Ken was ‘hit by Jewish rows’

Livingstone’s deputy admits Qaradawi and Finegold affairs ‘damaged’ him


Nicky Gavron, the outgoing deputy mayor of London, acknowledged this week that the Qaradawi and Finegold incidents had cost Ken Livingstone Jewish votes.

Ms Gavron, the only Jewish politician on the London Assembly, noted that the mayor had eventually apologised over comparing Jewish journalist Oliver Finegold to a concentration-camp guard.

But asked about the original incident in 2005 and Mr Livingstone’s welcome to radical Islamic cleric Sheikh Al Yusuf Qaradawi the year before, she said: “It was very damaging in relation to the Jewish vote… it did cause offence.”

Despite Mr Livingstone’s defeat, she maintained that Labour had done “exceptionally well” in London overall compared with the rest of the country and had gained a seat on the assembly.

One of the party’s three London-wide assembly members, she also contested the Barnet and Camden constituency. Although not winning it, she increased the Labour share of the vote in the constituency from under 27 per cent to over 30 per cent. (Fourteen of the assembly members are elected on a constituency basis, while the remaining 11 by proportional representation across the capital).

Mr Livingstone’s share of first-preference votes in Barnet and Camden — the constituency with the highest Jewish population — dropped from 37.7 per cent in 2004 to 35.4 per cent last week.

But the higher overall turnout in London compared to 2004 had prevented the BNP gaining further electoral success, she said. “It’s shocking we have got one member. If we hadn’t had that turnout, we probably would have got two or three BNP members.”

Had Mr Livingstone won a third term, she would have continued as his deputy, having taken responsibility in his previous administration for strategic planning which covered affordable housing, transport and the environment. A third Labour mayoralty would have seen a “rail renaissance” and other significant projects, she said.

“One of the things we somehow didn’t get across was that it takes time to actually build up a new authority after 14 years of no London government with very little investment in infrastructure and no voice on the international stage,” she said.

But she is keen now to ensure that the planned environmental and climate-change initiatives go ahead.

Her office had even been considering a green plan for London Jewry.

Neville Sassienie, chair of the Board of Deputies social-issues action group, said: “We were discussing co-operation over a scheme for greening London Jewry and beginning to work with the Greater London Authority’s environmental people. We very much hope it will continue under the new mayor.”

    Last updated: 3:41pm, May 19 2008