Does Ken Livingstone pass a fit and proper person test?
Ken Livingstone has been accused of tax avoidance hypocrisy, a worrying relationship with the Jewish community and a grave lack of judgment over his work for Press TV. On all three counts, he fails the fit and proper person test
On Thursday Londoners will go to the polls and choose their next mayor. Due to a series of damaging allegations made against the Labour candidate, Ken Livingstone, this vote will not be about policy, but rather personality. Ken’s detractors say that his lack of integrity means he cannot be allowed a third term at City Hall. To see whether this argument stands up to scrutiny – and to determine whether or not he is an electable candidate for the mayoralty – let us once and for all subject Livingstone to a fit and proper person test.
Tax avoidance hypocrisy
Ken has long been a campaigner against tax avoidance. He has labelled those who avoid tax ‘rich bastards’ who should ‘not be allowed to vote’. In 2009 he set up a company named Silveta into which his earnings from personal appearances, speeches and radio work were paid. The company had three employees, including Ken’s wife and chief of staff. Silveta’s chief purpose was to allow Livingstone to pay corporation tax instead of income tax. This meant that in 2011 he was able to channel £238,646 of earnings into Silveta, and pay £34,661 in tax: a tax rate of just 14.5 percent. In public Livingstone tells us that tax avoiders are immoral, in private he uses complex loopholes to minimise his tax burden. This is rank hypocrisy.
Fit and proper person test: Failed.
Relationship with the Jewish community
Livingstone has a long and uncomfortable history with the Jewish community. In 2004 he invited the radical Islamist cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi to London. Al-Qaradawi has condoned suicide bombing and praised Hitler’s anti-Semitism (as well as making revolting comments about women and homosexuals).
When asked last week if he would commit to not inviting al-Qaradawi back if elected, Ken would only say that he was currently banned from the country. In 2005 Livingstone compared a reporter to a Nazi concentration camp guard, even repeating the claim after being informed that the reporter was himself Jewish. A judge found his behaviour to be ‘indefensible’.
Just this year Ken was forced to apologise after implying that London’s Jews would not vote for him ‘because they are rich’. The Guardian columnist Jonathan Friedland, a life-long Labour supporter, subsequently wrote that he could no longer bring himself to vote for Ken. Livingstone’s disturbing comments about Jews – not just a one-off slip of the tongue but on several occasions – are deeply, deeply concerning.
Fit and proper person test: Failed.
Last year Livingstone was accused of showing a lack of judgment over his decision to host a programme on the Iranian state television channel. Ken accepted thousands of pounds from Press TV after he replaced George Galloway as a presenter on the channel, which has since been banned from broadcast in this country by Ofcom.
The Iranian government exercises editorial influence and provides funding for Press TV. As a result, Livingstone was making money from a regime that not only has a deplorable human rights record, but funds the terrorists that kill British troops in Afghanistan. That he did not question the morality behind taking the Iranian shilling, that he thought the Iranian state television channel was an acceptable source of income, seriously calls into question his character and his suitability for public office.
Fit and proper person test: failed.
Ken Livingstone has been accused of tax avoidance hypocrisy, a worrying relationship with the Jewish community and a grave lack of judgment over his work for Press TV. On all three counts, he fails the fit and proper person test. When Londoners go to the polls this Thursday they have five decent, electable candidates to choose from: Boris Johnson, Brian Paddick, Jenny Jones, Lawrence Webb and Siobhan Benita. Sadly, Ken Livingstone is not one of them.
Alexander Wickham is a freelance journalist and blogger who writes for The Independent, amongst others. He tweets at @Wickham_A
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