Commentary Magazine


Ken Livingstone Does It Again, Again

Last month, London’s Labour Party mayoral-candidate Ken Livingstone, speaking before (irony alert) an audience of Labour-supporting Jews, proclaimed that Jews won’t vote for him because they’re rich. The Anglo-Jewish community leadership was finally able to relay its disgust in an anticipated meeting with Labour Party leader Ed Miliband last night.

Previously, Miliband had defended Ken, maintaining that there was not a prejudiced bone in the former mayor’s body – which may be true, given the tongue, brain, and heart aren’t technically ‘‘bones.’’ In any case, Miliband, recognizing his party’s reclamation of the London mayoralty to be a critical boon to his leadership, pushed the usually recalcitrant ‘‘Red Ken’’ to apologize. The candidate agreed, though it seems not so readily: Haaretz reports the precise wording of the apology was the ‘‘subject of lengthy negotiations.’’

Well, that wording was published today in the Jewish Chronicle, and, despite having backed up his claim that Jews are rich and won’t vote for him by insisting that ‘‘Every psychological study I’ve seen in the 40 years I’ve been following politics shows the main factor that determines how people how vote is their income level…And it’s not anti-Semitic to say that,’’ he now acknowledges that ‘‘Jewish voters are not one homogeneous bloc. A 2010 report for the Institute for Jewish Policy Research shows the range of Jewish voting preference. In North London Labour was the preferred party, for example.’’

So what does all this mean? It means that a meeting called to dispel Jewish reservations about voting for Ken Livingstone because of his history of anti-Semitic and anti-Israel positions ended in controversy about a new anti-Semitic position – a position now retracted. And so London’s Jews find themselves where they were a month ago: looking to Livingstone to dispel reservations about voting for him in May’s election. Now, though, there may not be enough time for another meeting – but maybe that’s good for Livingstone.