Tuesday, 22 January 2008
Missing the mark on Ken
Martin Bright's Dispatches documentary on Ken Livingstone and his 'court' last night missed the mark for two reasons. First, Bright threw every piece of anti-Ken propaganda, weak or strong, into his story. And second, it was preceded by the over-the-top comment piece in the now very anti-Ken Evening Standard, where Bright maintained he had decided this very weekend not to vote for Ken in the forthcoming Mayoral elections. Nobody could have been in any doubt about Ken's far-left affiliations when they voted for him, and the fact that the Mayor has the powers he has is a strength of the office rather than a weakness. What exactly was achieved for London in the years between the demise of the GLC and his election? Councils couldn't and wouldn't agree anything that they perceived as against their very local interests. The Congestion Charge, winning the Olympics, improved public spaces (at Trafalgar Square, and soon, at Westminster), and better buses are neither to be sniffed at nor discounted because of a £500 room service bill in China or even the Mayor's penchant for a nip of whiskey when facing the GLA. Moreover, in the globalised world, it was hard to see what objection one should have to London having offices in Brussels, India or China. Of course, the Venezualan and Cuban links are cretinous, although they seem perversely to have aided Londoners; the provision of platforms for extreme Islamists is wrong; and the campaign against Trevor Phillips was petty-minded, and wasteful of taxpayers' money. The Mayor also clearly spends rather too much on glossy propaganda. And the voters of London are entitled to weigh all this in the balance when they vote in May. But Bright would have had a more convincing case - and persuaded more voters - if he showed us, for example, rather more of how Socialist Action had misused its position to the detriment of Londoners - if they have done so - and rather fewer Liberal Democrats with an axe to grind or faux-outrageous examples of Ken living up to his cheeky chappy image.