Ken Livingstone, in a recent New Statesman article makes the offensive claim that "you just knew the Tory party was riddled with it [homosexuality] like everywhere else is."
Another gaffe, echoing the time he compared reporter Oliver Finegold to a "concentration camp guard". Livingstone's idiotic choice of words has led to howls of derision from all sides, and the accusation that he is homophobic.
The man is many things that make him unfit for office, but homophobic isn't one of them; and to take this line of attack puts us in danger of missing the real opportunity to talk about his record.
Ken Livingstone can rightly be proud of his support of LGBT rights. As Mayor he launched the UK's first Partnership Register and he had TfL refuse homophobic advertising from holiday company Sandals. He has a lot of supporters in London's LGBT population, many of whom he will be hoping will take a £2500 table at his LGBT London For Ken fundraising dinner on 12 March. These, and others, are the people we need to remind of Ken's record in City Hall.
Ken's biggest flaw, that should worry LGBT Londoners, is that he believes minorities should 'compete' for the patronage, funding and support of City Hall. Under Livingstone anything to do with LGBT issues, or with Black or Asian issues, or with women's issues was lumped into an Equalities department. Never mind that issues around safe housing might be better dealt with by a specialist in the housing team, this was about creating a power base.
Under the leadership of Director for Policy and Equalities, Lee Jasper, many thrived. Indeed even companies Lee Jasper was himself a director of thrived - leading to a lengthy police investigation for corruption. All minorities were not equal, and whilst Jasper took a personal interest in the support and funding of organisations such as Notting Hill Carnival, equivalent events such as gay pride or Holocaust Memorial Day were left to junior officers.
Ken Livingstone himself considers some minorities more worthy of offending than others. In 2005 he literally embraced Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a Muslim cleric who said that "the Asian tsunami victims were punished by Allah because their countries are centres of perversion". In response to representation from the broadest coalition of Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, Christian and LGBT Londoners, Ken chose to attack his critics, accusing them of lies and Islamaphobia. His advisors went further and cancelled the short-lived LGBT Forum at City Hall after it twice dared to table motions questioning the role of the Mayor in endorsing such an extremist figure.
All of this demonstrates that while not homophobic, Ken Livingstone is no friend of LGBT Londoners. For him minorities are an opportunity to raise his profile, and where their interests conflict it will be the vote he needs most at that time that wins. His poor judgement, particularly in his senior team, and his propensity towards offensive remarks make him a friend of no Londoner.
Homophobia isn't the reason we shouldn't elect Ken Livingstone as Mayor on 3 May 2012; his complete unsuitability for office is.
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