          • Ian Pace

            On the whole, I would imagine statistics bear out that more prosperous and affluent communities tend to vote for more right-wing politicians and parties, particularly when they think these ones will tax them less. The situation is somewhat more ambiguous with respect to prosperous minority communities, whose allegiance may essentially be to the interests of private capital, but nonetheless still face discrimination on the grounds of being minority. I would bet you that *any* Jewish person who had gone to school with Boris, Dave, or George would know how they themselves would never become a true part of that establishment – that is the real anti-semitism.

            But Ken was simply pointing out (albeit in rather cruder terms than I might prefer) that the relative affluence of Jewish communities, compared say to Bangladeshis, can mean that they are less likely to vote for a left-wing party. I think that’s perfectly plausible, they less the case than for affluent white gentile communities. The same arguments could be made of Saudi or Kuwaiti communities, and I doubt that would cause anything like the same consternation. I can’t imagine that Labour campaigners’ time is likely to be very fruitfully spent knocking on doors on Bishop’s Avenue. 

          • Evidence is actually that Jews vote along denominational, rather than class, lines to a large degree in the UK (e.g. Orthodox for the Conservatives, Reform for Labour). Therefore, they tend to be a 50-50 swing block. And “Jews are rich and only care about money” is a longstanding stereotype, one which any politician worth their salt must be sensitive to. Also, this is less relevant to us, but in the US, Jews are almost monolithicaly Democratic, even when they are better-off, due to their social liberalism.

          • The most Conservative Jewish community is the working class Hasidim of Stamford Hill!
            Reform and Liberal Jews are proportionately much more Labour than their class status suggests

            I do think that we probably need a candidate with moderate views on Israel and Palestine – but not an Iraq war supporter or someone who is associated with enthusiasm for liberal interventionism

            I think that’s probably the view of the majority of the party.

          • MattWales

            I think we have to take a look at the context in which Livingstone made some of these comments, lets not forget they weren’t all in the context of the IP conflict.

            His comments on the Rich jews, the concentration camp guard and the racial exclusivity of Jews were specifically aimed at Jews Israel didnt come into it.

            It would be the same as mentioning war crimes in the Sudan or opression in Zimbabwe every time someone says something racially offensive about black people, it’s out of context.

            Although I heartily agree that next time Labour picks a candidate they should be balanced towards a peaceful resolution of the IP conflict, not massively biased to either side.

          • Ignorance is no excuse.

      • John P Reid

        No of course, Not, it’s Israel that people have  Aproblem with No tthe Jewsih faith and Ken’s supprt of Fascist Clerics is damaging as those clerics are Anti semetic not becuase the’yre Anti Isreel.

        • treborc1

          I’m anti Israel, I do not believe they had a right to take the land by force, how’s that

      • MattWales

        Thats because your a moron, he used the word JEW when he criticised JEWS.

        Funny your use of the term antisemite (I didnt use it) and pre pubescent EDL smear attempt and for some reason dragging Palestine  into it seems to want to detract for the issue.

        Cant think why.

  • So, who do we go for as our next candidate? Who speaks for Labour in London for the next four years?

  • Daniel Speight

    Luke the result was that close that if you are going to give reasons why Livingstone lost you must include the affect of those supposedly Labour people who campaigned against him, some even urging a vote for Johnson. If you and others on the NEC have the balls you should clear up this problem now before they do the same to Ed Miliband in 2015. You know very well who they are and you know the action that probably needs to be taken.

    That Livingstone’s hypocrisy over his tax affairs opened the door for the negative campaigning that Johnson’s team do so well is unarguable, but it looks like the Labour turncoats did enough to give the election to the Tories. The payoff for that will be further damage to London and even less of a future for  London’s kids.

    Luke being on the NEC and being from London means that you have the responsibility to sort these people out. If all you can do is say you are glad Livingstone has gone, then you shouldn’t stand again for the NEC just as Livingstone shouldn’t stand again for  mayor.

  • Important article.I am a Jewish member in Hendon, campaigned for both Ken and Andrew Dismore, despite my reservations on Ken, i held my nose for the Labour candidate. We had long time Jewish Labour voters slamming their doors in our faces as soon as we mentioned Ken. Ken has severely damaged our relationship with this community. Ken Lost by 60,000. Jewish Labour voters in Barnet & Camden account for approximately half of that total. Such a shame as i wanted a Labour Mayor. Ken lost it. Boris did not win it.

    • Bill Lockhart

       Congratulations on beating Coleman.

      •  Thank you.

        • Matt Woods

          I think the joy of Coleman’s defeat is something that can unite people from all parties!!

    • But Oona King would have gained the same reaction in Tower Hamlets. I think we need a candidate who takes a middle of the road view on Israel/Palestine and was against the Iraq war.

      Our current party leader takes that view, but he’s not available!

      • It was nothing to do with Israel/Palestine. Ken’s views on that are pretty mainstream, despite what the right wing press may shout and scream about.

        As Jonathan Freedland wrote: “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.”

        This sort of sums it up. And this feeling amongst the Jewish community makes them feel vulnerable and see Ken as a real danger.

      • D. Hanlon

        Mike, you have some bizarre obsession with the Iraq war and you’re sounding like a broken record. Let it drop.

        The difference is that Oona King had never made anti-Islamic comments. Ken however, has made plenty of comments which have the whiff of anti-Semitism about them.

        I’m sure I’m not the only one who finds it slightly disturbing that some on here seem to show a willing tolerance for anti-Semitism.

      • John P Reid

        Didn’t realise that IT was tower hamlets that was the one place where the eelction was decided, i thought it was Outer london where they weigh Boris votes

  • “The wider phenomenon of Tony Benn and the Bennites was seen off by Neil Kinnock in the 1980s, with its Trotskyist entryist wing, Militant, expelled. ” What????

    • “its Trotskyist entryist wing” – that’s total fiction and a smear by unfounded association. Tony Benn and the Bennites didn’t have any sort of a ‘wing’.

      • Agreed. The legitimate Left in Liverpool were certainly not seen as part of Militant. 
        Peter Kilfoyle, who was central to getting the Militant expelled is a firm critic of New Labour and Progress, and was one of the MP’s who moved the resolution against the Iraq war in Parliament

  • Dan Young

    Would you be able to name a single candidate who could have done better than ken? I keep hearing these blairite candidates are around but still don’t hear a name. Ken was clearly the only candidate that could have won. Highlighted by the fact he was only 62000 votes behind with all the baggage you talk of. If members, mp’s and councillors from your wing of the party had stopped putting out their own reasons why he would/should lose in the build up to the election maybe we would have done better. But instead blairite mp’s actively refused to hand out ken literature or mention him on the door and in some constituencies they even refused to door knock on election day.
    Maybe your correct and the left in London will now decrease in influence in London. But it is quite obvious to most that the right is not ready to step into the gap that is left

    • Bill Lockhart

      Kate. Hoey. Would. Have .Walked. It.

      • Spotify


      • Hilarious – you mean as an alternative Tory candidate, given her closeness to Boris? Given no-one would have worked for her as she’s managed to alienate virtually the entire Labour party…… but then, you’re a Tory supporter, so its the sort of nonsense you always write here.

        • Bill Lockhart

           The more middle-class hobbyist Trots like you she alienates, the more she impresses real voters in the real world. People who have to work for a living, who regard politics as an occasional tedious necessity rather than depending on it for their social lives. Perhaps it’s because she gives the impression of being a human being rather than a machine regurgitating a small selection of moronic slogans.

          • No, she doesn’t. Like Frank Field, she tends to be a maverick, but alienates as many people as she attracts. Do you honestly think her role in the Countryside Alliance is going to attract voters in London – it would be like handing a couple of hundred thousand votes to the greens before we started. There’s no way the Labour party would select her and the fact you think she would be popular with prospective Labour voters explains why you are not one

          • Bill Lockhart

             You’re right there. The fact that you don’t care that she would be more popular with prospective Labour voters helps to explains why Labour lost. Your kind actually think that your “activists” matter more than the voters. Wakey wakey.

      • S K Lee


        • Bill Lockhart

           I’m talking about what voters would support, not navel-gazing right-on students.

    • john P Reid

      Whats this wing of the party that were agisnt Ken, Dan, Denis Skinner who strongly voted agsint Kern being able to return to the Party in 2004 and Hasn’t spoke to him since or Lord Darsi who even backed Ken as An Independent in 2000 ,who said he was tired and out of ideas, who’d have doen better than Ken, Anyone who’d actually visited outer london in the previous 40 years Pre, Kens first visit to London 8 months ago.

      How many other  possible Labour candidates have said the Tories are riddled with gays, Rich jews won’t vote for me, 

      Ken got 70,000 less votes this time than in 2008, same as Boris got 450,000 less votes this time than in 2008. 

  • S K Lee

    There’s no chance of a proper debate here ..just the grinding of axes and exercising of prejudices.

    The FACT is that Ken was not up against a run of the mill Tory candidate. As much as we loathe him, it is foolish to pretend that he is not personally popular with large numbers of voters. I saw film of black women running across the road to kiss him, regardless of his having dubbed black children as ‘piccaninnies’ and burbled unpleasant drivel about ‘watermelon smiles’. As a friend from Islington said to me, ‘we tried to pin the Tory colours on him and couldn’t make it stick’.

  • Paul

    I think any candidate against Johnson might have been on to a loser because he was ‘Boris’. Also I don’t agree with all the comments in the article. But I do feel Livingstone was ‘yesterday’s man’. He had eight years and then lost, he should have called it a day. Labour should have been able to call on a new good centre left candidate.

    • The problem is that the only one who came forward was Oona King! 

  • Chilbaldi

    Luke, it is admirable that you say these things but why didn’t you say them at the time the selection method for our Mayoral candidate was being decided? Why didn’t you say something when Ken stitched it all up?

    You had the audience, but you chose to remain silent. Hindsight is a wonderful thing eh?

  • RogerMcC

    You missed out Reg Freeson from Ken’s victims list. 

    As for Frank Dobson he really had no one but himself to blame – he could have dug in his heels at the Department of Health and defied Blair to sack him and so perhaps significantly slowed down the creeping privatisation of the NHS that he claimed to love – but he just caved in and stood against Ken.  

    I do however think that Luke deserves a little credit for not pitching in until after the election – contrast with the odious behaviour of his fellow ultra-Blairite Dan Hodges who really deserves expulsion. 

  • Dave Hollins

    What a nerve you have to write the last sentence about unity after the tendentious crap of the rest of article. No other candidate would have survived the Lynton Crosby/Evening Standard negative onslaught and the Johnson cult. Ken was 1% behind the Labour Party in the election, just doesn’t fit the theory does it?

    Like Labour Uncut, you take all the rubbish peddled by political opponents and recycle it as fact. 

    Ken’s mayoralty was the most successful Labour administration I have known.  He actually knew how to run things.  He punched above his weight and achieved a huge amount through leadership, the opposite of Blair who got massive political power and frittered it all away, achieving very little over a whole decade of large majorities. 

    I hear you’re standing for the NEC.  Here’s 1 vote you won’t get.  I’ll give mine to Ken.

    • Same here. I’m not voting for any right wingers this year, and usually I opt for a mixture, but at the moment their influence is pernicious

  • What a load of rubbish – haven’t the right wing ever got over looking for ‘reds under the beds’?

    Boris appears to be a London phenomenon. Up here I think he is despised – viewed as an idiot, a lightweight, an if the Tories ever did choose him as leader he would lose a lot ofvotes outside the south

    The problem is that the mayopralty is not viewed as political but some sort of personality contest – and given that all he real power is with the boroughs, thats really not inaccurate

    What Labour ought to be doing is recognise that the mayoral error was a mistake, that people don’t want them, and advocate getting rid of the mayoralty. Keep the GLA but give it proper strategic powers – but we don’t need an example of boss politics to do it

    Finally, London is illogical as it now stands. The outer boroughs have little in common with the inner city, which is why they vote so differently. Hence a uniting candidate is unlikely – for example a pro-Zionist/Friends of Israel candidate would alienate the Muslim community who are overwhelmingly hostile to Zionist expansionism

  • So did you vote Ken, in the end?

    • AJ2

      Me? As I said I did but I suspect many other labour members/suporters didnt. I totaly agree with Luke you suport the Labour candidate whatever your views. But I suspect thats a view thats dying out

  • Eastender

    Whilst a number of the criticisms of Ken are perfectly valid they are not the reason he lost. Boris won rather than Ken lost because he was able to create a persona of being an anti politics politician which fits the zeitgeist, total cobblers but enough of the electorate bought it after months / years of Boris promotion in the Standard, Metro and elsewhere. The numbers bear this out, in the overall assembly vote  it was 41% Lab 33 % Tory, 1st preferences  40% Ken 44% Boris. So yes there were a few Labour supporters who did not vote for Ken (and some of the reasons Luke outlines are probably behind that) but overwhelmingly non Labour non Tory voters backed Boris. Whoever the Labour candidate was would have struggled to overcome the myth of “good old Boris”. As to whether a few more leaflets on crime policy in Bromley would have made a difference………… 

    As to all the guff about refighting old battles, really time to move on. Like him or loath him Ken has been the most successful London politician of the past 30 years and we should be grateful for the good things he has done. His time has now clearly gone (as he himself has publicly admitted) and it for others to try and be as successful. Leave the sectarianism in the history books of the Labour party of the 1980s where it belongs. As a senior member of the Party on the NEC this style of public rant really should be beneath you, it is simply not helpful and is likely to used against the party. You have certainly lost my vote for the NEC, I did vote for you last time.

  • Mike Murray

    I am totally opposed to elected Mayors which sadly, we introduced. At least most of the people in the Midlands and the North have shown the good sense to  reject the proposition that all major towns and cities should have one; promoted (naturally) by Cameron pace Blair.

    I much preferred the old days of the GLC with an elected leader who spoke for London. The Mayoral elections we have seen in the capital recently have always seemed to be a contest between which candidate has the nicest teeth, the least baggage and can make you laugh the loudest. Fatuous.

    • Bill Lockhart

       Of course Livingstone avoided the “elected leader” bit of the GLC by organising a Labour coup the day after the actual election and having himself installed instead..  So actually that stuff about “elected leader speaking for London ” is rubbish.

      • Mike Murray

        Yes, that was unfortunate and should never have happpened. But I still believe that, nevertheless, an elected leader of the GLC was a better principle than this present media driven beauty contest.

  • Matt Woods

    As a Conservative activist, and one from Hackney at that, I think Luke is talking a lot of sense.  Ken was toxic on the streets and the doorsteps across London.  Had we been up against anyone else; David Lammy, Alan Johnson or whoever else you like, we’d have had a pasting.

    • AJ2

      An excellent article which says it all

      It was pretty evident talking to many labour members and suporters before the election that they were not going to vote for Ken for the reasons that Luke outlined so well.

      I did vote for him and I suspect others eventualy did but he’d alienated too many natural suporters. Frankly he should never have been let back into the party

  • Graham Taylor

    Absolutely spot on Luke. A shame you’resaying it 18 months too late.

    The London Region needs to be massively reformed. We need some level of input from the CLPs other than a biennial conference and Regional Board reps based on very peculiar constituencies – perhaps two per GLA seat would be a start? 

    Ken may have lost, but it’s great news that we’ve got four extra Assembly Members: A doctor, a former MP, a former MP’s researcher and a former party staffer. It’s almost as diverse as the shadow cabinet. At least the Tory front bench contains a few people that have done something other than student politics then lobbying / think-tank/ SpAd / safe seat. 

    It’s no wonder so few people vote.

  • joshlondon

    The problem is that Ken has a nasty streak to his personality. It is a fatal flaw. He used language that echoes anti-semitic language dating back hundreds of years. If Alan Johnson had been the candidate, he would have won a clear victory.

  • Michael D

    Absolutely spot on Luke.

    And I say this as someone who voted for Ken on Thursday. I voted for him out of loyalty to Labour and because he has always had good policies when it comes to transport, regeneration, etc.

    But his occasional anti-Semitic comments and Galloway-esque sycophancy when it came to corrupt, Islamic militants was beyond the pale.

    Labour needs to start afresh in London and the old politics of division which Ken preached for so long must never be allowed to return.

  • Dave C

    “If you don’t believe this had an electoral impact look at Camden & Barnet, the GLA division where there is the largest Jewish electorate – Labour GLA candidate Andrew Dismore got about 20,000 more votes than Ken.”

    In Barnet & Camden, Brian Coleman significantly underperformed the Tory vote (Coleman 31.9%, List 36.3%, Boris
    49.4%). So Coleman was less popular than his party by 4.4%.
    They seem upset there because the council  removed the  parking meters that accepted coins and replaced them with ones that require you to pay by mobile phone. This has affected trade in the nearby shops.

    So 4.4% percentage points of Dismore’s 12.8% lead over Coleman is down to 
    Coleman’s policies and personality. If there’s a Ken ‘drag factor’ there, it’s in the order of 3.1%. 

  • Duncan Halll

    “Let’s allow Ken to retire from the political frontline as his dignified concession speech said” but not until we’ve got in one last undignified sectarian attack.

    Luke Akehurst: Labour’s most contrary spokesperson. A rabid sectarian and a blind loyalist; the Blairite who rejects the choice agenda; the activists’ champion who thinks party staff should “crush the left”.

    Not a fitting person to write Labourlist’s political obituary to our generation’s Herbert Morrison (i.e. A deeply flawed Labour pragmatist who devoted immense political skill to London)

    • Daniel Speight

       I like the Morrison comparison. Both were experts at ‘city hall’ politics, but that shouldn’t detract from them both having got things done for the town.

  • Welsh Borderer

    As a Labour member who voted Foot-Benn-Smith( ?) -Blair – Ed Miliband as Leadership, I totally endorse Luke’s comment that supporting candidates opposing Labour at elections is an absolute no-no. As a non-Londoner, I remain astonished that the Party there decided to run Ken Livingstone again in 2012.  He was good in some areas – especially transport and inclusivity – in his day. Which was over in 2008. Labour’s  loyalty to familiar figures remembered through rose-tinted glasses, is a long-term failing. The same self-indulgent failing that led to us neglecting to clear out all the Labour MPs with questionable records on expenses, and the same failing that will give some of those very same MPs  ludicrous and unearned privileges when we reselect next year on the new boundaries. Our opponents don’t make this mistake.  Ken’s supporters are fooling themselves when they  compare the % Labour vote of the Mayor and GLA. the absolute votes are decisive. Labour slaughtered the Tories in the GLA elections – they won 200,000 votes more ! It is a fantasy to interpret that as similar to Ken’s defeat on 1st preference votes. 

  • Gcw72

    From this side of the Severn and as an ex LB Hackney Resident I can not Fault your comment, For the benefit ofNJj Morrison Blait woulf have won , Livingstone did not. Perhaps there is a lessom there for 2916

  • jonathanmorse

    Perhaps things would have been better if Blair had just brought back the GLC.

  • Raviharrow

    brent harrow labour Gla candidate hind,u navin shah trashed the tory candidate and yet Boris was neck and neck with Ken. With 42% hindu voters Ken’s Beacon of Islam pledge to secure the muslim in city & east which ken pulled but as with Jewish lost the traditional loyal labour hindu votes, in brent Harrow as many as 20,000 hindu votes. Labour will also need to do a lot of rebuilding witth its loyal hindu votes . Ken’s divisive politics has damaged Labour London and Ken is not one to blame but Ed, Herman and others who were full aware Ken’s harvesting the muslim but choose to turn eye, As Lord Sugar said it required “guts”. Thank god Ken did not win, the damage he would done to Labour’s chances in GE in 2015 should not be underestimated.

  • Shimon

    SK Lee has a point – Johnston’s affable public persona is attractive to many people who are not ideologically shackled to parties other than the Tories. However, that does not mean that Livingstone was anything but a bloody disaster for Labour. The mayoral vote was, for most people, not viewed along strictly party line; the emphasis was on the candidate. So, on the one hand, there’s a candidate who – for all the reasons listed in the article – is associated with extremism, factionalism, division, hypocrisy and opportunism and another who comes across (rightly or wrongly) as avuncular, well-intentioned, open, honest, and forthright. Livingstone’s socially divisive tactics were in the mould of Galloway. Had he won it would have sent a powerful message to campaign strategists of all parties with horrible consequences for the health of the body politic.   

  • OL

    Just listen to this… If Ken (or any other member of the public) makes the same accusation about any other community that he makes about Jews he would be considered a racist- remember Norman Tebbit- he had nothing on Ken!

  • David Sindall

    What a nonesense.

    Ken was polemical, no doubt about that but he was doing things in London that set the standard for years to come.

    To cite one example the work he did on contract compliance preceded any work on the public sector duty allowing equalities issues to be factored into public sector contracting. Or the fares fare policy which systematically increased ridership on public transport in London long before any green agenda emerged.

    Ken had his flaws, but so did Brown, Blair and Kinnock. As it happens he stood up to Thatcher’s brand of Toryism and gave London a sense of place. Ultimately he lost because the Tories manoeuvred the campaign so that Boris’ mega earnings from the Telegraph were sidelined at the expense of Ken’s tax arrangements.

  • Malcolm Parker

    Labour must get this right. Boris just about won with a pathetic overall turnout. Debate over what Ken did or didn’t represent is meaningless because whaterever your views on him personally, the majority of voters stayed at home.  That either means people are happy with the way things are (which I singularly fail to believe) or didn’t believe changing things would make a difference. Labour lost this election, Ken just didn’t get enough votes.


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