Dead Men Left

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Perhaps a little like being mauled by a dead sheep

These left-liberal types can quite shirty when they have Tories to snarl at:

...Ken Livingstone has a 39% approval rating, his highest so far, with only 21% dissatisfied. He says what he thinks and does what he thinks will work: 80% say London is now easier to get around. Yet he faces a far worse problem in getting his message across than Labour's national politicians do. London has only one newspaper - the Evening Standard, sister to the Mail - that loathes Livingstone and Labour, while reporting virtually nothing that happens in London local politics, boroughs or assembly. Yet despite daily vituperation, Livingstone's plain and sometimes impolitic speaking does him good with voters.

He will skate by this latest episode of Evening Standard bullying, despite the BBC astonishingly elevating it to the national news. No one thinks that Livingstone's a racist. To say a (Jewish) reporter is like a concentration camp guard for door-stepping him outside a gay event might be rude - but I don't remember anyone calling Germaine Greer anti-semitic for referring to the Holocaust when she said the Big Brother house was like a fascist prison camp. Tasteless and offensive maybe.

When Brian Coleman, the Tory London assembly chair, had the nerve to say Livingstone had an "unacceptable attitude to the Jewish community" because he allowed an article to appear about the Israeli occupation of Palestine, you know the plot is lost. And if the Standards Board doesn't dismiss this absurdity instantly, then its meddling in politics had better be ended. The Tory chair himself has talked of the "influx" of Somali asylum seekers, the "plague" of Irish travellers and an end to the Notting Hill carnival. But if local politicians can't say anything, it's all over.

But here we come to Michael Howard - no plain speaker he, but carefully weaselling on matters of race. Here is where the real elec tion campaign is being fought - not in helicopters or with pledge cards, but down and dirty on race. Howard's own grandmother died in the Holocaust when Europe refused to save Jews, yet he would tear up the Geneva convention that sprang from that horror and bar people from even seeking asylum here with an arbitrary quota. An ICM poll finds that two-thirds of voters support it. So now he ratchets up the threat, with compulsory HIV tests for immigrants. A rich vein this...