Current Affairs

Tatchell pledges his second preference vote to Ken

PinkNews Staff Writer April 9, 2008
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Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has said that the election of Boris Johnson as Mayor of London would be a “big mistake.”

In the comments section of The Guardian website he said that he would be voting for Green candidate Sian Berry, but his second preference vote will go to incumbent Mayor and Labour candidate Ken Livingstone.

Mr Tatchell is the Green party candidate for the parliamentary constituency of Oxford East.

“I will, of course, give my first preference to Sian Berry, the Green Party candidate,” he wrote.

“She is the most progressive, with the best policies on housing, transport, jobs, equal opportunities and the environment. Moreover, she is not sectarian.

“Sian is open, inclusive, fair, honest and democratic. Besides, it would be great to have a woman Mayor – and someone young to lead what is a youthful city.

“I will give my second preference to Ken Livingstone. Boris Johnson would be a big mistake.

“He is clownish, disorganised, not well informed, has little grasp of policy detail and is on record as saying some pretty bigoted things about various minority communities.

“Based on existing polls, Ken is the only candidate who can stop Boris. In any case, Ken’s policies have been mostly positive and benefited Londoners. All in all, he has been a good Mayor. He should be judged in the round. Despite the flaws I have outlined above, he is way better than Boris.”

The comments followed an article on Mr Livingstone by Mr Tatchell, which is reproduced below.

London’s mayor, Ken Livingstone, has admitted that he “probably shouldn’t” have denounced me as an “Islamophobe”.

His admission came during an interview by journalist Johann Hari, published in the Independent newspaper.

In 2004 and 2005, I was publicly savaged by the mayor as an “Islamophobe” with “a long history of Islamophobia” after I criticised him for embracing and defending the Muslim fundamentalist cleric, Yusuf al-Qaradawi.

Ken’s implied admission of error is better than nothing but, of course, it comes four years after the original untruth.

Moreover, the vague, non-explicit nature of his “sorry” is rather irritating.

He says he “probably shouldn’t” have denounced me as an Islamophobe.

I am grateful for this admission. But “probably” still sounds like someone who doesn’t have the courage to say straight out: “Sorry, I was wrong.”

Ken has undermined his (sort of) apology with his comments in the April edition of Attitude magazine.

He was asked: “But do you really think that Peter Tatchell is ‘Islamophobic’?

The mayor replied: “Don’t you think he spends more time opposing homophobia in Islam?”

Apart from evading the question, this reply is ill-informed nonsense.

I have been far more robust and frequent with my protests against Christian fundamentalism; having outed 10 Anglican bishops in 1994 to expose the hypocrisy of their anti-gay stance.

I interrupted the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Easter sermon in 1998 over his support for homophobic discrimination, and released inflated condoms into the dome of Westminster Cathedral during high mass in 1994, in protest at the Pope’s opposition to their use to stop the spread of HIV.

In the last four years, I have seized the main stage at the Church of England General Synod in York and picketed the Cardinal’s Palm Sunday procession in Westminster, in protest at church homophobia.

Ken’s suggestion that I have singled out Islam for the most condemnation is a joke.

Ken has recently admitted that he didn’t know much about Qaradawi when he embraced him. That makes Ken’s behaviour even worse.

He took a public stance in defence of Qaradawi when he was not apprised of the full facts.

Does any of this matter? Yes.

An apparent willingness to defame other people with false allegations shows that Ken has, on this issue at least, lost his sense of fairness and honesty.

I supported Ken when he ran for and won the leadership of the Greater London Council in 1981.

Under Ken, the GLC pioneered a new open, accessible, people-empowering municipal socialism.

He and his GLC Labour colleagues will deservedly be praised for decades to come for opening the doors of County Hall to all the people of London and trail-blazing the advancement of women, black, disabled and gay people.

I backed Ken again when he stood for Mayor in 2000, campaigning for him and even helping to draft a number of policy ideas for his election campaign.

Overall, I think he has been a good mayor and I have many times publicly defended him. His policies on public transport and environmental protection are moving London in the right direction.

He may have got a little too cosy with big business and the City of London, but I certainly don’t want to see Boris Johnson elected as mayor in May.

Nevertheless, because I criticised Ken on one issue (Qaradawi), he has slurred me as an Islamophobe.

It all began when Ken invited the right-wing Muslim cleric to City Hall in 2004 and saluted him as an “honoured guest”.

I found his embrace of Qaradawi very odd and quite appalling, given that the sheikh is indisputably antisemitic, homophobic and sexist.

As well as supporting terrorism, including terror attacks on innocent civilians in Israel, he advocates the physical beating of disobedient wives, female genital mutilation, forcing women to wear the hijab, the flogging of women who have sex outside marriage, and he blames female rape victims who dress immodestly (ie women who are not fully covered from head to toe).

The sheikh also endorses the execution of lesbian and gay people in Muslim states, and the killing of Muslims who give up their faith or convert to another religion.

You can read more details about Qaradawi’s inhuman, barbaric policies here.

His vile, reactionary views on these issues are rejected by the vast majority of British Muslims.

They are much more open-minded and tolerant, which makes it all the more bizarre that the mayor of London gave the sheikh a platform at City Hall.

Why promote an unrepresentative fanatic?

Instead of allying with liberal, progressive Muslims, Ken has often feted reactionary Islamists.

Left-wing and feminist Muslims don’t get pride of place at City Hall. Their opponents and persecutors do.

I was not the only person from the left, progressive side of the political spectrum who exposed Qaradawi’s anti-human rights agenda.

Similar criticisms were made, in measured terms, by the diverse London Community Coalition (LCC) consisting of Muslim, Hindu, Christian, Jewish, Sikh, student, women’s and gay organisations.

The LCC requested a meeting with the mayor. He refused to meet them to hear their concerns. In response, the LCC issued this appeal to members of the London Assembly.

After all these attempts at dialogue with the mayor were rebuffed, the London Community Coalition published its expose of Qaradawi. You can read the LCC’s critique here.

Despite my record of support for Ken, he singled me out for particular denunciation over Qaradawi. The mayor condemned me as anti-Muslim, and even suggested I was a pawn of the Israeli secret service and US neocons.

The mayor’s far left supporters waged a vicious, year-long hate campaign of lies and disinformation which, even to this day, has resulted me being branded as a “racist” and “Islamophobe” by sections of the left.

Consequently, I am no longer invited to speak at some anti-fascist, anti-war and trade union events.

The mayor and his allies were wrong to smear me as Islamophobic.

Everyone knows that I have done a huge amount of work campaigning for the rights of Muslim prisoners, asylum applicants and those falsely accused of terrorism.

I have reserved my fire for Muslim fundamentalists, not Muslims in general. Moreover, I have long supported the human rights of the people of Iran, Palestine, Chechnya, Iraq, Darfur and the Western Sahara – who are mostly Muslim.

Ken’s tacit acknowledgment that he made a mistake comes a month

before the London mayoral elections, at a time when many gay voters are deserting him over his collusion with Qaradawi and other anti-gay and anti-women Muslim fundamentalists.

It looks like a bid to shore up the haemorrhaging pink vote.

The mayor is, of course, surrounded by several very nasty, sectarian and often incompetent advisers who have briefed him badly and who have needlessly antagonised the gay community.

They have, for example, refused to allow the mayor’s quarterly LGBT Forum to elect its own chair and to propose or vote on recommendations to the mayor.

This controlling, domineering style of politics has resulted in many organisations deserting the LGBT Forum.

Perhaps Ken doesn’t know about the anti-democratic tactics that are being imposed in his name?

Ken Livingstone has done many good things for Londoners and for the capital’s gay community.

He has a long, commendable history of championing queer rights. But his defence of Qaradawi and his smears against me and others, like the London Community Coalition and Trevor Phillips, have caused him serious political damage.

His integrity and credibility are tarnished. As well as being a personal tragedy, this is also a political disaster. It could help pave the way for Mayor Boris Johnson.

There are ten candidates for Mayor of London.

Richard Barnbrook

British National Party

Gerard Batten

UK Independence Party

Sian Berry

Green Party

Alan Craig

Christian Peoples Alliance and Christian Party

Lindsey German

The Left List

Boris Johnson

Conservative Party

Ken Livingstone

Labour Party

Winston McKenzie


Matt O’Connor

English Democrats

Brian Paddick

Liberal Democrats

Londoners will vote for Mayor and the 25-member London Assembly on May 1st.

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