Nick explains in The Observer why Ken Livingstone should be unseated in the London mayoral election. Before I come on to the arguments, let's recall whom we're dealing with.
Livingstone came to public prominence, and some notoriety, in the early 1980s as the far-left but nominally Labour leader of the Greater London Council. The electorate had no say whatever, even indirectly, in his being GLC leader. The leader of the Labour group who had campaigned in the GLC elections was Andrew (now Lord) McIntosh, a moderate. After the election, the Labour caucus within the GLC deposed McIntosh and installed Livingstone in his place. It was flagrant machine politics, and an indication of the undemocratic instincts of Labour at that time. During his leadership, Livingstone's principal contributions to the life of the City were the "Fares Fair" policy on public transport, which was a straight subsidy to tourists and was judged illegal by the Law Lords in 1981; the creation of numerous sinecures at public expense at County Hall; interventions in national politics for which he held no responsibility; and interventions in international politics for which he held no responsibility and about which he knew next to nothing.
The nadir was reached, for me at least, when Livingstone addressed a demonstration against Israel's war in Lebanon in 1982, and The Observer asked him if he believed the Jews had a right to a state. He answered that they did not. I couldn't believe what I was reading. I opposed the Lebanon War of that year, and have never changed my mind on it. But my reasons were not Livingstone's case. Livingstone's position was - as an SDP member of the GLC and Times columnist, Ann Sofer, pointed out at the time - indistinguishable on that issue from the views of the National Front. It was inflammatory for the leader of municipal government in a great cosmopolitan capital city to utter such views, quite apart from the intrinsic demerits of those opinions.
In bringing the story up to date, Nick doesn't hang about. He writes:
"To understand why Ken Livingstone is unfit to be the Labour candidate for mayor of London, you have to grasp that he has never moved away from the grimy conspirators of the totalitarian left, who have always despised the democratic traditions of the Labour movement. There is a queasiness about dragging them into the light because so many of the baby boomers now in power wasted their youth in Marxist-Leninist politics. But it is better to overcome queasiness than fail to treat a sickness and Ken Livingstone began by travelling with the sickest sect of them all: the Workers' Revolutionary party."
The Workers' Revolutionary Party is essential to understanding Livingstone's politics. I demur from Nick's treatment of it only in that he is in my opinion too kind to the party's leader, the late Gerry Healy. Healy was not "a rapist as near as damn it": he was a rapist, pure and simple. Corrupt, brutal, thuggish, thick, autocratic and (given his unprepossessing physical attributes) astonishingly vain, Healy was a pioneer in extremist politics in soliciting and receiving the support of a man who shared all those qualities but was additionally a genocidal killer, Saddam Hussein.
Nick refers to a documentary on Channel 4's Dispatches series on Monday at 8pm. It's been made by Martin Bright of the New Statesman, and I strongly recommend you stay in for it.
Incidentally, one of the issues the programme will discuss is the deal for cut-price oil for London's buses that Livingstone sought in 2006 with the blustering bigmouth President Chávez of Venezuela. When this story emerged, Stephen Pollard asked me what I thought of it, and he posted my comments on his (since superseded) blog. I asked Stephen not to put my name on it, as there was (and remains) a dearth of information and I wasn't sure my first impressions were right. They may indeed be mistaken, but I haven't seen anything since to cause me to revise my judgement, so here is what I wrote to Stephen:
"It's a long argument, but you need to bear in mind that Chavez uses oil as a means of coercive diplomacy (or buying friendship in international forums). It hurts other nations (Trinidad & Tobago, e.g., is a hydrocarbons producer which loses business because it isn't in a position to sell below market price) and subsidises rich-world consumers at the expense of poor Venezuelans. It's particularly disturbing that the deal is in the form a barter rather than a market transaction, because there's no way of properly comparing the services that Venezuelans will receive.
"The strong suspicion is that Chavez is using the country's oil wealth, which ought to be stored against future fluctuations in the oil price, for securing services of value to him but that are not transparent. The poor financial nature of the deal doesn't affect him, but it's a way of obtaining services that are quite plainly going to be used against his political opponents (see article in Times business section on this today)."
I could go on and on. But read Nick, read Martin (the comments section of whose blog appears to have been hijacked by the Scientologists), and read Agnès, and you will see what I mean. We are all on the Left, and we are concerned. Livingstone's record has never till now been properly examined, and the evidence strongly indicates that he is unfit for the Labour candidature and unfit for public office.