From the Standard
On paper, there is no organisation in London as admirable as Operation Black Vote. Founded to encourage black Britons to become equal citizens, it not only strives to increase turnout but also encourages black people to become magistrates, councillors and MPs. Labour, the Conservatives, Greens and the Liberal Democrats support it. You support it, too, through the taxpayers’ money various Whitehall ministries pump into the “non-party political” campaign group.
Unfortunately, Lee Jasper is its chair and the destruction of high purposes and public trust follows with a wearisome inevitability. The campaign has been hijacked and turned into a vehicle for Ken Livingstone. If you doubt me, listen to Jasper in a recent interview with the Voice: “I am going to be working hard with Operation Black Vote and a host of other organisations to register as many of our people to vote,” he told the black paper. Fair enough – the organisation exists to increase turnout. But, he continued, black voters should vote for only one man. “I think people see that the other candidates don’t have substantive policy positions on any of the major issues. Ken, standing on his record and his manifesto, will be declared the candidate of choice.”
Readers of the Voice – or of the attacks on critics of Jasper on the Operation Black Vote website – can’t doubt that this supposedly nonpartisan campaign is endorsing Livingstone, and that everything about its turn into party politics is wrong. The law requires organisations wishing to influence the outcome of an election to register as “Third Parties” with the Electoral Commission and account for their spending. Operation Black Vote has not registered. Meanwhile, rival parties see that the pressure group they helped in good faith is now a “Re-elect Ken” campaign, while taxpayers are forced yet again to wonder why their money is going astray.
The worst of this episode is what it says about Livingstone’s attitude towards London’s minorities. The supposedly PC Mayor is nothing of the sort. He will stand up for you if you are a good little black or gay or Muslim and go along with whatever he and his pack of house-trained Trots propagate. But step out of line and you are no longer an authentic black or gay but some kind of Uncle Tom. Brett Lock from the gay rights group Outrage told me that when he raised questions about Livingstone’s alliances with Islamists who preach the murder of homosexuals, he found that City Hall’s attitude was “agree with Ken or we’re not interested”.
Operation Black Vote is little better. It unintentionally treats blacks as second-class citizens for whom the normal political choices between Labour, Tory, Lib-Dem and Green aren’t available. Its not-so-subtle message is that blacks don’t have a choice. You could get away with such patronising politics when Livingstone was young in the 1980s but not, I think, now.