“It’s as if the last 25 years had never happened. For the past week we’ve been back in the days of Margaret Thatcher’s war on Red Ken and the Greater London Council. Every morning, the media have brought new revelations of the horrors at City Hall and Ken Livingstone’s manifest unfitness to be re-elected mayor of London. Just as in the time of the GLC, Livingstone is denounced for consorting with dangerous leftists and terrorist apologists. Only the details have changed: for lesbian workers’ cooperatives, read the Arab women’s network, and for Sinn Féin and the Irish community, substitute Islamist groups and London’s Muslims….
“The trigger for this retro onslaught was Tuesday’s almost comically slanted Channel 4 Dispatches programme on Livingstone, presented by the New Statesman‘s Martin Bright, who wrote that he felt it his ‘duty to warn the London electorate that a vote for Livingstone is a vote for a bully and a coward who is not worthy to lead this great city of ours’….
“What has given this latest assault on Livingstone a special edge is that the people driving it trade as being on the left: Bright as a representative of Britain’s main centre-left political weekly and Nick Cohen, who has more openly lined up behind Johnson, as an Observer columnist. In reality, both writers share a broadly neoconservative agenda on Islamism and the ‘war on terror’ … and that is the central issue that has turned them and their allies against Livingstone. Bright wrote a pamphlet for the rightwing thinktank Policy Exchange attacking government dialogue with Islamists, warmly praised by the leading US neocon Richard Perle. Cohen famously declared after meeting Iraq war architect Paul Wolfowitz for drinks at the Mayfair nightclub Annabel’s: ‘I was in the presence of a politician committed to extending human freedom’.”
Seumas Milne in the Guardian, 24 January 2008
For another comment on the Bright-Cohen campaign against Ken, see here.