By Carol Gould
I had vowed not to think about, write about or otherwise spend valuable time ruminating over the bizarre and obnoxious antics of London Mayor ‘Red Ken’ Livingstone, but a comment from a Canadian friend who is a neutral observer made me break my vow of silence. Please note that the ‘Red’ tag does not connote ginger hair but a past career cultivating the extreme Left that so enraged Margaret Thatcher that she abolished the Greater London Council just to be rid of him.
So it will have gone virtually unreported that on 18 March the London Mayor got up at an anti-Iraq war, anti-‘Apartheid Israel’ rally in Trafalgar Square to announce that the Hugo Chavez government of Venezuela had agreed to participate in an upcoming summer ‘people’s rally.’ Mayor Livingstone said we would celebrate the revolution sweeping South America and particularly Venezuela, whose aim it was to cut off its oil supply to the USA. Livingstone then said he hoped this would be an inspiration to ‘the Arab peoples of the world’ to cut off the oil taps to George Bush.
There I stood, next to a demonstrator with an upside-down USA flag on which he had daubed ‘F^** Bush,‘ thinking of my large family in the United States who, if one were to take the London Mayor literally, would starve and freeze to death sometime soon along with the rest of America if his vision became reality. When I told my Canadian friend about this, she, with no axe to grind, made an astute observation: ‘If Mayor Bloomberg of New York got up in Times Square and said he hoped the oil supply to Britain would be cut off, he would cause such an outcry that he would have to resign.’ Indeed, he would be taken away in a straitjacket.
Now we have a new wave of madness that has emanated from ‘Red Ken.’ A few weeks ago I noticed a tiny item in the newspaper about his appearance in Cannes at an Olympic 2012 planning junket. The article said Livingstone had got up at the Riviera event and made a verbal aassault on property tycoons Simon and David Reuben that others in the planning group had found startling and out of place. This is the Mayor who was suspended so recently for insulting a Jewish reporter with a ‘concentration camp guard’ slur. I said to myself, ‘No, no, no, it isn’t anti-Semitism again!‘
Lo and behold, a week later came his outburst in London in which he said the Reuben Brothers could ‘go back to Iran and live under the ayatollahs.’ ’Go back!’ -- an expression that strikes a chill in every immigrant, but for our champion of multiculturalism, Ken Livingstone, to utter this epithet was an egregious act, made worse by his next jibe. When asked about his outburst by reporters Livingstone said he was not aware that the Indian-Jewish Reubens were not, after all, Iranians, and that he apologised unreservedly to all of the Iranian people for suggesting he would have inflicted the Reuben brothers on them. Then, to top it all, the Mayor said he thought the Reubens might perhaps be Muslims.
But, as the expression goes, it isn’t over until it is over, so as this article goes to press we have the Mayor of London, the international envoy of goodwill of our ancient city, calling the United States Ambassador a ‘chiselling little crook’ on nationwide television. Americans making British boys die in Iraq but not paying the London Congestion Charge, for which some fifty-five embassies are reported to be in arrears, is the cause of his ire. The Evening Standard has pointed out that Mayor Ken did not go after the Communist Cuban embassy, whom it reports also owe back charges.
Like many American expatriates in England I have never forgotten that Ken Livingstone boycotted the State Dinner for President and Mrs. Bush or forgiven him for insulting Her Majesty the Queen by this petulant act.
In recent weeks Holocaust survivors have told me how deeply hurt they were by his ’concentration camp guard’ slur. Liberals rushed to Livingstone’s defense, most notably The Guardian newspaper, which filled up with even more hurtful articles by non-Jewish writers suggesting the small Anglo-Jewish community was engaging in some form of intellectual blackmail. Having seen how devastated my elderly Holocaust-era friends have been since Livingstone berated the Jewish reporter and then refused to apologise (this resulted in his suspension) my inclination was for Livingstone to be removed for the Nazi slur. Now, to defame an ambassador to the Court of St James in a public forum is a further act worthy of removal from office.
Many argue that Livingstone’s trusted deputy Mayor is Nicky Gavron, who is Jewish, and that his top-level Transport executives, Bob Kiley and Tim O’Toole are Americans. Perhaps his regular attacks on Jews and Americans can be attributed to a mental quirk or what British journalist Melanie Phillips calls ‘London’s Tourette Attraction.’
This week Roger McGough has pulled out of a Liverpool Philharmonic concert because Condoleezza Rice will be in attendance. This is churlish behaviour, but he is not the Mayor of one of the world’s most important and economically influential cities. Ken Livingstone is an embarrassment; his refusal to apologise to a Jewish reporter is hideous, and in light of his slur against the American ambassador he should leave office.
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