It was always going to take a quite spectacularly stupid comment or action from Oona King to make me think that Labour actually made the right decision in selecting Ken Livingstone as their mayoral candidate over her. But, lo, incredibly, it seems to have happened:
For avoidance of doubt, she’s directly comparing the coalition government with the Ku Klux Klan. That’s the same Ku Klux Klan that have advocated white supremacy, white nationalism and anti-immigration terrorism. That’s the same Ku Klux Klan that have historically opposed the civil rights movement and progress among minorities. That’s the same Ku Klux Klan who have backed the murder of anyone belonging to an ethnic minority. That’s the same Ku Klux Klan who – in their modern guise – still promote Neo-Nazism, hate speech, racism and antisemitism.
Far from being an exception or an aberration, this is sadly the level to which a number of Labour’s bigwigs are prepared to stoop in order to smear the government. That’s the government who are working tirelessly to resolve the catastrophic set of economic conditions that King’s party left them with. How relieved the average Londoner must be that this odious woman failed (abysmally) in her attempt to become their mayor.
“A lust for power…but would it look better if I say a sense of duty and service?”
(Ken Livingstone, when asked what drives him.)
If you haven’t read Iain Dale’s ‘In Conversation with Boris Johnson’ interview yet, I’d strongly recommend you do so. It’s in this month’s edition of Total Politics magazine and is also now available online. It’s really a cracking interview – entertaining, insightful and eminently quotable. It’s a lengthy piece, so I won’t cover it all, but there was one particularly interesting bit I want to highlight.
When talking about budgetary tensions between himself and George Osborne, he describes how he was told by senior ministers that Crossrail was not going to be deliverable given the funding constraints. He was told to stop talking about it – to stop championing it – as it was going to create political problems for him when it couldn’t be delivered. He was also told that the tube upgrades wouldn’t be happening either. Boris deemed that to be ‘complete madness’ and refused to stop advocating the schemes. He fought the government on both measures – and won both arguments. Both Crossrail and the tube upgrades were protected in October’s Comprehensive Spending Review – as I wrote about here.
Not only was it a huge achievement for the mayor, it was also a great indicator of his ability to influence government policy. Barring a collapse of the coalition, the government will be in power until at least 2015. As such, at least three years of the next mayoral term will be under a Conservative-led government. It seems incredibly obvious to me that a Conservative mayor would be in a far better position to lobby Downing Street than a hostile, divisive, factious Labour mayor would. One simply can’t imagine Ken Livingstone engaging in fruitful talks with George Osborne on the big issues that affect London.
In fighting for Londoners’ interests, Boris shows a willingness – a keenness, even – to act independently and autonomously from the government, despite being of the same party. This is a key point. At a time when voters are looking to give the Tories a kicking in any way possible (I’ve written before how I fully expect them to be at least 20 points behind Labour in the polls by the end of the year) it is important to highlight Boris’ willingness to run practically as an independent. He can in no sense be held responsible for the actions of the government – indeed he disagrees with a number of the things they’ve proposed.
Essentially Boris has managed to convince the government that ‘London is the motor of the economy’, and that the rest of the country relies hugely on London leading us out of these difficult economic times. Londoners should give him the credit he deserves for the vision, and for arguing it with such success.
Having remained noticeably silent for most of the week, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez has at last done as the world expected he would. He’s announced his support for his socialist friend – the murdering, massacring dictator, Colonel Gaddafi. He’s also condemned the ‘imperialism and interventionism’ of the West, the ‘double standards’ of the world’s media, and the violence of the protesters. As much as it was expected, it is still an incredible admission from a man who has always claimed to be guided by democracy and the will of the people. He is one of the only leaders in the entire world to have supported Gaddafi in this week of near-unimaginable terror in Libya.
So one despot backs another. Hardly a shock, you’d argue. I’d agree. But, as I wrote on Monday, this is a grave embarrassment for Ken Livingstone. Chavez and Livingstone are best mates, kindred spirits and political allies. Livingstone has spent a huge amount of time with Chavez, he’s worked as a consultant for him, and – you’ll remember – he’s previously insisted that his association with the Venezuelan president is not controversial “unless you believe American propaganda”. If that’s truly what he believed, then he deserves for his judgement to be called into question. If he wanted the benefits of the relationship – cash, distinctiveness, stimulation, a socialist chum – then so too must he accept the damage that he is being caused by his friend’s views and behaviour.
Of course, if Ken wanted to regain a bit of respect, he could repudiate Chavez and condemn him for his support of Gaddafi. Don’t hold your breath.
February 24, 2011 News Comments Off
Full marks to whichever apathetic Guardian journalist wrote the below headline for an article about how Kate Middleton did something not-very-newsworthy:
[See the story here.]
One of the biggest debates in London politics in the last couple of weeks has centered around Boris’ claim that there’ll be more police in London by 2012 than there were in 2008. This isn’t just something for him to be proud of – although he should be – but is the fulfillment of a key pledge he made back at the last election. Boris is adamant that his estimations are accurate, while Labour have insisted, desperately, that he’s making it up. Yesterday, the dispute boiled over and Labour’s John Biggs called Boris a ‘lazy liar’, an unnecessarily (yet typically) offensive comment that saw him banned from speaking for the rest of the London Assembly session.
Well, the London Evening Standard have investigated the respective claims and have adjudicated in Boris’ favour. They say the following:
“Extra money the Mayor has transferred from reserves will help fund officers in addition to numbers originally planned, even if it is hard to be certain about the exact eventual figures. Moreover, it seems almost certain that there will be more officers by next spring than the 31,398 in post in May 2008. Mr Johnson will thus have kept his election pledge.”
That suggests that it is Mr Biggs, not Boris, who is the liar. Indeed, attempting to cast aspersions on Boris’ integrity in the area of crime and policing was never going to end well for Labour. It was announced last month that the murder rate in London is at its lowest since 1978, crime has fallen by 5% since Boris became mayor in 2008, murders have fallen by 25%, youth crime has fallen by 11%, robberies have fallen by 19%, and there’s been a notable decrease in knife and race hate murders. Just yesterday, it was revealed that transport crime in London is at a six-year low, with offences down by 30% over the past three years. All of this, of course, despite a sizeable recession which would typically be expected to result in an upturn in crime. If you add to that an increase in police numbers when cuts would typically be expected, it becomes abundantly clear that crime and policing is the area of Boris’ greatest achievement.
“Oh yeah, I suppose I am. I forgot about that. But I’m hoping to take the end of the week off with my kids. Someone else will have to do it then.”
(Nick Clegg, when asked if he’s in charge of the country while David Cameron is away.)
“You’re an apple short of a picnic.”
(Boris to Labour’s John Biggs, just before Biggs was expelled from the London Assembly session for offensive language.)
The news, yesterday, that January saw the UK’s biggest monthly surplus for nearly three years – better than even the most optimistic of expectations – has caused lefties a bit of headache. How on earth, you can imagine them asking themselves, do we deny the government the credit and portray this as evidence that we were right all along? Step forward Duncan Weldon, economist, Labour Party member and Guardian blogger. He says that the unexpectedly large surplus is evidence that “the 50p tax rate is paying us dividends”. Aha! Of course! The surplus is all thanks to Labour’s bashing of the rich! Hurrah for an extortionate top rate of tax! Hurrah for all our businessmen considering emigration! Hurrah for socialism! Et cetera…
Except, of course, it’s utter nonsense. The reason that January always sees a higher-than-normal tax revenue is that it’s the month in which self-assessments have to be completed. It’s the month the self-employed pay their tax. And, of course, those self-employed people who paid their tax last month were paying it on their 2009-10 earnings and therefore paid 40% tax, not 50%. As Fraser Nelson suggests in his excellent Spectator article, this surprise tax haul can probably be better explained by people sucking forward their income to avoid the 50p rate – as any sensible person would. The real way to increase tax revenue from the rich is to have more people paying less, not fewer people paying more. That’s why so many countries have cut – or, at least, not increased – their top rate of tax in the last few years (see table, stolen unashamedly from Nelson’s article):
This is also why Boris has been so keen to press for the 50p rate to be scrapped. He understands the benefits – the benefits to all, not just the rich – of a low-tax economy, a buoyant City, a thriving business sector, higher employment and London remaining the financial capital of the world. When Ken Livingstone suggests that Boris is simply ‘protecting the richest’, he reveals his own economic knowledge to be worryingly limited.
[UPDATE: I'm always happy to offer the right of reply. Duncan Weldon tweets in response: "Worth noting Nelson is wrong on SAE. Check HMRC guidance. Payments on account subject to 50p rate."]
I’m always happy to admit when I get something wrong. I wrote yesterday that Colonel Gaddafi had fled to Venezuela to be welcomed by his fellow socialist – and Ken Livingstone’s best mate – Hugo Chavez. A matter of hours later, Gaddafi popped up in Libya, parading a huge umbrella, scoffing at any claims that he was in Venezuela. I can only assume he was livid at what he read on this blog. I’ve got a couple of thoughts…
Firstly, William Hague needs to get better sources. It was his reporting of the intelligence that he’d seen that prompted the worldwide story that Gaddafi had fled his country. To have subsequently been proved so wrong is a bit of an embarrassment for the Foreign Secretary. That said, lefties need to calm their excitement at his error. I mean, it’s not like Labour ever received dodgy foreign intelligence, is it? WMD anyone?
Secondly, the entire basis of yesterday’s post still stands. Just because Gaddafi isn’t in Venezuela doesn’t in any way detract from the point that he and Chavez are allies. Nor does it in any way detract from the point that Chavez is a less than reputable leader. One story I forgot to mention yesterday was the report in Die Welt a couple of months ago which claimed that Chavez has allowed Iran to establish a military base in Venezuela. The base houses ballistic missiles – within striking range of the US. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad isn’t just Ken Livingstone’s former employer; he’s one of the staunchest allies of Ken’s best mate. Those people that Ken has chosen to befriend, work for and associate with could well end up losing him the London mayoral race for the second time.