Friday, February 24, 2006


Don’t Debar Ken, Defeat Him

Ken Livingstone is an unpleasant, bullying, hypocritical, lying, propagandist egomaniac. Just so you know, I don’t like him. That makes it all the more important not to give in to the temptation to rejoice in his suspension by the Standards Board. It’s tempting, but it’s wrong, and I was ashamed to hear Simon Hughes agreeing with the sentence when interviewed this afternoon. Liberal Democrats ought to say that Mr Livingstone was offensive and once again proved his lack of judgement, but that’s a reason to throw him out at the next election, and a politician who is unpleasant but not corrupt should be judged by the voters, not a quango. In today’s Britain there are a little over 20,000 elected local councillors, but 60,000 unelected, unaccountable (and usually better-paid) members of quangos. This is a scandal to stick on the Labour Party, and every time Liberal Democrats back the latter over the former we oppose democracy and shoot ourselves in the foot.

Labour MPs have been queuing up to say how outrageous this ruling is. Perhaps Labour have set up all these quangos so they can pretend the Tories are still running the country and they’re still the plucky underdogs (as if they ever were). Unfortunately, such organisations are agencies of Labour’s overwhelming centralised power and Labour are only complaining now because it’s happening to them, when the Standards Board was clearly only designed to do over ‘nasty’ people (ie the Tories), and now Labour’s been hoist by their own petard. One of Mr Livingstone’s least attractive qualities, shared by many of his party but in his case almost pathological, is that he orders other people about but doesn’t think rules apply to him, in everything from being offensive to Labour tribalism to, yes, writing for the “concentration camp” Evening Standard.

In his interview on the PM programme, Simon said that these were the rules on which they stood and Mr Livingstone didn’t oppose them at the time, so he could hardly complain about them now. Well, up to a point. Of course he didn’t, so he’s a hypocrite. If this ruling had been made against a Tory, Labour would be gleefully playing on it for weeks. If it was a Lib Dem, every Labour leaflet in a Jewish area for the next thirty years would be screaming hysterically that the Lib Dems are ‘anti-Semitic’ (I don’t, as it happens, think Mr Livingstone’s comment fell into that category, but it’s for every London voter to judge. It was nasty and offensive and he should have said sorry anyway, though not been compelled to). We know the Labour Party are hypocrites. But we’re better than that, and the Standards Board are just plain wrong. If a politician’s a crook, then they should be removed, but if they’re a git, that’s only ammunition for their opponents at the ballot box.

The Daily Mail – in the same stable as the Evening Standard – is a vile, offensive rag that brings newspapers into disrepute. It might be amusing for a Standards Board For The Media to take it over and produce a blandly inoffensive version for a month. But it still wouldn’t be right.

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