Ken Livingstone

Ken Livingstone

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Ken Livingstone

Ken Livingstone

Ken Livingstone is the Former Mayor of London

Ken Livingstone

Today marks 50 years since the decriminalisation of homosexuality and the struggle for equality continues.

I was proud that in the 1980s when I led the GLC - including through the work of our Gay Rights working party and the opening of the London Lesbian and Gay Centre - led the way in fighting oppression.

Like many Labour poltiicians I was proud to speak out against the Tories' prejudice and their hated Section 28.

Then as Mayor of London we set up the UK's first Partnership Register in 2001, which paved the way for the 2004 Civil Partnership Act; successfully lobbied for new anti-discrimination laws to protect the LGBT community; embarked on high profile projects targeting anti-homophobic bullying in schools; and banned ads for holiday resorts that discriminated against lesbian and gay people, forcing them to change their policies (read more at http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2007/07/lesbian-gay-livingstone-london .)

Any attack on rights of lesbian and gay people undermines all of our human rights. This is why it is important to support LGBT equality, challenge discrimination and celebrate diversity in this country

 

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Theresa May Can Be Defeated and Jeremy Corbyn be the Next PM

Theresa May entered the general election promising to be a strong and stable leader but is now reliant on the deeply reactionary DUP to govern, after one of the biggest own goals in British political history. Her government will be deeply unstable and can be defeated.

One reason why she can be defeated is that the scale of enthusiasm generated for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour message during the General Election campaign – especially amongst younger voters - was stunning and can provide a base to build on and change the direction of British politics for years to come.

Labour’s electoral gains under Jeremy’s leadership were a remarkable achievement considering what he has faced over the last two years since he declared he was running for Labour leader.

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Labour’s Robin Hood Tax is a Radical & Responsible Policy for a Better Britain

This General Election campaign so far, with three weeks to go, has been marked by Theresa May refusing to take part in TV debates with Labour’s leader to defend the Tory record, and being generally elusive in terms of economic policy commitments, including in the area of taxation.

We all know that Chancellor Philip Hammond wanted to put up National Insurance Contributions to the tune of £2 billion in the last budget, but was forced into a u-turn.

Now, in the General Election campaign so far both Philip Hammond and Theresa May have refused to rule out more increases that could hit those with low and middle incomes.

Unlike the Tories, by committing to not raising income tax, NICs and VAT on 95% of earners, Labour has been clear that a fair share of the burden should fall on the super-rich at the very top, who are being given massive tax giveaways by the Tories, while the aforementioned 95 per cent should be spared having to pay more.

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The ‘Rich List’ Illustrates the Staggering Level of Inequality in the Tories’ Rigged Economy

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With the publication of the ‘Rich List’ this week we learnt that the wealth of the top ten richest couples in the country has gone up by £3.4bn.

The 20 richest Britons alone are now worth £192bn – this is more than will be spent on health and education combined this year.

This isn’t a new development. It’s a long term trend, where their total wealth from 2005 to 2015 has more than doubled. At the same time as this elite has seen a massive increase in wealth, most of the population has faced cutbacks, wage stagnation and rising prices, leading to spiralling inequality.

This is not a coincidence; it’s a result of government policies and priorities. As Labour’s Jon Trickett put it this week, “the rules of the game have been rigged against the millions and in favour of the millionaires.”

Indeed, a Resolution Foundation report earlier this year found that the continuing of the worsening cost of living crisis under the Tories could lead to the biggest rise in inequality since Margaret Thatcher was prime minister.

Such staggering levels of inequality are bad for the British economy and society.

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Tory Policies Have Created this Housing Crisis- But There is an Alternative

Today, Jeremy Corbyn and Shadow Housing Minister John Healey pledged a Labour Government would build a million new homes in five years, with at least half a million council homes, as part of Labour’s public investment strategy for a better Britain.

Such an approach is exactly what we need to tackle the housing crisis, boost economic growth and win votes for Labour.

Labour’s alternative in this area could not be more needed – figures from autumn 2016 showed levels of affordable homes for social rent had fallen to the lowest level since records began.

In a different way, the scale of the housing crisis was also starkly highlighted last year when Shelter published research highlighting the fact that millions of working people are struggling to afford sky-high housing costs — a problem that many of us in London know.

Here in the capital, the average house price to earnings ratio for first-time buyers was 3.7 in 1983. By the second quarter of this year it was 10.4.

Since Margaret Thatcher stopped building council homes for rent, house prices have soared beyond the means of most Londoners, and our children and grandchildren are forced to rent homes that cost more than half their take-home pay. Vast swathes of London are seeing families who have lived here for generations forced to leave the city in a devastating tide of social cleansing.

In the 2000s, as London mayor, I was proud to put my London Plan to use by requiring 50 per cent of the capital’s new homes to be affordable. But then we saw Boris Johnson become mayor and the Con-Dems come in at Downing Street.

Now, with Boris thankfully gone from City Hall, Sadiq Khan is introducing some great policies in the area, and having a central Government committed to real action to tackle the housing crisis could also help  him and Labour councils in their work to provide more affordable homes to rent and buy.

It’s important to understand that for ideological reasons the Tories are both against greater public sector building and see planning policies that “interfere” in the market negatively. It was therefore no surprise when Johnson abolished this 50 per cent target for affordable housing in 2008.

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Economic Difficulties Ahead Are Why May Has Rushed to the Polls

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If you want to know why Theresa May has rushed into calling a General Election, despite repeatedly saying she wouldn’t do so, then the reasons were perfectly summed up by journalist Kevin Maguire on Twitter this week when he wrote the panic is because “Brexit will be a nightmare and living standards will be squeezed by prices rising faster than wages.”

More broadly speaking, fundamental economic factors facing Britain mean that the difficulties we are currently seeing in different areas of our economy are set to deepen.

This may be surprising to some readers, as this Tory government, dutifully echoed by the majority of the media, never tires of telling us how rosy the picture looks for the economy but recent data — including regarding GDP — shows the opposite and reveals that the outlook for the economy is deteriorating.

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We are appalled by the decision to continue the suspension of Ken Livingstone

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We are appalled by the decision to continue the suspension of Ken Livingstone.

The case brought against Ken was not that he was antisemitic. Instead it was claimed that he upset a significant part of the UK’s Jewish population. This upset had been caused by his (accurate) statement that some Zionists and Hitler had wanted to get Jews out of Germany, and that prior to the War they reached a temporary agreement to help bring this about. The Zionist motivation was to increase the numbers of Jews going to Palestine.

If a political party adopts the principle that it suspends every member that upsets some part of the population where would it all end? Labour should respect freedom of expression.

The decision to continue the suspension Ken is mistaken. It is an attempt to protect Israel from criticism, while simultaneously weakening the position of Jeremy Corbyn, a principled supporter of Palestinian rights.

 

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The Labour Party’s disciplinary process was not in accord with natural justice

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Today’s Labour Party panel extended my suspension for another year because of my political views, not because I have done anything to harm the Labour Party.

The Labour Party’s disciplinary process was not in accord with natural justice in a number of ways. For example the panel hearing was not held in public, despite the fact that it could have been under Labour’s rules. I was suspended for more than 11 months before the hearing was held.

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Letter from Jewish members and supporters of the Labour Party to the Labour Party National Constitutional Committee

We write as Jewish members and supporters of the Labour Party in support of Ken Livingstone. We do not find the disciplinary charges brought against him in the name of the NEC to be credible.

Starting in February last year there has been a skilfully delivered campaign to present the Left of the Labour Party as riddled with antisemitism, a charge which we can refute based on many years of accumulated experience. The motivations for this campaign have been widely discussed, and we do not intend to address them here. It is sufficient to say that contesting antisemitism has clearly not been the only or even the main reason for the enthusiasm with which this campaign has been pursued.

To be specific, we do not find Ken Livingstone’s remarks about the Zionist leadership’s involvement in negotiating the ‘Ha’avarah’ (Transfer) agreement with the Nazis in the 1930s in any way antisemitic. This agreement is a historical fact, and it gave vital support to Hitler at a time when his regime was under severe international pressure.

In his interview with Vanessa Feltz in which this remark was made Ken Livingstone was defending Naz Shah from accusations that her social media postings of two years previous were antisemitic. He did not believe this to be so, and neither do we - nor does her subsequent apology make them so. They fall well within the spectrum of reasonable comment on a contentious political issue. (We think it is now well known that the allegedly offensive map she re-tweeted came from a prominent Jewish US academic and activist.) Naz Shah made no expression of hostility to Jews because we are Jews. There is no expression whatsoever of prejudice directed at Jews.

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I have fought racism and anti-Semitism all my political life

This article is one of a series on Labour Party figures, you can see the coverage here. Help WriteYou grow by supporting our powerful platform for independent, fearless and non partisan journalism here.

If you want to join the social discussion please comment on this article or join or start a thread in WriteYou discussion. We will be asking Ken your questions, so please ask your question in the comments and we will put them to Ken and he will reply online. 

 

This week the Labour Party is considering whether to expel me or not, having suspended my membership eleven months ago. I first joined Labour in March 1969 – I have served it as a member, councillor, GLC member, MP, Mayor of London and NEC member. 

In that time, I have been proud of my record as an anti-racist and leading campaigner against the far-right and their hate.

Racism is a uniquely reactionary ideology, used to justify the greatest crimes in history. I believe that an ideology that starts by declaring one human being inferior to another is the slope whose end is at Auschwitz. I totally reject such views of Jews, Muslims, black people or any other group. I believe that the Holocaust was the greatest racist crime of the 20th Century 

As part of my life struggling against racism, I have always implacably opposed anti-Semitism.

The contribution of Jewish people to human civilisation and culture is unexcelled and extraordinary. You only have to think of giants such as Einstein, Freud and Marx to realise that human civilisation would be unrecognisably diminished without the achievements of the Jewish people. 

And I have taken real action to tackle anti-Semitism when in office.

As Leader of the Greater London Council in the 1980s and as London Mayor in the 2000s, I ensured that London's government resourced the fight against racism and anti-Semitism, as well as supporting Jewish community organisations and cultural events.

When I was Leader of the Greater London Council (GLC), it funded a number of Jewish community organisations, including: the Jewish Social Responsibility Council, the Jewish Association for the Physically Handicapped, the Jewish Employment Action Group, the Redbridge Jewish Youth Association and Agudas Israel in Hackney.

As London Mayor, I hosted, took part in and promoted events to mark the annual Holocaust Memorial Day. I hosted the Anne Frank exhibition at City Hall and also lighting of the Menorah ceremonies for the Hanukkah festival. I organised, in partnership with Jewish cultural organisations, a Jewish festival in Trafalgar Square – the Simcha on the Square. I also supported the Jewish Museum’s exhibition on multicultural Britain and published several guides to Jewish London.

This was part of a wider strategy of, in order to promote understanding, respect and interaction between these diverse cultures and communities, we promoting public, free, celebrations and commemorations of all the main faith and secular cultural festivals and anniversaries observed by London’s communities.

The purpose of such events is twofold. On the one hand to celebrate the cultural and social contribution of London’s diverse communities and on the other to encourage inter-faith and inter-community awareness to reduce prejudice born of ignorance and promote understanding.

At this week's hearing I am not actually accused of the vile ideology of anti-Semitism, but that prejudice is what my opponents imply. 

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