Ken claims multiculturalism as “great achievement”

Tony Grew April 15, 2008
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At the launch of his community relations manifesto today the incumbent Mayor of London made a strong defence of multiculturalism, which he called “one of the greatest achievements of my administration.” Ken Livingstone, who as the Labour candidate is seeking a third term in office, made no mention of the gay and lesbian community in his comments. “I will continue to develop the positive celebration of London’s diversity, he said. “From the creation, from virtually nothing, one of the most spectacular New Year’s Eve celebrations in the world … through the capital’s official annual celebration of St George’s Day, to the celebration of the Notting Hill Carnival, the Chinese New Year, St Patrick’s Day, Simcha on the Square and Hanukah, Diwali, Eid and many other cultural celebrations,” he said. He attacked claims by his Conservative opponent Boris Johnson that he can unite communities in London as “ridiculous” and claimed London’s community relations may be taken as a model for many cities in the world. “When he attacks ‘so called-community leaders’ he simply does not understand that such multicultural mutual tolerance and respect is the only way to unite a city as massively diverse and open as London. “It is for that reason that Boris Johnson’s views on community relations are rejected by the overwhelming majority of ethnic minority communities in London. “They are indeed fundamentally wrong for our city and London should remain on the same path of success in community relations that has brought it such success in the last twenty five years.” Mr Livingstone’s views on community relations clash with those of the Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Trevor Phillips. The commission is responsible for gay equality. After three years in charge of the Commission for Racial Equality he warned that the UK is “sleepwalking into segregation” because of the accepted wisdom of multiculturalism. Ken Livingstone accused him of pandering to the right. “When he was appointed to run the CRE, it did an awful lot of work taking up genuine cases,” he said. “What he did was turn it into a vast press department and wound down all the legal work. “Ever since then he’s gone so far over to the other side that I expect soon he’ll be joining the BNP.” Mr Livingstone said today that multiculturalism: “is the simple liberal principle that everybody should be able to purse their life in anyway they chose provided that they do not interfere with the right of others to do the same. “This has created mutual respect among Londoners and therefore enlarged the range of choice and enriched the lives of all of them.” The issue is one of interest to the gay community because of the competing demands of immigrant communities who hold homophobia as a religious and cultural tenet. As Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly questioned the concept. “We have moved from a period of near uniform consensus on the value of multiculturalism to one where we can encourage that debate by questioning whether it is encouraging separateness,” she said in 2006. The present Mayor has been a strong supporter of London’s Muslim community, but has been slammed by gay rights groups for meeting Islamic scholars who advocate punitive measures for homosexual acts. Mayor Livingstone faced protests from gay activists in 2004 when he hosted Islamic scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi at City Hall. al-Qaradawi is known to have supported suicide bombings in Israel, the oppression of women’s rights and has argued that gay men should be put to death. The Mayor later claimed that al-Qaradawi’s views concerning the death penalty for homosexuals is a “a series of questions of a philosophical nature. We are clearly not going to see Dr Qaradawi on a gay rights march. But you wouldn’t see the Pope on a gay rights march and I would meet him.” Campaigner Peter Tatchell withdrew his support for Mr Livingstone over the issue and along with an LGBT Muslim group, the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Hindu and Sikh groups and the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association, wrote to the Mayor expressing their anger at the meeting. However, many other gay rights advocates, among them Stonewall chief executive Ben Summerskill, the Lesbian and Gay Coalition Against Racism and activist Linda Bellos supported him, citing his “proud record” on human rights and social justice for lesbians and gay men. The arguments raged for nearly a year, with Mr Livingstone insisting that as the Mayor of the most diverse city in the world it was right for him to meet with members of faith groups even if he disagreed with their views. Mr Johnson today unveiled new measures to reduce crime in London. “My four point plan aims to improve the performance of the police in their victim support duties, and to provide more support to voluntary organisations. “I will use my influence as Chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority to ensure that the quality of support given to victims of crime is kept high and ensure that satisfaction rates are dramatically improved, and that confidence in the police increases. “I will work with the Commissioner and Borough Commanders to ensure that more resources are committed to victim support mentors and with charities such as Victim Support and Youth Justice Support Board to encourage the greater use of restorative justice schemes. “I want to re-criminalise crime and increase awareness of the avenues open to victims of crime in London. “In contrast Ken Livingstone throws his hands up in the air and says it is media hype and nothing can be done. “Londoners have a chance to vote for change on May 1st.” Full list of 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 Independent Matt O’Connor English Democrats Brian Paddick Liberal Democrats Stonewall will be holding a hustings event on Saturday 19th April attended by Left List candidate Lindsey German, Boris Johnson, Lib Dem Brian Paddick and incumbent Mayor and Labour candidate Ken Livingstone. The event is fully booked.

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