The Boris brand is weaker than his friends think


1:50 pm - May 22nd 2012

by Sunny Hundal    


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At the height of London’s Mayoral election campaign, I was at a hustings when an Evening Standard journalist came over. She took issue with my constant criticism of the paper’s coverage of the elections and said she was interested in my suggestions.

After a short exchange I ended with roughly this (it wasn’t a private discussion): “Pippa you’re a good journalist. Why do you need me to tell you what to do? All I want is for Boris’s claims to be fact-checked… especially on knife crime and council tax.”

I was promised the Evening Standard would do something but it never materialised. This isn’t a whinge about Standard bias again, but an illustration that Boris needed every bit of support like this to push him past the finishing line.

The establishment loves Boris.

His loyal fans have been able to build a myth around him along the lines of: ‘Boris can attract voters other Tories cannot’, or ‘he is an unashamed Conservative who can unite Tories unlike that terrible centrist Cameron’. Both are delusional. Rather, his political career came within a whisker of ending abruptly.

Consider the context of the campaign. When was the last time a candidate lost against someone, and came back after four years to win against the incumbent? In the United States neither of the major parties would allow it.

There are other factors too. Boris ran a well financed campaign with support from City millionaires. He had the complete support of the Evening Standard, the Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, The Sun and others. Ken could only count on reluctant support from the Guardian. While journalists could create faux controversies around Ken (‘riddled with gays’, his taxes etc), Boris escaped scrutiny and criticism despite similar hypocrisy.

Boris Johnson’s greatest achievement has been, as the author Sonia Purnell put it succinctly, “the simple avoidance of disaster”. He played to the right-wing gallery with his columns in the Telegraph and tirades in support of bankers, but his policies were largely a continuation of Ken’s settlement.

His claims – the Boris Bikes and investment into transport – were secured by Ken Livingstone. His pet projects barely featured: cheap travel over the Thames (was shot down), an airport in the Thames Estuary (shot down) and a cable car over Victoria bridge (wildly over budget).

And is he really an unashamed Conservative who can bring new voters into the fold?

This is perhaps the greatest myth of them all. Londoners have almost always ignored national political party swings in their votes. Ken initially won as an independent and later as a Labour candidate. In 2008 he easily outperformed Labour’s vote but was way behind its popularity in London this time.

In fact that was Ken’s key mistake: assuming voters could be persuaded it was a referendum on national politics. Ken did not anticipate potential pitfalls (his taxes), was slow to respond to controversies (around Jews) and did not exactly set the world on fire with innovative policies.

Boris capitalised on all of those mistakes, but ran an even worse campaign. There was no unifying theme, his ‘list of achievements’ was bogus, his promise to save families £450 through council tax cuts was simply made up. When he tried to hijack the official Twitter account, it backfired and set off panic at City Hall. His own voters did not trust him on key policies such as transport or know of an achievement that hadn’t been set in motion by Ken.

Boris should have done much better. That he barely scraped through against an already-lost candidate just illustrated his own weakness.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


Sunny,

Move on to the next battle.

Londoners voted for Johnson.
Livingston lost and had the grace to leave the election behind him.

Might you not do the same?

Kojak: it might be possible to ‘move on’ if it wasn’t for the incessant background noise of ‘Boris for PM’ in which he sweeps into No 10 on a tide of his own charisma and right-wing hype (i.e. a bigger version of the the Mayoral game plan).

3. Chaise Guevara

@2 redpesto

Agreed. Although I doubt Boris’s image would survive the scrutiny of a national election.

As Redpesto says:- There is quite a lot of chatter about Boris for PM so it is well worth analysing the brand and where the chatter comes from. I get the impression that journalists avoid offending Johnson because they think that he might be powerful in future, an interesting feed-back loop. Johnson being questioned by the Assembly or by the public is far from charismatic and does not give the impression of being on top of his briefs. This is probably why (as Adam Bienkov has pointed out at New Statesman) Johnson cut right down on public meetings and press conferences (compared to Livingstone) despite promising four years ago that he was going to be more transparent.

If Boris is the answer to the problems of the Conservative Party, I wonder what the problem is!

Sunny, what planet are you on?

When it comes to factchecking candidates, it was Ken who told more porkies by far.

Boris ran a weak campaign and managed to outperform the Coalition who were having mishap after mishap at the time. Ken managed to turn a large Labour polling lead into a pretty dismal failure – not least because of the trust issues surrounding him.

Blaming the media always looks desperate. Labour needs to do a better job selecting a candidate next time.

We will. The Ken mistake won’t be repeated.

Boris might well be delusional but as PM he would be arguably less dangerously delusional than Cameron, with his absolutely insane hatred of the chronically sick and disabled, and his obsession with making us disappear.

How long before his delusions translate in to ACTUALLY making us disappear? There is historical precedent after all, and IDS already has a propaganda machine which would make the shade of Goebbels cream his jackboots with envy, to help make it happen – which, of course, he’s already doing, as barely a week goes by without some fresh lies, to be recycled by the toady press.

He’s already turned us in to hate figures, blamed for all the ills of society, and violence against us is rising pretty much daily, as are the deaths and suicides. Only a matter of time before we have our very own version of Kristallnacht.

Given a choice, I’d take Boris over Dave the Psychopath any day.

Sorry for the rant, Sunny, but you did raise the question of Boris as PM.

Boris won the election at a time when the Conservatives took a thrashing in local elections. He also won in a Labour dominant city. So it was clearly not only the Standard that helped get him through, or indeed the ‘establishment’. It was Londoners, and in particular a raft of Labour voters who simply can’t stand Ken and who appreciate that Boris actually give a rats about the City and not just the title.

Boris, despite all that has been said, was the better candidate. I think even you Sunny realise quite clearly why Boris won. Ken’s divisive, and belittling campaign in not what we need, and yes, people might have voted for Boris because he makes them laugh, but is that a bad thing? Do we need another political relic clogging up the mayors office?

The margin by which he won is irrelevant. The fact is that he is the Mayor. Thank goodness.

Ron Graves re comment 7:

Cameron might not be your cup of tea but he certainly does not have an:
“absolutely insane hatred of the chronically sick and disabled”.

Criticise him as you wish but don’t undermine your point merely by being silly.

Kristallnacht my @rse.

Whenever the left loses an election, the response in some form is “we was robbed!”. It’s never the policies or the candidate, unless s/he is on the right-wing of the Labour Party.

Ken was damaged goods – a lachrymose, machine politician with some unsavoury views and a hypocritical stance on tax avoidance. Labour would probably have walked it with (say) Oona King as the candidate.

11. Planeshift

” “the simple avoidance of disaster””

You have to accept though, that this is a major achievement. I can’t think of many administrations that have avoided disaster ;-)

12. Chaise Guevara

@ 10 TONE

“Whenever the left loses an election, the response in some form is “we was robbed!”. It’s never the policies or the candidate, unless s/he is on the right-wing of the Labour Party.”

While I think that the whole of humanity has a tendency towards sore-loserdom, and agree with you about Ken, the fact that lefties tend to complain about the media might, in fact, have something to do with the preponderance of right-biased media. In terms of newspapers, at least.

I am Green voter and my second vote was for Boris Johnson.
I am not a member of the “establishment”, and I am not Conservative at all.

It doesn’t mean that I would vote for him as PM – which I can’t anyway because the PM in this country is not directly elected.

Why don’t we deal with the next general election when the parties have chosen their candidates and manifestos? We still have a few years.

Oddly enough,some of the commenters are (inadvertently) helping to make Sunny’s point. If Livingstone was such a terrible candidate, and the margin was narrow, then the conclusion must be that Johnson is not such a wonderful product either.

15. eastender

Sunny you are repeating the tired old line that Ken underperformed the Labour vote which simply isnt true (not by any great amount). What happened is Boris very much overperformed compared with the general level of the Tory vote.

For whatever reason Boris appealed to many non Tory voters and Ken did not appeal outside the Labour vote. The best analysis of all of this has been in Adam Bienkov’s piece in the New Statesman. To quote the final 2 sentences

“Boris won because Londoners saw him as the most charismatic and likeable candidate. Ken lost, because after 41 long years too many Londoners have simply had enough.”

Repeating tired & incorrect media narratives is not something one would hope to find here

Funny OP. Still spinning after the election is over. Boris isn’t very good, but Ken was worse IMO. I think that it’s better ”your side” looses if they put up a lousy cnadidate than wins it. Because it’s only by losing that the lessons might be learnt.
Ken was too much of a Jessie Jackson-style quack with all his appeals to minorities as minorities. It ends up being divisive.

And Boris employs Munira Mirza who had warned of Ken’s kind of politics several years ago.
Diversity is Divisive.

It doesn’t matter if Boris or Ken run London.

18. Shatterface

Boris might well be delusional but as PM he would be arguably less dangerously delusional than Cameron, with his absolutely insane hatred of the chronically sick and disabled, and his obsession with making us disappear.

How long before his delusions translate in to ACTUALLY making us disappear? There is historical precedent after all, and IDS already has a propaganda machine which would make the shade of Goebbels cream his jackboots with envy, to help make it happen – which, of course, he’s already doing, as barely a week goes by without some fresh lies, to be recycled by the toady press.

Maybe if you didn’t reach for the Nazi button every time a politician said something you disagree with they might think your objections were worth a shit.

Oddly enough,some of the commenters are (inadvertently) helping to make Sunny’s point. If Livingstone was such a terrible candidate, and the margin was narrow, then the conclusion must be that Johnson is not such a wonderful product either.

EXACTLY.

I think Sunny’s basic point is correct here: most people thought both main candidates were pretty awful. Turnout was pretty dreadful, even though I get the impression people think the mayor’s office is fairly important.

Where Boris succeeded better than Ken was in motivating his core vote – Conservatives love Boris. Although I don’t think it motivated many people to switch to Boris, more to stay at home, Ken was hit badly by the tax avoidance accusation, despite the rather obvious hypocrisy (I mean, if the alleged tax avoider were a high profile banker rather than an opposition politician, Boris would no doubt be defending tax avoidance to the hilt).

“When was the last time a candidate lost against someone, and came back after four years to win against the incumbent?”

And when was the last time a candidate just scraped a loss in an election when his party was 25% behind in the polls, yet managed to scrape another loss and only chalk up a 1% swing, four years later when his party was 10% ahead in the polls?

@21

Party affiliation is largely meaningless in the mayoral election – remember Ken won his first term as an independent candidate after the Blairites got cold feet and nominated avuncular empty suit Frank Dobson.

Accusations of “sore loserdom” are wrong-headed. Ken accepted defeat graciously, as did most of his supporters despite their disappointment. Triumphalism on the part of Boris’s supporters is equally wrong-headed, however – because the fact remains that Sunny has a point. Boris had voter apathy, almost all the press and a media presence that Ken couldn’t match – if Ken was as unpopular as some like to claim then Boris should have walked it, but he didn’t – Ken was within spitting distance of winning despite every disadvantage he had.

Ultimately it comes down to the fact that Ken’s campaign was lacklustre, and his strategy of trying to gain support in the outer boroughs – in which a majority of voters not only trend Tory but reflexively dislike him – didn’t work. Most of the alleged “controversies” were made up out of whole cloth by the Tory press (the “Jewish” angle in particular annoys me, because the whole thing started when he was hassled by an ES journalist leaving a party and pointed out the irony of a Jewish reporter working for a newspaper group that wrote “Hurrah For The Blackshirts”), but in this soundbite-driven world mud sticks whether it is warranted or not.

It’ll be interesting (and probably not in a good way) to see how Boris handles a second term in which he doesn’t have a roadmap left by the previous incumbent to cherry-pick for ideas to distract ordinary Londoners from his City-friendly policies.

CG @ 12:

“the fact that lefties tend to complain about the media might, in fact, have something to do with the preponderance of right-biased media. In terms of newspapers, at least.”

Well…the right complain about media…particularly the BBC. And the left complain about the media…particularly newspapers, whose influence is waning…So I’m not convinced…either way. Research, anyone???

“…the irony of a Jewish reporter working for a newspaper group that wrote “Hurrah For The Blackshirts”

You could also point out the irony of a prominent left-wing politician and London mayoral candidate working (well, writing restaurant reviews – very radical) for a newspaper group that wrote “Hurrah For The Blackshirts”couldn’t you?

If you were interested in reality.

Face it, Livingstone only ever looked good when up against Thatcher and Blair. His dishonesty and hypocrisy were so staggering that even Boris Johnson – who isn’t really even a politician when all is said and done – has beaten him twice.

Did he ever release his tax details as he promised or was that just a lie as well?

25. Chaise Guevara

@ 23 TONE

“Well…the right complain about media…particularly the BBC. And the left complain about the media…particularly newspapers, whose influence is waning…So I’m not convinced…either way. Research, anyone???”

Hard to research something that hard to quantify. Although it seems to be pretty much agreed that the Mail, the Express, the Sun, The Telegraph, and the Times are right-wing. I suppose that last one is debateably centrist. In terms of circulation, the Indy, Guardian and Mirror are probably outnumbered by the Sun alone.

The Beeb seems to be accused of systemic bias by both camps. I’m not convinced either.

@24

You could also point out the irony of a prominent left-wing politician and London mayoral candidate working (well, writing restaurant reviews – very radical) for a newspaper group that wrote “Hurrah For The Blackshirts”couldn’t you?

I’m pretty sure that began when Max Hastings was editor and the Standard was significantly different, editorially speaking, from its Associated brethren. In 2002 Veronica Wadley took over and turned it into what amounted to the Daily Mail : London Edition. It was during this period that the incident in question happened.

His dishonesty and hypocrisy were so staggering…

Examples, please? I hear a lot of his detractors saying this, but very rarely do they give examples.

‘I’m pretty sure that began when Max Hastings was editor and the Standard was significantly different, editorially speaking, from its Associated brethren. In 2002 Veronica Wadley took over and turned it into what amounted to the Daily Mail : London Edition. It was during this period that the incident in question happened’

The Blackshirts headline was a Daily Mail headline from the 30s – Associated own the Daily Mail and The Standard, so when Livingstone was working for The Standard he was also working for Associated, no mattter who its then editor was. And The Evening Standard’s stablemate is the Daily Mail. Therefore Livingstone worked for a newspaper group that has a notorious history of supporting fascism but seemed to conveniently forget about that when he was up on his high horse condemning someone else for doing the exact same thing.

Yes, it’s torturous logic but that hasn’t stopped Livingstone’s supporters from extensively using it to excuse his knowingly comparing a Jewish reporter to a concentration camp guard.

If you’re really ignorant of occurrences of Ken’s hypocrisy and dishonesty (as I asked, where are the tax details he promised to reveal??) then you haven’t been paying attention and I suspect that you’re not going to start now.

Even Mehdi Hasan has written a column raising the issue of Livingstone’s tax avoidance – look it up on this site.

Simply put, for a Labour politician to exploit Tory tax evasion loopholes to reduce the amount of tax they pay (during a Labour adminstration when those missing taxes should be going to fund Labour policies that Livingstone supposedly supports – the NHS, improving schools etc) and who then loudly condemns the same activity when it is carried out by those on the right and in business, is staggeringly hypocritical. He also repeatedly lied about it during the campaign, alleging Johnson did the same thing. However Johnson was not paying a reduced tax rate as a business, but was paying a higher rate as a self-employed person.

Therefore, logically, Johnson has been making far more of a financial contribution to Labour policies on schools and hospitals investment than Livingstone has.

(It was also revealed that Livingstone uses private health services, of course.)

@27

So basically you’ve only got one example – i.e. the tax situation. Look, if you’re wealthy enough to employ an accountant to handle your finances, it is the accountant who will set things up – they wouldn’t be doing their job if they didn’t.

Unlike Johnson, who started off with a large amount of inherited capital (and you can bet that this is invested in as tax-efficient a way as possible), Livingstone’s wealth is entirely derived from his earnings. Remember that Boris considered his annual Telegraph income of £250,000 “chicken feed” – when you’re that rich you can afford to pay full tax on your income for political point-scoring, because the bulk of your wealth – which dwarfs your annual income – is invested offshore.

I don’t get this idea that if you’re of the left-wing persuasion, to use non-state services or avail yourself of the accountancy options available is somehow hypocritical. The remnants of the state provided services had been penny-pinched to within an inch of their life in 1997, and New Labour barely managed to halt the slide. In fact, from a left-wing perspective it makes sense to go private if you can afford it when state services have suffered from chronic underinvestment, because it frees up resources for people who aren’t as well off. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not an easy circle to square, because at a shallow level using a service you don’t believe in does look odd – but it’s no more odd than paying taxes you don’t believe in on an income stream when the majority of your wealth is not derived from said income.

Therefore, logically, Johnson has been making far more of a financial contribution to Labour policies on schools and hospitals investment…

So your saying that we should be grateful to the wealthy for paying their taxes (even though they’d cut them at the first opportunity) just because they’re wealthy and therefore have to pay more tax. And you accuse Livingstone’s supporters of “tortured logic”?

‘So your saying that we should be grateful to the wealthy for paying their taxes (even though they’d cut them at the first opportunity) just because they’re wealthy and therefore have to pay more tax. And you accuse Livingstone’s supporters of “tortured logic”?’

No – I’m not saying that. Try and pay attention to reality. I’m pointing out – because you asked – how Livingstone has been hypocritical. Slagging off the Tories for attacking the NHS whilst withholding funds from the NHS because you want to reduce your tax bill as much as possible is hypocritical.

It may well be acceptable to you – it obviously wasn’t acceptable to a lot of Londoners including Labour voters.

‘Look, if you’re wealthy enough to employ an accountant to handle your finances, it is the accountant who will set things up – they wouldn’t be doing their job if they didn’t.’

Perhaps if you make your sizeable wealth from promoting left wing policies and principles, you might go out of our way to make sure that your accountant is adhering to those same left wing principles regarding wealth distribution. Otherwise you might open yourself up to accusations of beng a lying hyprocrite – accusations that might not help you when you try to convince people you’re a man of socialist principle. Livingstone could easily have told his accountant that although he didn’t have to, he would rather pay more tax because of his belief in weath redistribution from the rich to the poor – he didn’t because he doesn’t want to redistribute any of his own wealth, just other peoples’.

The fact remains – Johnson has paid far more into the welfare state than LIvingstone because Livingstone went out of his way to avoid payng as much tax as he could have done. It seems slightly ironic that you still see Livingstone as some kind of left wing hero.

As for having just one example – although surely his lies over his tax avoidance should be more than enough for you if you have a socialist bone in your body – you pointedly ignored the hypocrisy of Ken attackng the Evening Standard reporter. He then exploited this incident for sectarian reasons – calling the Board of Deputies ‘rich, powerful men who were out to get him’ . Classic anti-semitic dog-whistling. Hardly the behaviour of a staunch anti-racist.

His obsessive support for al Quadawri showed just how willing he was to turn his back on the concerns of gay people and women when he thought Muslim votes were up for grabs – more hyprocrisy.

There is also the fact that, in the light of the al Quadawri affair, he believes that the best way to attract Muslim votes is to appeal to the most conservative elements and beliefs in the community – strange behaviour for a progressive. Hypocritical even.

And he supported Luftur Rahman against the official Labour candidate – more hypocrisy.

If you’re actually interested in Livingstone’s failings go and research them ( you’re on the New Statesman’s website ffs). All on the left should do so if there is ever to be a principled Labour Mayor.

All these politics sites are starting to blur into one for me – I meant to say you’re on the Liberal Conspiracy site.

The ffs still stands though.

@29

Slagging off the Tories for attacking the NHS whilst withholding funds from the NHS because you want to reduce your tax bill as much as possible is hypocritical.

Oh, please. He probably wasn’t even aware that was the case until a journo with a political agenda dug it up. Of the self-employed folk I know, I’ve yet to meet one who actively instructed their accountant to do anything other than their job to the best of their ability – because accountancy is a specialised profession which would flummox the uninitiated. In Livingstone’s case, the work he’s done in supporting the NHS over the years – hell, even the work he did over two decades ago alone more than makes up for it.

It may well be acceptable to you – it obviously wasn’t acceptable to a lot of Londoners including Labour voters.

You only have to look at the Grauniad’s map to see that the mayoral results were split more-or-less 50/50. Ken messed up his campaign by trying to woo areas that trend so blue that they might as well have Cameron’s smirking mug on the “Welcome to” signs – that’s not news. All this shows is that the fact that the centre-left and left candidates attracted more first-choice votes than their equivalents on the right, where voters by-and-large backed Boris. You had 83k first-preference votes going to (5th-placed) Siobhan Benita, who was in effect a “New Labour” stand-in, which is 11k more than the UKIP and BNP candidates achieved combined.

The press hoo-ha was nothing more than a sideshow.

Perhaps if you make your sizeable wealth from promoting left wing policies and principles

Except he didn’t – he took support no matter where it came from, because when it comes to the financial clout of the City, you take any advantage you can because they can outspend you with their pocket change.

…accusations that might not help you when you try to convince people you’re a man of socialist principle.

Principles are one thing, but we’re talking realpolitik here – the mayoral election is a personality contest. The truth is that the right (and the moneyed interests that support them) have such a stranglehold on media and – by extension – national discourse (as demonstrated by the daily revelations from the Leveson inquiry), that to get a voice on the left heard requires bending of principles to get the job done. It’s a dirty job, but someone’s got to do it.

As for “socialist bone[s] in my body”, I have a complete frickin’ skeleton – but I’m also a pragmatist, and right now realpolitik demands a suspension of the normal rules, because otherwise the left will be working at a permanent disadvantage. Fifty-two years ago, the right in the US learned a painful lesson – that even in the midst of the tensest days of the Cold War and even with Eisenhower’s approval ratings and the national mood of reverence towards the old General, his successor could be defeated just because his opponent looked better on television. The US right-wing learned that lesson and have since exported it to their fellow travellers across the world.

So within months, or even weeks of Labour’s victory under Blair, hit pieces came out in the right-wing press calling Labour MPs hypocrites for putting their kids through private tuition. In absolute terms – yeah – it’s contrary to everything the Labour movement stands for. But in a country where the state education system has been underfunded for just shy of two decades and shackled to an accountant-centric box-ticking system that disregards every development in children’s education since the 1960s it was completely understandable.

The idea that in the current socio-economic and political climate – which has been designed to perpetuate elitism to the Nth degree by restricting advancement to those that can best afford it (or expecting that the chosen few of the lower ranks who are elevated adopt their values) – that those on the left are somehow hypocritical for playing the system as best they can is nothing more or less than the equivalent of the school bully grabbing your hands, slapping you in the face and chortling “Stop hitting yourself”. To demand that those who wish to see public services properly supported in a climate that has decimated those services use the remnants of those alone is akin to the favourites in the Olympic 100m dash demanding that their opponents chop off a leg to show solidarity with Paralympic competitors.

It’s an unpleasant truth, but a truth nonetheless.

The fact remains – Johnson has paid far more into the welfare state than Livingstone

As he bloody well should – he’s worth far more.

you pointedly ignored the hypocrisy of Ken attackng the Evening Standard reporter.

I certainly did not. He gave that reporter a verbal dressing-down because he was working for an organ which had gone from a Conservative-leaning paper (In fact it openly backed Steven Norris, to which Ken did not bat an eyelid) which nevertheless took account of the more cosmopolitan nature of its readership to “Daily Mail-lite” in a matter of weeks – and was obviously looking for negative press. I am a Londoner, I saw the devolution happen, and frankly I don’t blame him for losing his rag, even if his choice of words was unfortunate. Given the number of times Boris has made offensive gaffes (“Bongo-Bongo Land”, “Piccaninnies”), this should have been a non-issue, but for the fact that the ES has never to my knowledge hassled him while leaving a party more than a little worse for wear – or at least never printed anything he said.

…calling the Board of Deputies ‘rich, powerful men who were out to get him’ . Classic anti-semitic dog-whistling.

With all due respect, that is utter bollocks. He called them on being rich and powerful because they are rich and powerful and because his primary opponent’s policies are tailor-made to benefit the rich and powerful – not because they are Jewish.

His obsessive support for al Quadawri showed just how willing he was to turn his back on the concerns of gay people and women when he thought Muslim votes were up for grabs – more hyprocrisy.

And he supported Luftur Rahman against the official Labour candidate – more hypocrisy.

Believing in democracy is about believing in the will of the people, whether you or I like it or not. I believe fundamentalism within any religion is an affront to many things I hold dear, but we’re back into realpolitik – you’re far more likely to change beliefs by making friends and putting your point forward logically than you are to change them by force – if the West’s tragic adventures in Afghanistan and Iraq have taught us anything, they should have taught us that.

There is also the fact that, in the light of the al Quadawri affair, he believes that the best way to attract Muslim votes is to appeal to the most conservative elements and beliefs in the community – strange behaviour for a progressive. Hypocritical even.

How was it Mahtma Gandhi described nonviolent activism? Oh yeah – “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win”.

The rise in young Muslims turning to fundamentalism dovetails precisely with the advent of the “War On Terror” – prior to that they were as likely to reject their ascendants’ values as sure as one day our kids will tell us that everything we hold sacred is old hat (or whatever the equivalent phrase at the time is – currently something like “totes grandad” or “bare ancient”).

Being opposed to racial or sexual bigotry is a very different game than it was when I was a teenager proudly sporting an ANL logo on my Bundeswehr shirt. Homegrown racism was easily tackled head-on because it had its modern roots stretching back to the early 20th century, and as a “first-world” nation our inhabitants should have known better. Whereas in modern immigrant communities, we’re dealing with prejudice based on centuries-old doctrine – and that requires a different approach. If you tackle it head on, you only cause resistance and further entrenchment of those values because those preaching said values have more in common with the average member of that community than you do, and it will be simplicity itself for them to define you as an outsider come to destroy centuries of tradition. In that situation all you can do is lay the groundwork to protect those at risk and effect change from the ground up to the best of your ability.

All on the left should do so if there is ever to be a principled Labour Mayor.

You know – I’d love to think that was true – but given that the cost of being “principled” in this modern age seems to involve severely hobbling any chance of success – I’ll take pragmatism every time.


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