Whatever my feelings about Ken Livingstone’s mayoralty, I never doubted his political skill. But in their initial responses to Boris Johnson, it is surprising how inept Ken and his supporters have been. First there was the claim that Boris was a serial absentee from Parliament – hastily dropped after it emerged that Ken’s own attendance had been far worse. Then Mr Livingstone tried to brand him a rabid extremist, an "acolyte" of George W.Bush and someone "who makes Norman Tebbit look liberal" – absurd charges, not supported even by the most finely-chiselled selective quotation. And now, with almost desperate haste, the Kennites have trundled out the inevitable Exocet: Boris is a racist. Not that they quite say that, of course: indeed, the Labour MP Diane Abbott protests that when she attacks Mr Johnson’s "1950s attitudes on race" that’s not what she means at all. But what else can she mean?
It started on Saturday, when Doreen Lawrence, mother of the murdered black teenager Stephen, lambasted Boris, saying that having him as mayor "would destroy the city’s [multicultural] unity."And Mrs Lawrence’s reason for saying this? Seven and a half years ago, Mr Johnson disagreed with a recommendation in the Macpherson report into her son’s death that using racist language in the home or another private place should be a crime. He called it "Orwellian."
I wonder if Mrs Lawrence can understand how outrageous – indeed Orwellian – it is to attack a man as a destroyer of racial harmony, one of the most serious charges you can lay, simply on the basis that he refuses to sign up for every dot and comma of a report of which she approves. While condemning the "grotesque failures" in the Lawrence case which "may well have originated in racism," Boris was far from the only person to oppose that particular Macpherson recommendation. Labour MPs opposed it, too. So did the Government, clearly, because they didn’t implement it.
I felt deeply sorry for Mrs Lawrence after her son’s death, and very angry on her behalf. But as a victim of injustice herself, she should not have made an unjust charge against Johnson. Ironically, amid all this synthetic nonsense about Boris, Londoners were digesting a real horror comparable to the Lawrence case – the report into the killing in cold blood of a totally innocent man, Jean Charles de Menezes. Mr de Menezes would not have died like this had he been white. For Sir Ian Blair, the Met Commissioner, it’s one of many things which makes his record on race so problematic.
Yet who was first to proclaim complete confidence in this desperately tarnished copper? Ken Livingstone, that’s who. And who is it that employs barely more than one top-level black adviser? Ken again. And who is it that regularly comes out with deeply unpleasant race-based insults? That’s Ken too, actually.
If I took the Doreen Lawrence approach, I might say all that proves Ken is a racist. He isn’t, of course. But it does show the danger of bandying around those sorts of charges so casually.
Donal Blaney takes a similar, if perhaps more robust, approach HERE.
UPDATE: There is a headline on the politics section of the BBC website "Black MPs spurn Boris for Mayor".
It is actually a "story" about two Labour MPs, Dawn Butler and Diane Abbott both saying that they do not support Boris Johnson. I may be wrong but Labour politicians saying they will not be supporting a Conservative is as relevant as the announcement that David Cameron will not be voting for Gordon Brown. What is the BBC playing at?