He is a person who excites polemic, who has always been the target of criticism for his support of issues such as republicanism, the rights of LGBT people and a united Ireland. And yet, while having enemies inside and outside of the party, and the press ready to ambush him on every possible occasion, his beliefs remain solid.
Virginia Moreno Molina
“When we have the next general election the people will be desperate for an alternative. And because of that Jeremy Corbyn may win”, explains Ken Livingstone, ex-Mayor of London.
A Labour Party supporter all his life, he shares ideals with the current leader of the party. Ideas which have won him the name ‘Red Ken’ as a representative of the most left-wing edge of the party.
He took over as Mayor of London in 2000, and during two administrations established his progressive policy, centre don eradicating pollution in the capital, encouraging tolerance between different communities, and a labour politics focussed on the people.
“I lost the 2008 elections because Gordon Brown made a mistake”, explains Livingstone. He is referring to the time when Brown was Prime Minister, and his tax policy led to cuts and higher taxes for the poorest people. All that, happening just five weeks before the election, led to his defeat.
Ken Livingstone talks to The Prisma about the Labour Party, his suspension from it, pollution in London, and LGBT rights
As a former Mayor of London, do you think there was a campaign against you in the Labour party?
Basically, the supporters of Tony Blair detested me. Before him, Labour was generally a party of the working class.
But Blair turned it into one that was broadly representative for corporate interests. He wanted to choose people that he supported and supported him. So, Party members weren´t allowed to determine the policies anymore, he wanted to destroy the Labour Party.
And this is Jeremy Corbyn’s problem, dealing with the Party and the people selected during Blair’s reign.
Jeremy Corbyn has been accused of breaking the Party….
I have known Corbyn for 44 years, we have been supporting the same campaign, supporting Palestine, opposing to the wars.
At the time Corbyn won, they had been spending all the year undermining and attacking him. And now he has been re-elected by a huge margin. So, the majority has decided.
Is the media playing a big role against Jeremy Corbyn?
Three quarters of these newspapers are owned by billionaires, whom load their money overseas and don’t pay taxes. The last thing they want is that the Labour Party make them pay taxes.
When I became leader of Greater London Council in 1981, the press media denounced me as a supporter of terrorism, Soviet Union, as a threat to Britain. They implied that I was homosexual.
We have been through this for decades, the media has been in the hands of these few billionaires.
Does Corbyn have a chance of winning the general election in 2019?
Jeremy has called for an economic strategy that would work. One that the left-wing have been arguing for years, and Blair and Brown didn’t adopt.
It is a massive programme in public investment, rebuilding and modernizing manufacture, not just relying in the banks and financial centres.
We voted for Brexit and the people blame Europe, but they should blame Gordon and Blair because they didn´t do anything to preserve manufacturing. Now, manufacturing accounts for less than 10% of our economy.
In Europe it is always about rescuing banks and not people…
Every 50 years, a banking system collapses. After the Great Depression of 1930, President Roosevelt within 3 months of taking presidency in 1933, signed the Glass Steagall Act to separate risky financial dealings from the local neighbourhood bank.
So, we had 30 or 40 years of good sustain growth because of this regulation. But then, Blair started to regulate the banks, and Clinton repealed the Glass Steagall. Of course, they made risky deals and it collapsed. And they supported that. We haven’t restored something like the Glass Steagall Act to separate investment banking from normal banking. We are still in a position that when our banks get in crisis, we have to save them with our taxes.
Sadiq Khan supportedOwen as Labour Party leader instead of Corbyn. Are there any tensions because of that?
When Sadiq Khan was seeking the Labour nomination, I supported him because I saw him as a good Labour candidate.
Besides, 90% of the people who were voting for Corbyn, were doing so for the right person. And I think they were surprised that Sadiq had criticised to Jeremy.
Now, like everybody else, they have to get behind Jeremy because there isn´t going to be another leadership election.
By the time we have the next general elections, the people will be desperate for an alternative. And I think that´s why Jeremy can win.
You introduced a system to reduce the level of pollution in London, but recent data shows that these levels are very high. How did we end up here?
20 years ago, we started switching from petrol cars to diesel cars. But half of cars now are diesel, and no-one at that time realized that this was a much more damaging source of pollution. When I was Mayor, we introduced the lower emission zone. We found that, when we introduced the congestion charge in central London, the rate of pollution went down by 12% or 13%.
Then, we created the line machines for undercover the whole of London. And that came in 2007 or beginning of 2008. It was the first charge to reduce the number of diesel vehicles coming in.
We were taking it by stages. But as soon as Boris won, he suspended that and put it on hold. So, the next stages never happened.
Two years later, he was told that 4300 people died prematurely every year in London because of this. Now, we know that the figure is 9500.
Do you think that LGTB rights are respected in London?
My mum was a dancer and my father a sailor, so they met people from over the world. I grew up with friends of my mother that were lesbian or gay, and I was raised without homophobia, something unusual in the 1950s.
When I became a politician, opposing against homophobia was one of the most important issues. I think London, in this issue, is ahead the rest of the country and most of the rest of the world. We have made a lot of progress in that.
The trouble is, since Brexit, the homophobic attacks have been increasing.
Soho used to be known as a place with sex shops…
I am not in favour to having sex shops, nor pornography. It´s not just about sex, you want your children to grow up understanding what kind of work it really is.
We have 90 rapes a day in Britain and most of them are because young men grow thinking of women not as equals but as sex objects.
The English Collective of prostitutes (ECP) wants prostitution to be recognized as a job because they choose to do that.
I don´t think people should be prostitutes, you just want to move away from that world.
You have been suspended from the Labour Party for comments that were considered anti-semitic by the Labour Party and some media, although you and other people defended them as statements of fact.
I was suspended for saying Hitler was a Zionist, but you can go to the BBC website and hear that I didn´t say it like that.
I only mentioned this, and they said that because I defended Germany. Then the media just kept repeating it, and a lot of people believed them.
Basically, anybody who has criticized Israel, ends up being called anti-semitic.
Do you think this was an excuse to keep you out of the party?
Back in the 1980s, about once a year, somebody was always suspended. Now it has been become an industry, and under Blair, they suspended hundreds of people. I have been critical of Blair, because he changed the rules about suspension.
So, he and the General Secretary took the decision to exclude me, and the hearing has been put off ever since then.
And what happens now?
I don´t know what is going to happen, no one has been suspended for as long as I have been. I have some point, Jeremy shocks down these liars in the opposite. In fact, I think there are about 10.000 members who have been temporarily suspended during Corbyn’s election campaign.
Photos: Wikimedia and Pixabay – (Translated/ Proofread by Graham Douglas)