Ken Livingstone is in another row over his views about Jewish people, and it’s only fair we should look properly at the charges against him.
A group of very senior members of the Jewish community in London met Mr Livingstone earlier this month to discuss his support for and links with a radical Islamist cleric and the television station that makes propaganda in Britain for Iran.
In a leaked letter to the Jewish Chronicle – more of a communique really – they said Labour’s London mayoral candidate used the words Zionist, Jewish and Israeli as if they meant the same thing and that his language was close to ‘classic anti-semitism’.
They added: ‘Ken, towards the end of the meeting, stated that he did not expect the Jewish community to vote Labour as votes for the left are inversely proportional to wealth levels, and suggested that as the Jewish community is rich, we simply wouldn’t vote for him.’
What does Mr Livingstone have to say about this? His spokesman said he means to ‘respect the private nature of the meeting’ and that ‘Jewish Londoners are an important part of the Labour vote in London.’
Yes they are, but perhaps not for Ken the most important part, and we’ll get back to that later. In the meantime, the community leaders have written to warn Ed Miliband – himself the son of successful Jewish immigrants – they won’t be voting Labour.
The idea that rich Jews will not vote Labour is of course utterly ludicrous. What if Ken had made the remark about any other religious or ethnic group? How about Sikhs? There are roughly the same number of Sikhs in Britain as there are Jews, and, like Jews, they pass on their religion and culture through family and community. Like Jews, many are driven, educated and ambitious, many are successful and some are very wealthy.
Is Ken going to be putting it about that rich Sikhs won’t vote Labour? Don’t hold your breath. That would be racist.
Ken does have form for this sort of thing. A few years ago he directed some very unsavoury abuse at a Jewish reporter, comparing him to a concentration camp guard. That could get you arrested, if you were a footballer.
Anti-semitism has become common on the political left, usually creeping in under the banner of opposition to Israel. It is now a decade since the New Statesman magazine, supposedly a force for enlightened debate among Labour supporters, chose to publish a cover showing a Star of David standing on the union flag, captioned: ‘A Kosher conspiracy?’ At least the Statesman, whose editors and writers are rarely the most self-critical of people, had the grace to apologise.
My own view is that among the better-off and well-established kind of Labour families there are some for whom anti-semitism has always been an instinct, as it has among upper middle-class people generally, far more so than among the working class. Ken will be doing himself no harm with this sort of supporter.
He is unlikely to get much traction with white working class voters. The working class in London was not impressed by Mosley’s anti-semitism in the thirties, and then it fought against Nazi Germany and suffered Hitler’s bombing raids. The experience left a permanent distaste for race politics, as Enoch Powell discovered to his cost in 1968 when he tried to rally working class voters against black immigration, and as the British National Party has found out in more recent times.
The working class voters Ken really wants to impress are Muslim. He may calculate, and a student of electoral politics as smart as Livingstone does a lot of calculating, that there are many Muslim votes to be won with the right sort of sneering attitude to Jews and the right sort of respectful attitude to Islamic clerics with whom few other politicians would willingly share a platform, or come to that, a city.
There is further evidence of this electoral approach in some remarks of Ken’s about gays. Now Ken Livingstone has always been an ally of the gay lobby, which has given him impeccable liberal credentials down the years, and made him the automatic choice of the metropolitan right-on electorate.
So why did Ken say last month – in the New Statesman, again – on the subject of homosexuality in the 1990s that ‘you just knew the Tory party was riddled with it, like everywhere else is.’
Ken laughed this off as a joke and a ‘backhanded compliment’ and the gay lobby loyally rallied round.
But riddled is not a nice word, nor is it funny. You do not use the word riddled to describe people you respect. You use it to discuss a disease or rot.
It could be that Ken thinks there are voters who might be pleased to think that secretly he despises gay people.
If this really is a campaigning technique, rather than slipshod talk brought on by tiredness or Sauvignon Blanc, then it is truly insulting to Muslim voters. I would not be attracted to a politician who thought he could win my vote by sending me signals of things he does not care to say out loud.
It deserves to fail.
Archive for March, 2012
Ken Livingstone is in another row over his views about Jewish people, and it’s only fair we should look properly at the charges against him.
It seems that – at last! – the relevant agencies in Bradford have finally accepted the existence of a Muslim ‘sexual grooming’ problem in the city. That acceptance has of course come along with a will and the means to do something about it.
The reason that this huge problem (in Bradford and throughout England – especially the North West) has not be accepted as a problem, let alone acted upon, is the political correctness, or leftist/liberal-leftist, attitude to Muslim sexual grooming. Or, in other words, the fact that virtually all ‘grooming gangs’ in Bradford, as elsewhere, are Pakistanis as well as Muslims.
The only reason why Bradford’s politically-correct Great and Good have finally responded in this way is because external groups (to the council, etc.), such as Barnados, have had the courage and conviction to tell it as it is – and thus be able to do something about it.
So let’s see if Bradford’s Safeguarding Children Board really does attempt to do something about this penchant Pakistani Muslim men have for sexually grooming non-Muslim young girls.
IT could take as long as six months to drill a relief well to stop a gas leak at an offshore platform, operators Total have said.
The company are looking at several options on how to stem the release of gas which started on Sunday.
All 238 workers were evacuated from the company’s Elgin PUQ platform, about 150 miles off the coast of Aberdeen, following the discovery of the leak on Sunday.
An exclusion zone of two miles has been set up around Elgin, with ships and aircraft ordered to stay away from the area.
Shell have reduced their workforce on two offshore installations close to the Total platform as a precaution.
Around 85 staff have been taken off the company’s Shearwater platform and the nearby Noble Hans Deul drilling rig, leaving a workforce of 117 people.
Shell also said they have brought forward plans for maintenance at Shearwater and are shutting down production in a “controlled manner”.
Total E&P UK, who operate the Elgin platform, said they were taking “all possible measures” to try to identify the source and cause of the leak and to bring it under control.
The company are considering various options for dealing with the leak, one of which is drilling a relief well which could take six months.
David Hainsworth, health, safety and environment manager for Total, told the BBC the situation poses risks.
He said: “The gas is flammable but the platform power was turned off to minimise risk of ignition but clearly there is a risk. We have taken away a series of risks but there is always a possibility. It’s low but you never say never.
“The best-case scenario is that the gas in this area is not very productive and it dies off in the coming days and weeks.”
A sheen on the water is present near the platform, estimated to extend over 4.8 square kilometres (1.85 square miles) and measures between two and 20 tonnes in volume.
Total insisted its preliminary assessments indicate there has been no significant impact on the environment because of the leak.
Offshore union RMT welcomed the quick evacuation of the platform but called for urgent action to stop the leak.
RMT offshore organiser Jake Molloy said: “Total acted very swiftly in getting everyone off but the potential still exists for catastrophic devastation.
“If the gas cloud somehow finds an ignition source we could be looking at complete destruction.
“This is an unprecedented situation and we really are in the realms of the unknown but the urgent need now is to find a way of stopping the flow of gas.”
RSPB Scotland called for transparency from Total.
Director Stuart Housden said: “We hope that, second to minimising risks to people, environmental considerations will be foremost in the mind of Total when considering their response to this situation.
“We urgently need to know exactly what environmental impacts the leaking substances could have.”
The Scottish Government said it is monitoring the developments.
Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead said: “Efforts by Total to resolve the gas leak are ongoing.
“As the situation currently stands, impact on the environment, which is the Scottish Government’s area of responsibility, is minimal.”
Total E&P UK said it met the Secretary of State’s representative, the Health and Safety Executive, the Department of Energy and Climate change, Marine Scotland and the Coastguard yesterday.
Liam Stacey, 21, provoked revulsion with comments made while the Bolton Wanderers star still lay on the pitch.
Police were inundated with complaints as members of the public reported the student’s comments.
Stacey, a Swansea University biology undergraduate, was quickly tracked down and arrested.
Last week he admitted inciting racial hatred when he appeared briefly at Swansea Magistrates’ Court and today he was jailed for 56 days at the same court.
The first of Stacey’s messages began with “LOL [laugh out loud]. **** Muamba. He’s dead!!!”
A number of people took him to task for his views and he responded with a further string of offensive and racist comments aimed at other Twitter users.
Stacey was close to tears during his appearance before magistrates last week.
In jailing Stacey today, the judge said he took into account his early plea and the fact that he had been “in drink” at the time.
Stacey’s sentence prompted a heated debate on Twitter.
Among those applauding the judge’s decision was Lord Sugar, who tweeted: “good job, be warned idiots”.
Liam Stacey jailed for 56 days for comments made on Twitter about Bolton midfielder Fabrice Muamba.BLOODY GOOD JOB. Be warned idiots !
FROM @LORD_SUGAR ON TWITTER: (about 8 hours ago)
Others claimed the decision was too harsh given the student’s previously clean criminal record.
But Jim Brisbane, Chief Crown Prosecutor for CPS Cymru-Wales, said racist language was inappropriate in any setting and through any media.
We hope this case will serve as a warning to anyone who may think that comments made online are somehow beyond the law.
– JIM BRISBANE, CHIEF CROWN PROSECUTOR FOR CPS CYMRU-WALES
District Judge John Charles told Stacey that his actions would do untold harm to his career.
He said that “It was racist abuse via a social networking site instigated as a result of a vile and abhorrent comment about a young footballer who was fighting for his life.”
Other undergraduates at Swansea campaigned for him to be dismissed from the university completely.
The student remains suspended from the university pending the conclusion of our disciplinary proceedings.
– SWANSEA UNIVERSITY SPOKESMAN
He is still the subject of an internal investigation.
What was racist about what he typed on twitter?, ( lol fuck M HE IS DEAD ) nothing racist there,now they want to destroy him,what people need to remember we did have freedom of speech in this country,now if your white you will be targeted,people who assault someone on the streets walk free,ho i forgot that person was white who was assalted:Muslim women not used to drinking walk free after attack on woman
A gang of Somalian women who repeatedly kicked a young woman in the head walked free from court after a judge heard they were “not used to being drunk” because they were Muslim.
The four women – three sisters and their cousin – were told the charge of actual bodily harm, which carries a maximum sentence of five years, against 22-year-old care worker Rhea Page would normally land them in custody.
However, the judge handed the women suspended sentences after hearing that they were not used to alcohol because their religion does not allow it.
Miss Page said Ambaro Maxamed, 24, Ayan Maxamed, 28, and Hibo Maxamed, 24, and their 28-year-old cousin Ifrah Nur screamed “Kill the white slag” while kicking her in the head as she lay motionless on the ground.
The support worker from Leicester was left “black and blue” with bruises and needed hospital treatment following the attack which came as she walked to a taxi rank with her boyfriend.
Miss Page was left so traumatised by the attack that she lost her job due to repeated absences with stress and flashbacks.
The government is holding a meeting with fuel delivery companies and supermarkets to plan tactics for coping with any resulting strike.
Army drivers are being trained to deliver fuel to petrol stations in case of a walkout by tanker drivers.
Unite said there had been “unrelenting attacks” on drivers’ conditions.
In an interview with the BBC’s Hardtalk programme, the general secretary of Unite, Len McCluskey, refused to rule out the possibility that any strike would be held over Easter.
About 2,000 drivers at seven distribution depots took part in the ballot in what was the first national industrial action campaign for more than 10 years.
‘Beat the clock’ culture
Unite said five of the seven depots backed strike action, while two did not. Of those five, the vote in favour was 69%. Turnouts across the five averaged 77.7%.
A statement from Unite said: “Tanker drivers work in an increasingly fragmented and pressurised industry, where corners are being cut on safety and training in a bid to squeeze profits and win contracts.
“Drivers face growing job insecurity as a result of the contract ‘merry-go-round’ and a ‘beat the clock’ culture has flourished, with drivers forced to meet ever shorter delivery deadlines. ”
It added that pensions were also inferior to those previously offered and some workers had switched pensions six times.
The CBI employers’ group said that disruption on the roads was in nobody’s interest.
“Drivers have voted for a strike, but each employer and Unite should now get back around the table to discuss the issues raised. Going ahead with strike action would have a real impact on people across the country,” said John Cridland, CBI director general.
One of the companies involved, Hoyer, said its safety standards were very high.
A Hoyer spokesman said: “Hoyer has one of the highest health, safety and training standards in the petroleum distribution sector.”
The firm said that pay and conditions for Hoyer drivers were among “the best in the industry”, adding that the company’s drivers earned on average £45,000 a year.
Hoyer said Unite had walked away from discussions designed to settle the dispute.
The UK has 7,900 petrol stations. Widespread protests against fuel prices in 2000 caused disruption across the UK.
Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said the government had “learnt the lessons” of the past and stood “ready to act” in case of a walkout.
Unite said the government should be putting pressure on oil companies.
Mr McCluskey said: “For over a year we’ve been desperately trying to bring about some stability in the sector and urging government ministers to persuade contractors and oil companies to engage in meaningful discussions with us.”
Ministers say the training of army drivers will begin next week as part of contingency plans being drawn up to avoid major disruption to fuel supplies.
Mr Maude said: “We are calling on the trade union Unite and the employers involved to work together to reach an agreement that will avert industrial action,” he said.
“Widespread strike action affecting fuel supply at our supermarkets, garages and airports could cause disruption across the country.
“The general public should not and must not suffer from this dispute, and strike action is manifestly not the answer.”
Far right and anti-Islamic groups are due to hold a rally in Denmark on 31 March organised by the English Defence League (EDL) which it claims will be the start of a pan-European movement.
The rally will take place a few weeks before the start of the trial of Anders Behring Breivik, the far right extremist who has confessed to the murder of 77 people in Norway last July, and is expected to attract supporters of at least 10 anti-Islamic and far right groups from across the continent.
It is the second time the EDL has tried to hold a meeting in Europe. In October 2010 about 60 supporters turned up to a planned rally in Amsterdam and were attacked by Ajax football fans and anti-fascists.
The EDL claims the 31 March event will be bigger. It is expected to attract several hundred people drawn from defence leagues and other far right groups that have emerged around Europe over the past two years.
Observers are divided over whether the event is a significant step towards a coherent European far right movement but the possibility has raised concern.
Nick Lowles from Hope not Hate, which campaigns against racism and fascism, said he was not expecting a big turnout but added some key figures from emerging far right groups would be there.
“The march in Denmark will bring together many of the leaders of the so-called ‘counter-jihad movement’ and it is another sign of the growing international anti-Muslim networks,” he said.
The EDL says the Denmark rally will discuss the formation of a European Defence League with representatives from far right and anti-Islamic groups in Italy, Poland, Germany, Finland, Sweden and Norway expected to attend.
Lowles said: “Their focus on the threat of Islam, presenting it as a cultural war, has a far wider resonance amongst voters, especially in northern Europe, than old-style racists. They conflate Islamist extremists with immigration and in the current economic and political conditions it is extremely dangerous.”
Claude Moraes, the Labour MEP for London who chairs the all-party group on racism in the European parliament, described the demonstration as a critical moment and said there was widespread complacency about the threat posed by groups such as the EDL among mainstream European politicians.
“They have missed what is a fundamental change in the way the far right is working. Despite all the evidence of the growing influence and importance of these proxy groups there is still a real complacency about how they are operating, how deeply embedded they are becoming and how they are shaping the debate,” Moraes said.
Last year, a report from the thinktank Demos found a new generation of young, web-based supporters who embrace hardline nationalist and anti-immigrant groups. It concluded that far right and anti-Islamic groups were on the rise across Europe. The exception appeared to be the UK where the British National party failed to make any breakthrough last year in parliamentary and local elections.
In a separate report, Matthew Goodwin from Nottingham University and Jocelyn Evans of Salford University found that a hardcore of far right supporters in the UK appears to believe violent conflict between different ethnic, racial and religious groups is inevitable, and that it is legitimate to prepare even for armed conflict.
Breivik claimed he had contact with the EDL ahead of the attacks, adding that he had “spoken with tens of EDL members and leaders”. In response to the killings, the league issued a statement condemning the Norway killings and adding that it had no contact with Breivik.
The EDL, which emerged from Luton in 2009 to become the most significant far right street movement in the UK since the National Front, claims to be a peaceful, non-racist and set up to protest against “militant Islam”. Many of its demonstrations have descended into violence and Islamophobic and racist chanting, attracting known football hooligans and far right extremists.
In the last year it has staged demonstrations in communities with large Muslim populations including Bradford, Leicester and Tower Hamlets in London. However, it has been hit by divisions and internal rows and some of its supporters have been involved in smaller, but often more violent activities, such as targeting trade union meetings and anti-racist groups.
A big turnout of anti-facists from Denmark and other European countries is expected in protest at the rally in Denmark.
Projekt Antifa, a Danish coalition of anti-fascist groups, has booked coaches to take protesters from Copenhagen to Aarhus where the demonstration is being held, describing it as “the capital’s biggest anti-fascist mobilisation for more than 10 years.” British anti-racists are also planning to travel to the rally. Weyman Bennett from Unite Against Fascism said he would be travelling to the event with 30 supporters.
The last 10 years have seen serious rifts in the Anglican Communion over homosexuality and the consecration of women bishops.
The US in particular saw the departure of Anglican parishes from the US Episcopal Church after the consecration of its first openly gay bishop in 2003.
In the Church of England, moves to consecrate women bishops led three bishop and several parishes to join an Ordinariate set up by the Roman Catholic Church.
In 2010, the Archbishop floated the idea of a Covenant designed to prevent the break-up of the Communion, but the proposed bandage to the Communion’s wounds ended up being nearly as divisive as the rifts it was intended to heal.
In an interview with the Press Association following his resignation, Dr Williams said: “The worst aspects of the job I think have been the sense that there are some conflicts that won’t go away, however long you struggle with them.
“And that not everybody in the Anglican Communion or even in the Church of England is eager to avoid schism or separation.
“I’ve certainly regarded it as a real priority to try and keep people in relationship with each other. That is what bishops have to do – what archbishops above all have to do.”
The Archbishop admitted that the row over gays had at times been a “nuisance” as he endeavoured to maintain relationships across the Communion.
“Crisis management is never a favourite activity, I have to admit, but it’s not as if that has overshadowed everything,” he said, when asked if he was relieved to be going.
“It’s certainly been a major nuisance, but in every job that you’re in, there are controversies and conflicts and this one isn’t going to go away in a hurry. So I can’t say that there’s a great sense of ‘free at last’.”
At times, Dr Williams himself was the source of division in the Church. In 2008, he sparked controversy when he suggested that aspects of Sharia law, such as those relating to marital disputes or financial matters, should be incorporated into the British legal system.
The Archbishop admits now that his argument “could have been clearer”, but maintains that it was a question “which needed discussion”.
“I reread quite recently the text of the lecture on Sharia law, and I still stand by the argument of it,” he said.
“I was a bit taken aback by the violence of the reaction [but] I feel that an important point was raised, a point about how the single law of the land works with and legitimates other kinds of jurisdiction of jurisdiction within it, which already happens.