Ken for Mayor in 2012!
Keith Veness, Islington North CLP, explains why the Ken -v- Oona fight is just no contest
Ken Livingstone looks set to gallop to victory in the London Labour Party mayoral candidate selection. Despite the usual machinations from the discredited New Labour apparatchiks, they could not come up with a serious candidate to oppose him. Many leading right wingers were terrified of being “Dobboed” – that is, humiliated as Frank Dobson was when he stood against Ken in 2000. There was even talk of Lord “Mandy” Mandelson being lobbed in. It would have been nice to see him humiliated in a ballot, but he certainly wasn’t going to risk that!
The reality was that the discredited right had no policies, feared Ken’s popularity with the rank and file in both the unions and the constituencies and had to differentiate themselves from the policies of “Bo-Jo” at City Hall. All they could come up with was ex-MP Oona King – the candidate originally selected in Bethnal Green & Bow CLP, ironically the only candidate to mention socialism.
As an MP, Oona slavishly voted for all of Blair’s policies, including supporting the illegal Iraq war of George Bush – to the horror of the vast majority of Labour voters in Tower Hamlets. As a result, she lost a safe Labour seat to George Galloway and his Respect outfit in 2005. This time the CLP selected a Bangladeshi woman and promptly retook the seat against the national trend. King’s only other claims to fame were burrowing away in Strasbourg and Brussels working for Glenys Kinnock on the EU gravy train and her speech at party conference opposing the fourth option on council housing – neither likely to excite many working class Londoners to vote for her.
At the time of writing, Ken has been endorsed by the majority of affiliated trade unions, seven out of the eight sitting London Assembly members, a swathe of London MPs and CLPs and a really impressive list of London councillors and council leaders. Literally thousands of members (and ex-members!) have joined Ken’s campaign, and unless some unforeseen catastrophe happens Ken must be on his way to selection victory.
Many on the left of course do not do victory well. Heroic defeats and appalling sell-outs seem to be the diet many left wingers thrive on. However, Briefing is interested in power rather than pointless protest. Ken’s eight years at City Hall did indeed change London with:
•real investment in buses and the Tube;
•major changes in the policing of London;
•improved investment in the Fire Service;
•a really radical equalities agenda;
•fully using his limited powers to get more housing;
•international links and real solidarity with many struggles worldwide.
It would be hard to imagine Oona King doing any of these – committed as she is to cutting public expenditure without any sort of fight. However, none of us was prepared for her “shooting herself in the foot” in a quite spectacular fashion by supporting means testing of pensioners’ Freedom Passes. Len Duvall, Leader of the Labour Group on the London Assembly, was outraged when he heard her support this. He did his research and found she had publicly stated her support for this on two previous occasions and issued a statement deploring her position.
Of course, many of us have specific criticisms of Ken: but eight years running the biggest city in Europe was bound to include controversial decisions. I hate “bendy buses” and think they were a real error (I had to get that off my chest). What is not controversial is that Ken is the only candidate who will lead a real fight against the Con-Dem Coalition and in support of public services. Every active trade unionist and Labour Party member in London should try to support Ken’s campaign in any way they can.
When the result is read out at Labour Party Conference in September, let’s ensure Ken has won an overwhelming victory. We can then start the job of winning our city back and giving Boris the Toff the boot in 2012.
Visit http://www.kenlivingstone.com/ for further details.