Ken Livingstone today sought to re-focus the London Mayoral race back onto policy as the campaign entered the final three weeks, with opponents stepping up their attacks on the authenticity both of Labour’s party election broadcast this week and Livingstone’s tears at its unveiling.
The Evening Standard, Guido Fawkes and Labour Uncut have all reported claims this morning that the people in the broadcast were all actors, reading from prepared scripts, not genuine Londoners, and that Livingstone’s tears were contrived.
The allegations have all been denied, with the Livingstone campaign team insisting they were genuine supporters recruited by an advertising agency.
A spokeswoman for the campaign told the Guardian:
“Everyone who appears in Labour’s party political broadcast are ordinary Londoners who are backing Ken on 3 May. No actors were used in the broadcast.”
While Matthew Charlton, CEO of BETC London – the agency that produced the PEB – told LabourList suggestions the supporters in the broadcast were fakes was a “disgrace”, and those claiming thus were “trying to diminish the voice of the ordinary people”.
“For anybody to claim that the people featured in the Ken Livingstone broadcast are not valid voices in the debate is nothing short of a disgrace. The reason the film works is because it actually represents real truth. These are not actors but peoples’ mums and dads, brothers and sisters. People who never have a voice but on Wednesday night for 3 minutes did.
“Those who aim to diminish this through picking apart the process of making it are, I am afraid, trying to diminish the voice of the ordinary people.
“When Patricia, the old lady in the film, thanks Ken for the free bus pass, she does it because she really means it. It’s just simple truth. Does anyone really think that she is not speaking from the heart or that she doesn’t deserve to be heard for once in her life on prime time on the BBC??
“I for one find her more compelling and emotional viewing than anything else I have seen throughout the election and am not prepared to sit back back and allow her voice to be diminished or devalued.”
Watch the video:
• Boris and Ken clash over tax dodge claims 3 Apr 2012
• Pound for Pound, you’re better off with Ken 13 Mar 2012
• Boris’s 9-point plan is a bridge to nowhere 5 Mar 2012
Elsewhere today, on policy, Livinstone launched his LGBT manifesto (pdf), ahead of tomorrow’s Stonewall Mayoral hustings, and the day after anti-gay London bus adverts - from religious fundamentalists - were axed.
If elected, Livingstone pledged to:
• Continue to support Pride celebrations across the capital and support World Pride coming to London this year;
• Put the Greater London Authority back into the Stonewall Employers’ Index;
• Appoint an LGBT adviser;
• Re-establish the Pride annual reception at City Hall;
• Operate a zero tolerance approach to homophobic and transphobic hate crime and prioritise work with the Met to improve awareness, training and
responses among police officers;
• Oppose cuts to LGBT organisations imposed by the Tory-led government; and
• Overhaul TfL’s advertising standards so that we never again have the scandal of homophobic advertising on buses being approved.
He contrasted his plans with the charge sheet against Boris Johnson, under whose tenure:
• Pride is no longer celebrated in City Hall with an annual civic reception;
• The GLA was withdrawn from the Stonewall Equality Index;
• Funding was removed from Soho Pride;
• The Tory government weakened the Equality Act.
“With a Conservative agenda at Westminster there is much work to do to deliver equality and protect the standard of living of LGB&T Londoners. I will do everything I can to defend Londoners against spending cuts and to develop an alternative…
“I want London to be a world leader on equality – and proud of its work with its lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans citizens. I stand on my plans to champion of equality – if you elect me you can be sure that I will champion LGB&T equality and work closely with the community to oppose cuts, celebrate equality and difference and ensure Londoners are free to live the lives they choose.”
Some of the smears thrown at Ken have veered between the ridiculous and the offensive. The award for chutzpah has to go to Tories who have accused him of homophobia. Ken may be straight, but he is Britain’s equivalent of another local government campaigner for gay rights, 1970s US politician Harvey Milk.
When Ken made the case for gay rights as leader of the Greater London Council in the early 1980s, he was courageous indeed: at the time, two-thirds of the population thought homosexuality was wrong. The Tories went on to introduce Section 28, deliberately dipping into the deep well of homophobia.
Surreal for a gay man like myself to imagine that, just a generation ago, we were widely regarded as perverts: it is a sea change in attitudes down to gay rights pioneers like Ken.
Contrast to Boris Johnson, who lauded Section 28 on the basis that “we don’t want our children being taught some rubbish about homosexual marriage being the same as normal marriage”, referred to “pulpit poofs” in the Church, and suggested that if two men could tie the knot, why not “three men and a dog”? Not that anyone is scrutinising such bigotry: it’s just Boris being Boris, it’s just his clownish manner.
It’s presumably for the same reasons that so few journalists mention his slights against black people: all that talk of “piccaninnies” with “watermelon smiles”, or slamming the Macpherson Inquiry into the Stephen Lawrence case for “hysteria”.
If the campaign focuses on policy, expect Livingstone to be in with a fighting chance – in other words, expect his opponents within and without to focus on anything but, as the campaign gets ever more vicious, the attacks ever more negative, as May 3rd draws ever near.