The madness of Ken’s attack on Obama


Labour’s candidate for London Mayor Ken Livingstone has put his foot in it again today – saying the assassination of Osama bin Laden made President Obama look like “some kind of mobster”. The ill-judged attack on Obama, whose leadership over the operation has been praised round the world, risks hardening public perception of Livingstone as being in league with Islamists, and soft on Islamist extremism.

Ken-Livingstone-Yusuf-al-QaradawiHe told today’s Standard:

“I just looked at [the scenes of jubilation in the US] and realised that it would increase the likelihood of a terror attack on London… That’s very much the American style but I don’t think I’ve ever felt pleased at the death of anybody.

“The real problem for London is that after America we’re a big target so it’s a very dangerous time at the moment…

“We should have captured him and put him on trial. It’s a simple point – are we gangsters or a Western democracy based on the rule of law? This undermines any commitment to democracy and trial by jury and makes Obama look like some sort of mobster.”

Last night on Left Foot Forward, a year out from the elections for London Mayor, Daniel Elton made the case for Livingstone to renounce some of his allies with questionable views:

“…as the challenger best placed to unseat Boris Johnson – all progressives in the capital should vote Ken for first or second choice. However, as even many on Ken’s campaign would admit, he has had a chequered past. Among the most unfortunate aspects of his career to date has been to walk hand in hand with some frankly unsavoury political ‘friends’.

“This behaviour probably will not affect his chances of election – the biggest single factor in that will be the unpopularity of the Tories and how much of that sticks to the current Mayor. But for the sake of good governance, it is time to throw these sometime ‘comrades’ under the bus.”

Those named were Socialist Action, Hugo Chavez, Lutfur Rahman and Yusuf al-Qaradawi. Of the latter, he wrote:

“Livingstone’s repeated inviations to one of the Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual leaders was shameful to all self-respecting liberal supporters of ‘Red Ken’.

“Maybe Livingstone is right when he says Qadarawi “preaches moderation and tolerance to all faiths throughout the world”. He also preaches homophobia, and defends suicide bombing.

“Qaradawi cares so much about women’s rights, he argues that husbands should only be allowed to hit their wives “as a last resort”, and then only “lightly”. He should never step back into City Hall. Ever.”

And as a commenter adds:

“A cursory stroll through Google quickly shows anyone who’s interested that Qadarawi is an aggressive, inciteful, unremitting antisemite… For those who are interested/concerned, here’s a starter-pack: http://hurryupharry.org/2011/02/24/qaradawi-on-muslims-and-jews/ and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xS_5aIv3sHQ.”

Though there is a case to be made for taking bin Laden alive – indeed Kevin Meagher will make that case on Left Foot Forward later today – to go against the grain so spectacularly, and to criticise the statesmanlike leadership of Obama and imply he hadn’t thought through the attack, will not go down at all well with Londoners and will play into the hands of those who wish to paint Livingstone as some kind of apologist.

As Tory MP Greg Hands said:

“Calling President Obama a mobster is yet another example of Ken Livingstone’s extreme views which threaten to damage London. What American business will want to invest in our city if it is run by a man who repeatedly attacks their leader?”

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  • David Mullen

    Was this article written with the approval of the Pentagon? Because it comes out with the same tired cliches accusing critics of the US president of extremism. A point was made the other day that although Bin Laden had blood of innocent civilians on his hands it pales into insignificance compared to the deaths of innocent civilians which successive US presidents were responsible for.

  • Richard Walker

    I disagree with Ken on most things and I deplore his association with extremists. However, his suggestion that Obama has behaved like a mobster is perfectly rational, and in my opinion, absolutely correct. Well done Ken.

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  • Liberanos

    Livingstone is a hoary old marxist who can’t break the habit of denigrating the US, regardless of the facts. Hugging a violently homophobic, anti-semitic, misogynist muslim is par for the course. Why the party selected this person for a 21st century election is beyond me. He’d be far happier tagging along with the seventh century prophet Galloway.

  • Erica Blair

    If people use the methods Mafia, then they deserve to be compared with them. We captured and put on trial the Nazis, who made OBL look like an innocent. This is a deeply stupid posting.

  • Erica Blair

    Correction: methods of the Mafia (or Murder Inc.)

    e.g. ‘Tonight you sleep with the fishes.’

  • Clive

    all progressives in the capital should vote Ken for first or second choice.

    With Ken cosying up to the most reactionary homophobic, misogynistic and antisemitic elements of Islamism, why on earth would any “progressive” vote for him?

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  • Sam

    Frankly, it’s a shame that Das thinks Livingstone’s support of due process in international law is “extremism”. I thought the right to trial was a principle of judicial process in all democracies.

    Basically, Das doesn’t like what Livingstone has – quite legitimately – said, so calls him an extremist. That’s not “evidence-based”, it’s just rhetoric dressed up as analysis. What’s more, it’s not even Das’s own rhetoric – he’s borrowed it almost entirely from Daniel Elton!

    All this article does is encourage those who would otherwise vote for Livingstone to stay at home by tarring him with the same lazy slurs Islamophobic right-wingers do all the time.

    If you believe in progressive politics, vote Ken livingstone in next year’s mayoral election. #yesweken

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  • george

    Why in the world can you lefties not come up with some new candidates? I am nearly 50 and this charlatin has been screwing with London my entire life. Get over him and find someone who isn’t a prick to represent your lefty views.

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  • http://conradlandin.wordpress.com Conrad Landin

    Sorry Shamik – but I’m with Ken entirely. I’m proud that Ken’s always been willing to “go against the grain so spectacularly”. But if anyone saw Paddy Ashdown’s case for legal justice on Question Time the other day, I’d think they’d say the case had been made pretty impressively.

    Many people have been expressing the same sentiments as Ken – as we know, despite the fact that Obama has been considerably more sensitive than George W Bush – that when your enemy is terrorism, it simply cannot be right to stoop to their level and execute an unarmed individual – no matter how evil he is – in a foreign country. If we’re preaching Western standards, the least we can do is abide by them.

  • Graham Peasantry

    I also find it somewhat disturbing that Left Foot Forward is quoting a Tory MP – and an enthusiastic Johnson supporter at that – on the subject of “American businesses investing in London”. Pardon me, but I thought we had an ideology to consider, and weren’t just in politics to suck up to the Americans.

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