Are Ken’s remarks about Jews and gay people a ploy to win over Muslim voters?

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.

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