Even though it is Ken Livingstone, I still find it quite astonishing how unguarded he is during our interview. It was only in 2006 that he was suspended from his mayoralty for four weeks for comparing Jewish journalist Oliver Finegold to a Nazi concentration camp guard. Some said the remark was blown out of all proportion. Others, including the Jewish Board of Deputies, were deeply offended.
You’d have thought Ken would steer clear of anything the Jewish community might be sensitive to when talking to a journalist. Instead, this is what happens.
We are talking about Yusuf Al-Qarawadi, the Muslim leader portrayed as an extremist and/or hate cleric by much of the media, who became an ally of Livingstone’s. Livingstone is defending his relationship with him. Al-Qarawadi, he tells me, is “somebody who had constantly said that Muslims shouldn’t attack Britain and London and that violence couldn’t be justified – I thought it was really important to reach someone like that”.
I thought the main criticism of Al-Qarawadi was that he condoned violence? “No, no, the one thing he has always said is that Palestinians have the right to fight and to kill in the struggle round Israel. But he’s always been absolutely clear that that was the only area in which violence could be justified.”
“People like Michael Gove and others have been stridently Islamaphobic for some time”
Now, I’m not sure this is the wisest defence of character drawn by Mr Livingstone, bearing in mind, however justified or unjustified, the accusations of anti-Semitism he elicited only five years ago.
I almost feel bad publishing his remarks, because it seems he says these things so off-the-cuff that he doesn’t consider how they might sound. Then again, I’m reminded of the line from Alistair Campbell’s memoir, in which he wrote: “[Livingstone] was running rings around us”. Quite some praise coming from Campbell.
Livingstone continues: “The people like Michael Gove who are fervent Zionists and Boris Johnson, they wanted to isolate Al-Qarawadi because he’s a critic of Israel. And they ignored the fact he strongly urges Muslims not to launch attacks here in Britain.”
Well, you can’t fault his loyalty to Al-Qarawadi. But calling Gove and Johnson Zionists, in this context, feels pretty punchy.
He also tells me, “People like Michael Gove and others have been stridently Islamaphobic for some time, and they assume there are votes in this”.
I double check I have heard this accusation right – how do you mean Gove is “stridently Islamaphobic”? “Just look at his writings and the general tone he takes is to depict Islam as genuinely a threat. He’s at the extreme end of this.”
It’s worth noting that Gove has written a book called Celsius 7/7, warning of the threat of Islamist extremists to the West. But Livingstone’s words seem, again, fairly strong.
It was only in spring last year that Livingstone had to pay an estimated £11,000 in libel damages to former leader of the Tower Hamlets council, Michael Keith, for accusing him too of “Islamaphobia”.
Perhaps my surprise at Livingstone calling Gove an Islamophobe is my own fault for not researching sufficiently. In March this year, Livingstone told Iran’s Press TV:
“I think the core around Prime Minister David Cameron and a small group of neo-conservatives like Michael Gove - their objective really is to turn Britain into a small version of America. […] I think we have got a virulently pro-American government.”
Livingstone obviously does not share any of the government’s supposed fervour for our neighbour over the pond. Talking about how to prevent terrorism, he tells me: “The best way to manage risks is to create the genuine impression that you’re actually fair, which means trying to keep yourself as distant as possible from America and its wars.”
Full Interview here:http://www.londonlovesbusiness.com/moversshakers/exclusive-interview-ken-livingstone-on-michael-goves-islamaphobia-and-his-radical-plan-for-taxing-london/962.article
I would never ever wish harm on anyone, but I'm willing to make a "Prediction" here, that in the next month(or 4 weeks) Kens going to be all over the papers in some sort of career ending "Sex Scandal"....or worse. It's kind of a given when someone starts actually telling the truth.