When "The Sun" backed Ken Livingstone for Labour leader (1992)

Submitted by dalcassian on 3 November, 2016 - 4:12 Author: Sean Matgamna

Easter, it seems, is this
year's season of panto-
mime, not Christmas.
In pantomime, you will
recall, everything is turned up-
side down and inside out. The
"principal boy" Is a woman,
the Dame a man.
Events are larger than life,
and sometimes an arch com-
ment on life. Characters are
stereotyped, wear colourful
costumes, and have funny
names. Animals, and sometimes
inanimate objects, talk. Actors
wink at the audience, mug for
them, and talk to them out of
the sides of their mouths. The
audience, which is assumed to
be childlike and innocent, is ex-
pected to respond on cue with
hisses and boos and choruses of
"yes" or "no".
Where else but in a ridiculous
political pantomime would the
arch-Tory Sun throw Its support
behind the "left-wing" can-
didate for leader of the Labour
Party -- Sun columnist Ken Livingston?
This character has a trick
moustache and a whining —
obviously false — South Lon-
don voice. (Privately, no doubt,
he speaks with an Eton
baritone). He is known various-
ly as Red Ken, as the Future lord
Redken-Gobshite, Red Leicester
(When he does TV commercials
for cheese) or just Scumbag.
Where else but in a ridiculous
pantomime would a candidate
for leadership of the Labour Party
— right, left, or centre —
accept the support off the Sun?
In its "support”
for "Red Ken" the Sun is baiting not
only the Left but the Labour
Party too. It is playing its own
game of putting the clown's red
nose in place of the red rose,
and pinning the Tory donkey's tall
on “Red Ken”. By its support
for Livingstone, the Sun is jeer-
iag at the Laboar Party and the
labour movement.
Labour's Estab-
lishment has stit-
ched up this election.
They are holding it in an in-
decent rush, to forestall Labour
Party and trade union discus-
sion of their failure in the
General Election.
After Tony Benn challenged
Kinnock for the leadership in
1988, the Party leaders imposed
a rule that to stand, a candidate
must first have the backing of
a percentage of Labour MPs
(now, of 55 MPs).
Yet the left does need to contest
the election and challenge the
Establishment, whatever the dif-
Tony Benn is both the best
and the obvioos candidate. He
could probably — given
reasonable time — have got
over the "55 MPs" barrier. He
has been the standard-bearer of
the Labour left for the last two
decades. He is a man of
political integrity. It is possible
to respect him while disagreeing
with him (as SO does on many
issues), and he is widely
No other left-wing candidate
would be likely to do as well as
The job for all those who
want to see the left throw off
its paralysis is to organise for
Benn, that is, to organise
enough grass-roots support to
persuade Benn to stand. The
timetable laid down by
Labour's Establishment is
brutally short; but that is
what we need to do.
Into this situation bounds
Red Leicester Livingstone,
winking and grimacing for the
audience and the media, pro-
claiming himself the left can-
didate for Labour leader, play-
acting rather as he did when he
dressed up in a cardboard
crown and sceptre and posed for
In fact he is not really a can-
didate, since he has not got and
is unlikely to get the support of
55 MPs (unless one of the
Establishment candidates sees a
tactical advantage in having
livingstone in the contest).
His is a pseudo-candidacy, all
wind and publicity — in fact,
come to think of it, all you
would expect a Sun candidate
to be.
He uses Sun tactics, too. He
told a well-attended meeting of
the London Labour Left last
Wednesday, 15th — lyingly, I
believe — that Bean bad
seriously urged him to stand.
His friends in the audience at-
tacked Jeremy Corbyn, a possi-
ble left-wing candidate and one
with better claim to the "left"
colours than Livingstone could
have. At the end of the
meeting, after the chair's
summing-up, Livingstone's
manipulating sycophant John
Ross, an ex-Trotskyist gone in
from the cold, was allowed to push
through a snap vote for the
meeting to endorse Livingstone.
Instead of helping to prepare
the way for a serious candidacy,
Ken Livingstone and his friends
rushed to occupy the space a
serious candidate would need,
and settled in to enjoy the
publicity of a pseudo-campaign.
The effect of the Livingstone
nonsense is greatly to diminish the
chances of a serious left can-
didate standing.
And what is this left-
winger's political plat-
form for the contest?
He criticises Labour's election
campaign for its tax proposals!
He is the Sun candidate here,
Labour's leaders were ineffective
in combatting the Tory
campaign that Labour would
bring tax rises, but that was not
because of the detail of the
Shadow Budget, which, accor-
ding to the institute of Fiscal
Studies, would have left those
on between £400 and £499 a
week a bit better off on
average, and seriously hit only
those on more than £1000 a
Livingstone's line — "you
should not have threatened to
raise the tuxes of the rich" —
as the platform of a left wing
candidate is as daft as anything
you could see in one of last
Christmas's pantomimes.
All Livingstone is doing Is
recycling Tory propaganda. In
fact he is just recycling the rub-
bish the Sun churned out during
the election campaign!
In the early 1980s. when he
led the Greater London Coun-
cil, Livingstone relied entirely
on a high tax-rate to keep him
out of trouble and as an alter-
native response to Tory cuts (as
against that advocated by the
serious left: fight the Tories!)
Livingstone will not be a can-
didate. And no real Left can
develop around this Murdoch-
sponsored pantomime campaign
of the future Lord Redken, Sun
columnist and Sun candidate on
a Sun platform for leader of the
Labour Party!
The Left needs Livingstone
like It needs the Sun, or like we
need the proverbial hole in the