Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Ken - a flawed political genius

Much comment on the blogosphere today over Martin Bright's adept character-assassination of London Mayor Ken Livingstone on Channel 4 last night. Iain Dale makes the perfectly reasonable point that if even the Political Editor of the left-leaning New Statesman is joining what appears to be a concerted media campaign against him, it leaves the Labour Party with something of a problem.

For me, the key question is the one posed by Sunny Hundal on Liberal Conspiracy, namely is Ken still the best candidate on offer for the liberal-left, particularly in view of the need to block that frivolous twit Johnson. The consensus on the site appears to be that Brian Paddick is now their best option, but knowing his view on drugs I cannot possibly go along with this.

As it happens, the question is academic for me as I no longer live in London and won't have a vote this time round. But I voted for Ken at the first two Mayoral elections and in view of what he has achieved for the capital, I don't regret having done so.

Ken is a flawed character, to be sure. But without wanting to get all preachy about it, we all are.

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septicisle said...

His view on drugs being his policy whilst head of policing in Brixton to not arrest and charge people for having a small amount of cannabis for personal use? The same policy which is err, now the one nationwide with making cannabis class c, and is, according to the statistics and not the scaremongering, working rather nicely?

Anonymous said...

'Ken is a flawed character'

Your having a laugh,if half of last nights allegations are true then he's corrupt or to use your language a corrupt twit.

Where's your moral stance on some one who invites religious leaders that support suicide bombings of innocent people and the execution of homosexuals?
Or is this just nicely passed off as 'flawed character'.


Anonymous said...

What on earth is your definition of a genius?

Ted Foan said...

You have just plummeted in my estimation of your ability to make sound political judgements.

Livingstone is a ghastly man. If I still lived in London I would want to see him swinging from a gibbet. Come to think of it, I still want to see him hung, drawn and quartered.

As for Boris Johnson, you completely mis-understand the impact he will have as Mayor. He is a well-loved character, who supported by a very competent team, will transform the image of London in a way that the newt-loving Ken can never do.

Tapestry said...

Labour supporters lack moral sense. Why?

They preach enough.

They slag off others as morally inferior to themselves.

And yet when it comes to any fault on their own side, they're completely blind to it.

Odd really.

It's cultish behaviour. 'Don't confuse me with the evidence. I've already made up my mind'. No wonder they cannot manage an economy (or anything else).

Anonymous said...

"Ken is a flawed character, to be sure. But without wanting to get all preachy about it, we all are."

Well, by definition we are all flawed, but in practice not all politicians are like Ken. The arrogance and readiness to belittle opponents is worrying. And Ken appears to have a serious drinking problem. In the case of Charles Kennedy that was enough to force him to stand down. What is so special about mayors, that they are allowed to get away with it?

Anonymous said...

you've really fallen for the Mayor's publicity (at incredible expense) if you believe he's done wonderful things for London - and I do still live here.

Oh yeah, great fireworks (at my expense).

If I could hoik £10 billion out of your pocket legally and flash it around, no doubt I could fool you into thinking I was a genius too.

The fact is, we never did need a Mayor for London, and we don't now, which is why we can't get the 'right' kind of person to stand for the position, no matter which Party.

Anonymous said...

Ken is a flawed character who happens to be incredibly corrupt in addition to being lying and deceitful - if you believe what you read, of course.

There are only so many 'flaws' in politicians' characters that we should have to accept, and Ken is a step too far.

MorrisOx said...

Ken is a flawed character, but he has, shall we say, continued to be flawed and openly so.
He has shown no sign of even acknowledging, let alone tackling, the chronic under-performance of people and organisations around him.
He has also appeared to glory in some deeply unpleasant traits, training the guns of an entire publicly-funded publicity machine on people or organisations he dislikes.
There is, now, a seediness and nastiness to what is being done and said either by him or in his name. He acts like Caesar in front of the assembly, glories in his own crassness, picks fights so he can portray himself as a victim.
London is a great city. Ken isn't a great man.

Paul Linford said...


I'm afraid I'm one of that admittedly small and declining number who still take the Ann Widdecombe, Bournemouth Conference 2000 view of cannabis. It is is evil shit that wrecks lives and we should have zero tolerance of it.

Barnacle Bill said...

Ken Livingstone has sadly become what Peter Hain is, a principle'd person who has become totally corrupted by power.
As for cannabis, there are a great many other things wrecking other people's lives in far worse ways than cannabis does.
Only it is easier politically to attack cannabis users than to confront some of the bigger evils in our society.

Paul Linford said...

Anonymous 7.19

"Ken appears to have a serious drinking problem. In the case of Charles Kennedy that was enough to force him to stand down. What is so special about mayors, that they are allowed to get away with it?"

Well, if you look back at what I said about Kennedy at the time, I didn't think he should have gone either.

As I've said before, Churchill won the Second World War despite being off his face on Scotch and brandy for much of it. As the great man rightly said: "I have taken more out of alcohol than it has taken out of me." Pitt the Youunger was an even earlier example of the same phenomenon. The truth is that politics and alcohol have always had a somewhat symbiotic relationship and it is only in the modern media age where everyone's personal flaws are magnified to the nth degree that it has become an issue.

AnyoneButBrown said...

I'm so sorry Paul, you have just gone way down in my opinion.
Ken is just appalling. He is a corrupt and racist mysoginist. How the left cannot see and acknowledge this damns them in my eyes. Its ok for him to behave in this manner because "he's one of us". Great.

Good for Martin Bright and Nick Cohen standing up and saying the emperor is naked.
Johnson might be a twit, but he is far far preferable to the reptile that is Red Ken and is corrupt chums.
Name one good thing Ken has done for London?

Bob Piper said...

Paul, one of the benefits of being included in Iain's Daley Dozen is you get a sharp increase in readers.

Sadly, as you can tell from the comments, most of them are completely batty and obsessional... and anyonebutbrown is a prime example. You really cannot expect to enter into rational discussion with these people.

MorrisOx said...

How very superior, Bob.

If you look any further down your nose you'll fall over backwards;)

Anonymous said...

Your generous toleration of alcohol abuse contrast with your extreme intoleration of cannabis. All substance misuse is bad, surely.

Anonymous said...

Even if you put aside the Mayor's character flaws the Mayor's pose as competent executive who gets things done cannot be sustained:

Policing - overall crime has come down recently but only after it went up in the Mayor's first term. You might expect crime to come down a bit if you increase police numbers by 20% but today in most violent crime categories it is worse than before the Mayor came to power. The Mayor's precept has gone up by a factor of 3 in the same time so the Mayor has given us an excruciatingly bad bargain - 20% more coppers (many of whom are low rent PCSOs) for three times more cash. Then if you examine the figures you find that most of the reduction in crime has been driven by us all fitting better locks and new cars having better alarm systems. Meanwhile street crime, the most frightening category, gets worse and three kids have been knifed to death in London so far in January.

Transport - bus subsidy has shot up to £617 million as the rise in passenger numbers has not kept up with the rise in capacity. As a result there are only 15 people on each bus. Tube subsidy £553 million. DLR subsidy £79 million. TfL has managed to collect £1.6 billion less income than it spends running its various businesses for the last four years in a row. The Mayor's claim that he can afford to cut/freeze fares because of buoyant fares revenue is the worst kind of disimulation. TfL's costs are so out of control that fare rises should be considered if the Mayor doesn't want to cut the 1,411 people at TfL who are paid more than £50K.

Congestion Charge - this has not sustainably reduced congestion, as a result the Mayor is trying to rebrand it as carbon tax, in the meantime it has taken £1.2 billion in charges and fines off Londoners and spent it all on set up and running costs. Yes. That's right. The Mayor's claim to make a surplus is a straight lie.

Housing - the big headline is his holding the line on 50% social housing on all new developments and shouting at boroughs that don't make it. The result is less social housing because naturally enough developers don't want to give away half the houses they build. Doh! More and more developments fall below the limit where the 50% applies. Many larger developments simply don't get built which leads to reduced supply which leads to higher prices. So less social housing combined with more demand for social housing driven by more people being priced out of the market. Genius socialist economics.

Self-promotion - the reason so many people buy the Mayor is that he has sold himself to them. The GLA and the other bodies over which he has control spend £100 million a year to tell you what to believe. For instance, the Met's publicity spending increased 42% to £8.6 million last year. There are 265 press and comms people working across the GLA bodies who cost £13 million on their own. TfL runs many multi-million Pound campaigns every year. Notably last year they spent £3 million promoting the Tour de France! What? Yes.

Paul Linford said...

Anonymous (why?) 10.04

I admit there is an apparent contradiction in my attitudes to alcohol (and smoking, which I am also unusually tolerant of) and my attitude to cannabis and other illegal drugs. It may be that this is simply down to the fact that I am a basically law-abiding citizen and the difference between legal and illegal substances has been drummed into me from an early age.

From a purely social point of view, I have also long been of the view that while alcohol, within reasonably limits, generally tends to enhance the experience of social interaction, cannabis tends in a relatively short period of time to deaden it. Lets face it, dope parties are hardly a hotbed of stimulating conversation, are they?

But if I was attempting to justify it any further than that, I would say that based on my personal observations, as opposed to my personal experiences, cannabis is far more dangerous, in that whereas
you have to take on board a fair amount of alcohol before it becomes a problem, even a small amount of dope can cause serious psychological problems for the user. As you might have gathered by now, I have known individuals to whom this has happened.

I don't of course disagree with your proposition that all substance misuse is equally bad, I am just saying that because of the nature of the substance, cannabis is far easier to misuse.

Praguetory said...

What Phil Taylor said. Livingstone is a disgracefully expensive incompetent. I echo the diappointment/bewilderment of other commenters. Only the other day you said you would find it hard to vote for a non-Christian (what Nick Clegg said). On that basis, I find it astonishing that you have twice voted for someone whose actions are so palpably anti-Christian. Why don't you judge a man by his actions, not his words?

Anonymous said...

Anyone who is is shallow enough to think that Boris Johnson is a Twit should really give up trying any type of political comment. Surely you should listen to what he says rather than just commenting on his mannerisms.

While I sometimes disagree with him, what he says and writes is actually rather intelligent and generally well-argued. Of course most people who would vote for Ken wouldn't understand the need for a good argument, settling for a vague feeling that their (and his) views must be right because they are "socially responsible" or "progressive" or complies with some similar dogmatic laziness.

Anonymous said...

Come on, we have a huge alcohol misuse problem in the UK and it is particularly associated with violence and domestic abuse. The whole point about the law is that –(maybe) it's wrong. Vast numbers of young people feel the laws against dope are hypocritical, because they see their elders and betters getting p*ssed with impunity.

Many health professionals and police officers feel that most drugs (including alcohol) should be legal but the health education message should be much stronger and backed up with facts. When you do this, as happened with the anti-tobacco message, it works.

Although I am a labour/Ken supporter I was disturbed by the allegations about his drinking, at public meetings in particular.

Anonymous said...

My favourite comment about Churchill and drink is the one made by a political contemporary: 'Winston can't possibly be an alcoholic - an alcoholic wouldn't drink that much'.

septicisle said...

Paul: fair enough.

Anonymous said...

Fuck it, does anyone fancy a beer?