12th March 2016
Ken Livingstone and the Appropriate Face of Capitalism
The press – and a selection of Labour MPs – are all of a flutter over comments made by former Mayor of London and Corbyn Labour’s rising star (;-)) Ken Livingstone.
Speaking to Iain Dale on LBC Radio, Livingstone was questioned about Dan Jarvis’ recent Demos speech on the direction of the Labour Party and a £16,800 office donation from hedge fund manager Martin Taylor.
Now, a more cautious, thoughtful member of Labour’s ruling NEC might have given some consideration to recent appeals for party unity as well as the need to unite under Comrade Corbyn’s banner as we march toward the sunlit uplands of socialism. No one in their right mind would want to give the press headlines that divert from the current government’s ineptitude, surely? No such luck.
Quite unable to resist the honey trap laid before him Livingstone ploughed in, saying that Jarvis accepting a City donation was like “Jimmy Savile fundraising for a children’s group.”
He went on: “The other thing you have to say about Dan Jarvis: If you’re really Labour what are you doing taking donations from hedge fund managers – the most rapacious and damaging form of capitalists that we’ve had.”
Livingstone’s Jimmy Savile comment is appalling enough in the way it compares a decent and honorable father of three – who, by the way, served his country with distinction in the military – to a predatory and monstrous child abuser.
But it’s the kind of ill-thought hyperbole we’ve come to expect from Ken over the years.
After all, this is the man who asked Jewish journalist if he was a German war criminal and described the City Hall chief of staff Eddie Lister as the “Ratko Mladic of local government”.
No, what’s more interesting is Ken’s question about taking donations from what he regards as inappropriate capitalists.
Interesting because it leads me to ask: “If you’re really Labour, Ken, what are YOU doing taking donations from property developers with convictions for fraud?”
Ken quite happily accepted a donation on behalf of the Labour Party from convicted fraudster Gerald Ronson in 2004. The donation was for £4,990 – just £10 short of the amount that would have required a public declaration, just enough to keep it hidden.
There was even some suggestion at the time that the donation was gifted to Labour rather than Livingstone directly as a way of avoiding the £1000 declaration threshold on donations to individuals.
It’s also worth noting that the donation came just before Livingstone’s re-election as London Mayor and two years after Mr Ronson was granted planning permission in London for the 46 storey Heron Tower skyscraper development.
Ken Livingstone, it seems, has conveniently forgotten about his own indulgences with “rapacious and damaging forms of capitalists” not to mention his feeling that they should be kept out of the sight of the voters.
Still, that hasn’t stopped him being the proper social justice warrior over the years. He’s stood up against Trident, Thatcher, Blair, pretty much everything you’d expect the Old Labour vanguard to stand up against – especially tax avoidance.
Which now leads me to ask: “If you’re really Labour, Ken, why are there constant accusations of you avoiding tax by moving your earnings through a limited company?”
In 2012 Ken Livingstone was accused of treating payments through his company as personal donations to Labour in order to offset the amount against his personal income tax bill.
Livingstone later confirmed to the Electoral Commission that the donation actually came from his private company Silveta Ltd, through which he allegedly avoided at least £50,000 in tax by benefiting from corporation tax at 20 or 21 per cent rather than paying income tax at up to 50 per cent on all of his earnings.
What makes this even more questionable is that, according to the company’s Articles of Association, Silveta Ltd. was formed only to handle personal earnings from media appearances, writings and after dinner expenses not political campaigning.
One might say that this kind of tax avoidance is right up there as one of the “the most rapacious and damaging form of capitalism that we’ve had.”
And today Robert Peston also refers to this.
Ironic, isn’t it? The record shows that Ken Livingstone isn’t quite clear on what is acceptable or unacceptable, appropriate or inappropriate.
In fact, it seems that those adjectives can be defined as whatever suits him at the time. And it makes his criticism of Dan Jarvis not only distasteful but downright hypocritical.
It’s a hypocrisy that is typical of the High Left – those who are supposed bastions of the socialist cause but who actually haven’t done a jot to help secure or support a Labour government or any form of meaningful help for working people in years; those who personify Orwell’s famous words where some really are more equal than others.
By Jon Rosling