[Marxism] Ken Livingstone: An attack on voters' rights

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Fri Mar 3 07:52:33 MST 2006

(I've added an excerpt from a commentary from the CPGB's newspaper
just below the text of Livingstone's article. That article refers
to two things I'd never heard of: quango and shandy. A guango is 
a board which is funded by the government, but acts independently
of it. A shandy is a mixed drink made of beer and ginger ale.)

An attack on voters' rights

I was elected mayor by the people of London and only they should have
the power to remove me

Ken Livingstone Wednesday March 1, 2006 The Guardian

At least one thing can be said about my possible suspension from
office, which was put on hold by the high court yesterday: people
from across the political spectrum have come to the defence of the
basic democratic principle that those elected by the people should
only be removed by the voters.

Last week, an adjudication tribunal found that some of my comments to
an Evening Standard journalist had been "unnecessarily insensitive"
and "offensive". But those are not grounds for overturning the
decision of the voters of London. As far as I am aware, there is no
law against "unnecessary insensitivity" or even "offensiveness" to
journalists questioning you as you try to go home.

However, there has been an unstated allegation in this case: the
implicit suggestion that my comment was anti-semitic. It is not
explicitly stated because it cannot be substantiated. But the
innuendo is used to give weight to charges otherwise too trivial to
merit this gigantic fuss.

The truth is that I have appointed black, Asian and Jewish people to
the highest levels of my administration and waged an unrelenting war
on every manifestation of racism, anti-semitism and every other kind
of discrimination. Since I have been mayor, racial and religiously
motivated incidents in the capital have declined by more than a
third. Of course, there is still a problem. A Jewish person is three
times more likely to suffer a racist attack than a "white European".
A person of African, Caribbean or south Asian descent is 10 times
more likely to suffer a racist attack. And an Arab person is 11 times
more likely to suffer a racist attack in London today. But
significant progress has been made against the trend that is taking
place elsewhere in Europe.

Associated Newspapers has always led the charge against the policies
that confront racism and anti-semitism. It praised the Blackshirts in
the 1930s, and admits that as recently as the retirement party of the
last editor of the Daily Mail, two of its staff dressed in Nazi
uniforms and were not asked to leave.

The Board of Deputies, which referred me to the Standards Board, has
at all times protested that this issue is just about how I treated
one reporter who happens to be Jewish. I have never believed a word
of it. Some time before this incident was blown up out of all
proportion, the Board of Deputies asked to meet me to urge me to tone
down my views on the Israeli government.

For far too long the accusation of anti-semitism has been used
against anyone who is critical of the policies of the Israeli
government, as I have been. Even Tony Blair was recently described as
a "common anti-semite" in an Israeli newspaper. Being Jewish is no
defence from this charge. The famous Israeli conductor and pianist
Daniel Barenboim was recently denounced by an Israeli minister as "a
real Jew hater, a real anti-semite". Antony Lerman, director of the
Institute for Jewish Policy Research, has said that equating
criticism of Israel policies with anti-semitism "drains the word
anti-semitism of any useful meaning".

There is at least one positive clarification that has come out of
this whole affair: Jon Benjamin, the director general of the Board of
Deputies, stated last week: "We've never said the mayor is

The fundamental issue in this whole affair is not whether or not I
was "insensitive", it is the principle that those whom the people
elect should only be removed by the people or because they have
broken the law. It's because this fundamental principle is at stake
that I am going to do everything in my power to have this attack on
the democratic rights of Londoners overturned.

. Ken Livingstone is mayor of London.
  mayor at london.gov.uk


What is really offensive about the Livingstone case
Abolish all quangos, defend free speech - Eddie Ford comments


Livingstone's suspension is made doubly ridiculous given the
seemingly arbitrary nature of the so-called Standards Board's
adjudications. So, for instance, last year Jack Sayers - a
Conservative member of Brent council in north-west London - was
judged not to have broken the code of conduct despite his declaration
that the "Jews run everything in Britain and practically run

In its wisdom, the board ruled that Sayers had "expressed a
controversial opinion that offended a member of the public", but took
no action because "he did not commit a criminal offence" - with part
of the ruling being that his "comments would not put individuals or
groups at risk". Unlike Livingstone's comments, we presume?

Yes, it seems that Livingstone has been the victim of selective
'justice'. Of course, there is no love lost between communists and
the London mayor. During a public meeting in the midst of the 1992
general election, Livingstone labelled our entire organisation "M15
agents" . when one of our comrades bravely and vociferously objected,
Labour Party goons physically dragged him out of the hall. The whole
thing was broadcast on London TV news.

Over the years we have thoroughly - and calmly - detailed
Livingstone's occasional red-baiting and his unsavoury links with
Gerry Healy and the thoroughly corrupt Workers Revolutionary Party
back in the 1970s and 80s. The WRP - which still exists - is a truly
diabolical organisation that used language and formulations which did
indeed reek of anti-semitism.

As a matter of general principle democrats are against directly
elected mayors - and presidents, for that matter. They function as
elected monarchs, greedily acquiring ever more powers. So, while we
demand that Livingstone's suspension as mayor be overthrown, we also
look to the day when the office itself is abolished.

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