18 November 2015

Ken Livingstone? Ken… Livingstone?


There are so many ways in which a decent, centrist opposition leader could be holding the UK Tory government to account. For all its strengths, and David Cameron’s recent electoral vind‎ication, there is much it is is doing that needs proper scrutiny.

Why has the government locked itself into a bizarre, costly nuclear deal with China when it could have borrowed the money cheaply over many decades and used British and French expertise?

Why does it hate British coal so much?

Why has defence been cut to the bone when the international aid department can’t spend the money quick enough?

Why is Chancellor George Osborne‎ making announcements about security and GCHQ spending? It should be the job of other cabinet ministers, or the PM.

And hasn’t this fiscal surplus legislation that Osborne has put so much faith in turned out to be a trap for the Tories and the country? Even a deficit hawk like me is sceptical of trying to legislate for fiscal responsibility, particularly in a way that locks in government and makes it take perverse decisions to suit an arbitrary target.

On all these fronts and more, this UK government needs its feet held to the fire. Yet, Jeremy Corbyn can’t do it – even if he asked those questions, even when he asks these questions – because he is simply not a serious person. He may not be a complete idiot, but can we be sure? Especially when one considers the daily list of humiliations and bungles to which he subjects his party.‎ It all whirls so fast. There are currently three or four disasters for Labour, per day.

The row over the appointment of Ken Livingstone to co-chair Labour’s defence review last night had not even had time to get going properly before Ken Livingstone insulted Labour MP Kevan Jones, saying he needed to seek psychiatric help. Jones has spoken movingly in the past about battling bouts of depression. Corbyn is now calling on his friend Livingstone to apologise.

This comes only days after Corbyn messed up his response to the Paris attacks, and said lofitily that he could not back shooting to kill terrorists engaged in attacks. The man simply has no feel for public life, beyond student activist politics of the  have you met my middle class thug trot friend pretending to be ‎working class variety? This was enough to win him the leadership, when assorted left-wingers could project their fantasies onto a blank canvas. It is not nearly good enough for leadership on the national stage.

But this all distracts from the more basic outrage. It’s Ken Livingstone. Ken… bloody… Livingstone. What does he know about the defence of the realm? ‎Why on earth is he being given a post at all in 2015 by a man who – theoretically – wants to run the UK?

Ah, say the Corbynites, Ken is a great man who won the London mayoralty. So what? He won that post at a time when voters were in a mood to slap down an over mighty Blair. Red Ken appeals, or appealed in London, which is in Britain but different from Britain. He then lost the mayoralty to the most Tory of Tories, Boris.

Livingstone is a misguided retread. Corbyn might as well have asked Derek Hatton, the Militant hard left leader of Liverpool in the 1980s, to lead Labour’s economic policy review. Oh, wait, hold on. No-one suggest that, please. If Corbyn hears, he might just appoint Derek Hatton.

Iain Martin is Editor of CapX