Busy doing my day job yesterday, I missed this statement from Ken Livingstone on the Socialist Unity site. In it he confirms what he told me last Saturday – that Abbas supporters should put Lutfur Rahman second on their ballot papers for the mayoral election on October 21. He says this is the way to block a Tory win, which, given that the election will be the morning after Chancellor George Osborne reveals the full horror of his spending review, is an unlikely event in any case.
However, Labour’s top brass will be privately seething about Ken’s statement. In Manchester, he said people should “vote for the Labour candidate”; in the more sober environment of Socialist Unity, he stops short of actually encouraging everyone to vote for Abbas. His words contrast sharply with those of his fellow NEC member Oona King, who actually lives in the borough. I reported them here; here they are again:
“This is the most important election in a long time because we all know what we are facing and every single one of us has to make sure we redouble our efforts to get Abbas elected.”
Labour’s London bosses have already shown what they think of Ken’s statement. Some six hours after he filed his article warning against expelling people from the party for campaigning for Lutfur, 11 party members were given the boot as reported here and here.
Regional party boss Ken Clark will surely want Livingstone to be more unequivocal. Will Livingstone urge Lutfur supporters to switch to Abbas and place him first?
Here’s Ken’s statement in full:
by Ken Livingstone
People have asked me for my view about the Mayoral election in Tower Hamlets.
The reality is that the Labour vote is going to be divided between the candidate imposed by the NEC Helal Abbas and Lutfur Rahman, the candidate chosen by Tower Hamlets party members, who is now standing as an independent.
I do not want to see the Tories able to exploit this situation. That is the last thing we need. As the London Labour party’s email to members this week points out, the Conservatives have already won seats on the council.
We need to ensure that once this election is over the local community in Tower Hamlets can unite around whoever is Mayor in order to get the best for the borough.
Given the electoral system in this contest the position is clear: all those voting for Helal Abbas or Lutfur Rahman must use their second preference votes for the other to ensure there is no Tory or LibDem win in Tower Hamlets.
I hope both Helal Abbas and Lutfur Rahman will ask their supporters to use their second preferences for each other to demonstrate that it is possible for politics in this borough to move forward following the election.
It is the same approach that my Labour Mayoral campaign and the Green party approached the 2008 Mayoral election.
A united Tower Hamlets ought to be the objective of everyone – we should not allow how Labour’s NEC has handled this to divert us from this objective.
Labour’s NEC behaved in a way that breached all rules of fairness and justice. It also means that the candidate who came second in Labour’s selection, John Biggs with his reputation for competence and honesty, has been treated badly. I will be arguing on the NEC that the party must now work hard to ensure that the crisis is not deepened.
As with my election as an independent in 2000, there must be no wave of expulsions of those who have campaigned for Lutfur Rahman’s candidacy. I want to see the door left open for those councillors who have resigned the party whip to return so that whoever is elected can be sure that there is a strong Labour group that will work with the Mayor to ensure the needs of Tower Hamlets comes first and we reunite the local party once the dust has settled.