Saturday, 23 October 2010

Why Ken Livingstone's support for non-Labour candidate could actually have been for the good of the Labour Party

In Thursday's mayoral election in Tower Hamlets, Labour managed to lose to the former (Labour) leader of the Council who had been de-selected as their own candidate. The on-going row surrounds Ken Livingstone and the fact that he appeared on the campaign for the victorious independent candidate, apparently against party rules.

I would suggest that, far from being against the wishes of the Labour HQ, Livingstone's appearance could actually have been designed to build bridges between Labour and their renegade former candidate.

Given the pickle that Labour had managed to get themselves into, there is no doubt that the party wanted one of two outcomes to the mayoral election:

  • either a victory for the official Labour candidate Helel Abbas, or
  • to regain some degree of control over the renegade Lutfur Rehman and to stop him falling further under the influence of the remnants of Respect.

Who better to reach out to Rehman than the man who went through exactly the same drama himself - Ken Livingstone.

Livingstone's intervention will, of course, have swayed a few votes in the campaign. But it came late enough in the process that Labour will already have known that they were going to lose the mayoralty. Would they have lost it on first preferences? Probably not. But, as they say, a loss is a loss.

So with their campaign already down the tubes, the prospect of Rehman winning would have scared Labour witless. After all, the party out-performed expectations in London in both the General Election and council elections in May and seemed to have seen off George Galloway and Respect for good. Hence the Livingstone strategy.

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