Ken Livingstone: Jews won't vote Labour because they are rich

By Martin Bright, March 21, 2012
Ken Livingstone

Ken Livingstone


Prominent Labour-supporting Jewish Londoners have written a devastating letter to Ed Miliband expressing their profound concerns about mayoral candidate Ken Livingstone.

The letter, a copy of which has been seen by the Jewish Chronicle, was written in response to a meeting held on March 1st at which Mr Livingstone stood by his decision to embrace radical Islamic cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi and take money from the Iranian state broadcaster Press TV.

Most damaging for Mr Livingstone is the revelation that he believes Jews will not vote Labour because they are rich. The letter states: "Ken toward the end of the meeting stated that he did not expect the Jewish community to vote Labour as votes for the left are inversely proportional to wealth levels, and suggested that as the Jewish community is rich we simply wouldn't vote for him."

The letter explains to Mr Miliband that Jewish Labour supporters were finding it "harder and harder to consider voting for Ken".

At the heart of the critique is the fear that Mr Livingstone's language when discussing the Jewish community, Israel and Zionism is close to classic antisemitism.

"Ken determines Jews as a religious group but does not accept Jews as an ethnicity and a people and did not respond on this other than to say that as an atheist he found this hard to comprehend. In the same way that Black, Irish, Women and LGBT groups are afforded the right to determine their own identity, many of us feel that Ken doesn't afford Jews that right."

The letter reveals that Mr Livingstone used the words Zionist, Jewish and Israeli interchangeably and did so "in a perjorative manner".

The Jewish Labour figures behind the letter, which include Liberal rabbi Danny Rich and former Limmud chair Andrew Gilbert, express concern that Mr Livinstone has aligned himself with the politics of radical Islam. "The real and more pressing issue is that of the strong perception that Ken is seeking to align himself with the politics of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Iranian regime, whilst at the same time turning a blind eye to Islamist antisemitism , mysogynism (sic) and homophobia."

The authors of the letter added: "We are concerned that this is more about infantile, far-left politics, being seen to take a stance against whatever the anti-establishment or anti-imperialism cause of the moment is."

The letter was written ahead of a meeting between the Jewish communal leadership and Ed Miliband later this month, when the issue of Mr Livingstone will be top of the agenda.

In full: The letter to Ed Miliband

Last updated: 1:22pm, March 21 2012