I always thought that if I ever voted Tory all my ancestors would rise from their graves – and I’d just have to bury them again, as Groucho Marx once said. But Ken Livingstone is pushing me close.
Not content with embracing the misogynist, homophobic, racist and dictatorial leaders of the Islamist far Right, he’s now decided to go ahead with his oil deal with the Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez
In return for cheap fuel for Transport for London, Livingstone will give the Venezuelans bureaucrats from City Hall to advise them on how best to run their affairs. Maybe I’m being too cynical and the barrios of Caracas will erupt as shanty dwellers salsa through the streets to give thanks for a doubling of bus fares. But even if you find that an unlikely prospect, you might still think that Livingstone’s behaviour is improving. Not only is Chavez, a man of the Left rather than the theocratic far Right, but unlike so many of the Mayor’s chums he came to power by winning a reasonably fair election.
You would have been right last year, but in January Chavez demanded and got extraordinary powers to rule by presidential decree. He is talking about ending his term limits and making himself President for Life. In short, he gives every sign of wanting to become a dictator, which shouldn’t be such a surprise as he once tried to organise a military coup.
The Labour MP Denis MacShane, who is one of the best reasons for staying with the party, is spending a lot of his time warning the infantile leftists and romantic liberals who always flock to exotic foreign hardmen that Chavez has a grisly record of sucking up to tyrants. He has embraced the religious bigots of Tehran, called Robert Mugabe a liberator, the “Simon Bolivar of Africa,” and, according to El Pais, congratulated the Belarus dictator, Lukashenko, for having “suffocated the opposition” in Minsk. Like all putative dictators, he hates the free press. Aidan White, general secretary of the International Federation of Journalists, wrote recently that his Caracas office had “recorded 700 incidents of harassment, intimidation and violence against the media in the last four years alone”. He went on to describe the “severely compromised conditions for professional journalism”, and complain that “Chavez’s violent rhetoric” against media owners has put genuinely open-minded commentators “under constant pressure”.
Such is the record of our Mayor’s new best friend. What London’s secular, liberal and democratic lefties are going to do about him at the next election is an awkward question. Even though he embraces Islamists far, far to the Right of Cameron’s Conservatives, voting Tory goes against our irrational tribal prejudices.
Our best hope is that he will stand down and allow a reasonable Labour candidate to run. But watching Livingstone I fear that he likes the idea of being Mayor for Life as much as Chavez likes the idea of being President for Life and we’ll have to spoil our ballot papers.
MY plugging of my new book has now broken all bounds of decency and taken me to an attic above a curry house of the Charing Cross Road, the home Resonance 104.4 FM. It is the most magnificently strange radio station in London, and quite possibly the world, as it has proved by hiring the former MI5 agent David Shayler as a talk show host.
I confess to my interviewer that I had once believed Shayler’s “revelations” about MI5. Doubts set in when he claimed that al Qaeda hadn’t attacked America on 9/11 and what we saw on our television screens was, in fact, a giant hologram conjured up by the CIA.
“I bet you think world is really run by a conspiracy of extra-terrestrial lizards,” I sneered when I last bumped into him.
“No I don’t,” he snapped after a pause that was just a fraction of a second too long.
THE news that the Jam has reformed will bring waves of nostalgia to my Seventies’ generation. Like half the teenage boys I knew, I wanted to look as cool as Paul Weller and mooch around Paris in a mohair suit with the adoring eyes of thousands of women on me.
But what’s this? The reformed “Jam” will have Bruce Foxton on bass, Rick Buckler on drums but no Weller, who has said he would go back to the band only if his children were “destitute”. After the new “Jam” finishes a gig is the stage cleared so that the Royal Shakespeare Company can perform Hamlet Without the Prince?