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Sunday, 4 May 2008

Why London's pink vote turned blue

So, London has been described as a blue-red "doughnut" with the outer boroughs generally having voted for Boris and the inner boroughs generally having voted for Ken. But what does this blue-red paradigm tell us about the pink vote?

It was during the 1980s that the love affair between London's gay community and Ken Livingstone flourished. Gays were under attack from the vicious Thatcherite regime, a hostile Press, and a frightening new disease that Thatcher largely ignored and the Press sensationalised, trivialised and found scapegoats for. It's easy, now, to forget what a bulwark of resistance Ken (at the helm of the old GLC) came to represent. Apart from some well-heeled Tory gays, whose money insulated them against the effects of the anti-gay backlash, many of us came to regard Ken Livingstone as a hero, almost our protector.

In 2000, many of us enthusiastically helped sweep Ken back to power, this time at the GLA, housed in a new glass testicle next to Tower Bridge. We thought he would continue where he had left off, 14 years previously, but we were badly let down. Even before the Qaradawi incident, Ken had realised – together with most of the Left – that Muslims were a far better electoral prospect, being more numerous, concentrated and motivated a constituency than homosexuals could ever be. Our interests were unceremoniously relegated in order to get radical Muzzos on board. The Iraq War just accelerated this process, as left-wingers' knee-jerk anti-Americanism catapulted them into the clutches of every dodgy Islamist going (or rather coming – our borders having become somewhat porous by this time).

Dr Yusuf Al Qaradawi's visit to the capital in July 2004 was a watershed moment. Pictures of Ken kissing and cuddling this hateful individual turned people's stomachs right across London – including those of quite a few Muslims I know. From that moment on, he was dead to me and thousands of other Londoners. Unfortunately, a small number of left-wing gays, including a handful of GALHA members, had by this time become deeply involved with Ken's administration, being frequent visitors to his glass testicle. Some had positions on the notorious "Equality & Diversity" forum – a circus of bickering and bitchery unparalleled in modern political history. Others received hand-outs from the public purse. Clearly, then, those gays benefiting from the GLA gravy-train, were not going to let Ken and his new Islamist pals be criticised by freethinking gay radicals within GALHA and the PTT.

The fallout in 2005 over the final edition of Andy Armitage's Gay & Lesbian Humanist magazine was initiated by the Ken-compromised chairman of GALHA at the time, Derek Lennard. In a typically shrill riposte, he attacked Andy and other contributors, including myself, for daring to criticise Islam and Britain's woeful lack of immigration controls. Apparently, we had offended none other than the website (really? how awful!) – another of Ken's Trotskyist white elephants, sponsored by the public purse. Mysteriously, Derek's long list of objections fell into the hands of the respectable-sounding (but totally barking) Lesbian and Gay Campaign Against Racism (LAGCAR), which issued a scurrilous round-robin hatemail, attacking GALHA and the PTT and inviting signatures from every cranky left-wing pressure group belonging to – you've guessed it – the GLA's "Equality & Diversity" forum. Some of these groups contained respected paragons of public service, including Lee Jasper.

Unfortunately, this dirty tricks campaign was too much for the genteel members of the GALHA committee who panicked and caved-in to this outrageous bullying by the GLA, publicly issuing a grovelling reassurance that nothing of the kind would ever be repeated. Even worse, the left-wing architects of this disaster from within GALHA's own ranks were rewarded for their treachery with the hand-over of the GALHA magazine to their control, thus ensuring that nothing that might offend City Hall (or anything of any real interest) would ever be published under its auspices again. The ineffectual National Secular Society leadership stood idly by – and did nothing, though a few weeks later, in March 2006, it cynically supported the March for Freedom of Expression.

This all might have been forgivable, if the self-interest of Ken's fawning retinue of GALHA-gays had resulted in something worthwhile. However, projects like the ill-fated IDAHO (International Day Against Homophobia), which benefited from a poster campaign saying it was "Supported by the Mayor of London", have hardly been a resounding success. According to Gay Times (May 2007), last year there were no events in the Midlands, Northern Ireland, the South West, East Anglia, the Humber, the North East, Scotland, Yorkshire, or Wales. So not exactly "international" then. Or, indeed, "national". And how, exactly, does a bunch of poofs releasing pink balloons outside a shopping mall save a single Iranian gay teenager from being hanged under Shariah law anyway? That'll show 'em!

Ah, you say, but what about Ken's trail-blazing for gay civil partnerships? It's important to remember here that when Ken introduced gay civil partnerships at City Hall they had no legal standing and were not worth the paper they were written on. Nevertheless, that didn't stop a number of gullible gays "tying the knot" – including at least one pair from GALHA – in order to show their support for this cupid stunt at City Hall. Let's be honest, though, after the election of Tony Blair in 1997, so-called "gay marriage" was bound to become a reality sooner or later. All Ken had to do, like a surfer, was anticipate exactly when to catch this wave and ride it to his own advantage – which he did, with consummate skill.

Ken was not an innovator, just a cynical opportunist. Gays, like Londoners generally, will be far better off without him – which is why, this time round, the pink vote will have largely turned blue.


DavidMWW said...

Diesel, I have read your GALHA piece which sparked the furore, and can't see what all the fuss was about. It was an enjoyable polemic with no hint of racism. The reaction was outrageous and without justification.

I have a couple of questions. You say the NSS "stood idly by" during the affair. Did you ask them to intervene? If so, how did they respond? If not could it be that they just didn't think it was any of their business?

Second, you imply that the preposterous Islamophobia-watch website receives council funding. Do you have evidence for this? If it's true then it would certainly help explain why that clown in charge keeps at it so diligently!

Diesel B said...

David - thank you for your comment and kind sentiments. To answer your two queries:

The NSS "stood idly by" to the extent that, being at the very heart of GALHA, in the bearded form of Terry Sanderson, it was fully aware of the internal politics going on, centred around a small group of left-wingers with links to Ken Livingstone. This group, for some while, had sought to wrest control of GALHA's PTT-funded magazine from Andy Armitage, whom they regarded as too inclined towards libertarian freethought. They wanted the hard-line socialist, Brett Lock, as editor. In addition, Lock - a member of Peter Tatchell's OutRage! group, who also writes for the Communist Party's "Weekly Worker" newspaper - benefits from the new GALHA magazine making use of the editorial business he operates, Nabumedia. Brett can therefore add "business acumen" to his list of talents, alongside "revolutionary socialism".

Peter Tatchell wrote to the GALHA committee, privately, accusing Andy and myself of "racism", though this was clearly an attempt to browbeat the GALHA committee into dismissing Andy and appointing best-buddy Brett Lock as the new editor. None of this prevented Tatchell from addressing the March for Freedom of Expression, in March 2006, during which he supported the right to freedom of speech for genuine racists like the BNP.

The NSS leadership knew all of this, and must, at some stage, have taken the decision not to support Andy, but assist the far-Left takeover instead. In retrospect, I think the NSS now realises it backed the wrong horse, but they can't admit this publicly without losing face. Interestingly, in February 2007, when a young student at Oxford's Clare College got himself into hot water for re-publishing the notorious Muslim cartoons (which caused rather more bloodshed than the "Gay & Lesbian Humanist" magazine ever did!), the NSS leapt to his defence immediately. I suppose that Andy Armitage and myself were just not considered young enough or pretty enough to merit Terry Sanderson's support.

2) I believe I am correct in saying that the website was funded, at least in part, or perhaps initially, by Ken Livingstone's administration. When I first read about this group (possibly in the "Guardian", but certainly in a broadsheet newspaper), I recall mention being made of this. In any case, Ken Livingstone features heavily on this website and always in the most flattering light. I will try to do some digging to confirm.

Even by left-wing standards, this wacky website is totally barking - accusing the likes of George Broadhead, the journalist Muriel Gray, Andy Armitage and even the secular Communist Iranian, Maryam Namazie, of being Islamophobic "racists". Meanwhile, Qaradawi and Hizb-ut-Tahrir are portrayed as victims of "Islamophobia" who simply want to spread their message of sweetness and light across the globe.

In reality, the Islamophobia-Watch "collective" that operates this website consists of one isolated "Johnny-No-Mates" Marxist called Bob Pitt (formerly of the imploded Workers' Revolutionary Party), and several cardboard cut-outs of Lenin. The sad thing is, most Muslims I know wouldn't piss on these cardboard communists if they caught fire, though I can think of a handful of left-wing GALHA-gays who might.

davidmww said...

Thanks, Diesel. That is very interesting.

omi baloney said...

Yes, we're still digging up the mass graves of gays murdered by the "vicious Thatcher regime", aren't we? And when it wasn't machine-gunning gays, it was injecting them with HIV in a vile attempt to smear gay sex as somehow "unhealthy" and conducive to disease and early death. In fact, if it weren't for homophobia, gays would all be immortal. Scientific fact. Only theocratic bigots and other repudiators of the Enlightenment [PBUI] could think otherwise.

Diesel B said...

Omi Baloney - interesting comment and intersting name (so camp!). I think what you're saying is that the woes of gay people during the 1980s were largely self-inflicted and attempts to externalise the blame onto the Thatcher Gov't were unfair. There is a scintilla of truth in this, but no more than that.
Your comment (and I'm assuming it isn't tongue-in-cheek) displays a mind-numbing ignorance of human sexuality and sexual instincts. There is no choice in one's sexual orientation, but I do agree that within our pre-defined sexuality we have to exercise good judgement and responsibility.
Your oblique reference to AIDS ignores the fact that until the mid-1980s nobody knew what caused it and little was known about its paths of transmission. The gay community deserves some credit, surely, for publicising the need to modify sexual behaviour? And don't forget, most sufferers globally are heterosexual and many are just "innocent" children.
Your supposed "loving and omnipotent God" either invented this curse (in which case He is not loving) or has done nothing to prevent its miserable progress through humanity (which suggests to me He is not omnipotent).
The Thatcher Government was negligent in its dereliction of duty to its gay citizens (and taxpayers). At a time when it should have worked with gay people to stop this disease in its tracks, it dragged its feet, only being stirred to action when they realised heterosexuals could also contract AIDS (hardly a surprise; we are all human beings, in spite of those who - like you, presumably - regard gay people as a separate sub-species).
Even worse, to pacify Christian zealots in its own ranks, the third Thatcher Government made all gay citizens "second class" with the profoundly discriminatory Clause 28 (later Section 28). This was widely recognised as a bad and very un-British law, even by decent Conservatives who said it was just "throwing red meat to the Party wolves (i.e. fundamentalist Christians)". It was quickly repealed at the first opportunity by the Scottish Parliament and later by the Blair Government.
Your comment is cynical and simplistic, but not without merit. Like you, I agree there is much to criticise in the gay community and I did vote Conservative this time around because Ken - and his entourage, composed largely of gay hysterics - was so utterly dreadful. However, I think you will find that the modern Conservative Party recognises and welcomes the contribution gay people make to society, as well as that of secular humanists.
Please try to exercise some humanity and understanding should you care to make further comment. I detect little Christian "love and compassion" in your rather snide and sneery comments so far.

omi baloney said...

I'm an agnostic and I hated Thatcher, so some of your points miss the mark. "Snide and sneery" and "mind-numbing ignorance" are spot-on, tho'. I think AIDS was (and is) largely a self-inflicted problem and an example of how unhealthy homosexuality can be, both literally and politically. Christian fundamentalism is unhealthy too, but it isn't as self-destructive as homosexuality.

However, I think you will find that the modern Conservative Party recognises and welcomes the contribution gay people make to society, as well as that of secular humanists.

No, no, no! It's CELEBRATE the contribution. Much smarmier. Yes, the Tories have gone socially Marxist and suck up to all the minorities. It's not sincere and it will all end in tears. I'd prefer to find a happy medium between persecuting gays and worshipping them. The 'gay hysterics' aren't good for anyone.

Andy Armitage said...

Gay hysterics indeed aren't good for anyone, and gays do have something to answer for, as Diesel B has said. To say they brought it (AIDS) on themselves suggests that it was there, on the horizon, everyone could see it, but ploughed on relentlessly throwing caution to the wind in a mass suicide.

It took time for its nature and its enormity to feed into the gay worldview - not all people, gay or straight, are as well read as you or I. No, it crept up on them. Some continued to be reckless; some cleaned up their act, as it were, and changed their sexual habits, so they could still enjoy sex but they had to limit the exchange of body fluids. You must agree that the press were pretty fucking horrible around that time, with Sun headlines along the lines of "gay plague" this and "gay plague" that, and "Pulpit poofs can stay" and "Gay pilot has AIDS" and so forth. That's the odious bastard Kelvin McKensie for you, and if I believe in Hell I'd hope for him to rot in it till he crawled on his hands and knees, kissed every cock in G-A-Y and humbly apologised. Perhaps a twat like that would prefer rotting in Hell, unless he's changed. However, his editorship of the Sun at that time in the eighies and how he treated AIDS and gays in general was downright cruel - needlessly and hurtfully so - and verging on the criminal in its near incitement to violence.

So we did have a lot to complain about back then, and the Section 28 Diesel talks about was a spiteful piece of legislation giving the impression that homosexuality was something that could be "promoted". ("Hi, here's my card; for just twenty quid you can become a fully paid-up poofter. Six-week trial - money-back guarantee! AIDS optional.")

Nonsense, of course, but that legislation, never used, sent a toxic message into society that other groups short of criminals have not had to contend with.

I'm not sure how homosexuality can be unhealthy per se. You are as healthy as your body allows you to be and, if you're reckless with sexual encounters, whether hettie or homo, it's your lookout. Straights get unhealthy, too. As for politically, it's as "unhealthy" as those in the political arena want it to be. It was "unhealthy" for the Tories and the red-tops in the eighties, and, boy, did they see to it that everyone and his uncle thought it was unhealthy! It is not unhealthy politically now, and same-sex relationships are enshrined in law (that may be seen as a bad thing, but for entirely different reasons - another argument altogether - and many gay couples refuse to get married).

So I'm really not sure where you're coming from. You hate poofs? You don't mind poofs? You don't mind, but you wouldn't want your daughter to marry one? You wouldn't want one to kick a ball about on a beach with your son? You wouldn't have one as a friend (knowingly)? If you would, you wouldn't have that friend and his/her same-sex partner round for dinner?

Diesel B said...

So Omi Baloney is a cop-out "agnostic" and ambivalent towards gay people. Neither a "Thatcherite" nor a "barking Trot". A tired old cynic perhaps, who, rather than engage in rational debate (laced with human compassion and understanding), simply carps from the sidelines contributing nothing.
Life is complicated and messy Mr Baloney and no single belief system has all the neat and tidy answers (including secular humanism, though it's undoubtedly the best we've got). We have to muddle through with our intellect and a benign tolerance towards our fellow men and women.
You clearly have a sharp mind, but using your sharp tongue in the service of cynicism and malevolent critcism does you no credit and suggests you are mired in nihilism. Nihilists are also hysterics, in the true Freudian sense of the word.
The way out of nihilism is to love yourself, love mankind, relax and enjoy life - even if other people make this difficult from time to time. Treating people who are different to yourself as worthy of dignity and consideration isn't about "worshipping" them, it's about respecting them as human beings and their right to be different.
The whole of civilization and democratic freedom is built on this principle. It really is as simple as that. So please lighten up - nothing good ever came out of bitterness.

omi baloney said...

Life is complicated and messy Mr Baloney and no single belief system has all the neat and tidy answers (including secular humanism, though it's undoubtedly the best we've got).

I don't think so. Your own problems with accusations of "racism" prove that religions don't have to be theistic. Secular humanism has dogmas and superstitions of its own.

We have to muddle through with our intellect and a benign tolerance towards our fellow men and women.

"Muddling through" is not the way I'd describe what modern, gay-friendly politics is doing to the country.

Treating people who are different to yourself as worthy of dignity and consideration isn't about "worshipping" them, it's about respecting them as human beings and their right to be different.

Bollocks. No-one talks of "respecting" straights. There's an inferiority complex at work as soon the word comes in, and with the complex goes a desire for vengeance on the "oppressor".

The whole of civilization and democratic freedom is built on this principle.

Bollocks again. Neither civilization nor democracy depends on that principle, which is in fact undermining both. The scum -- and they are scum -- in Labour and the Tories embrace it, and neither has interest in democracy. They have to get the liberal media on their side, hence the sucking up to minorities. It is not sincere and if you aren't cynical about it, you're not paying attention.

Diesel B said...

Oh dear, Mr Baloney - you are getting your tights in a tangle. For the record, I do respect "straights" (as you call them) - I am the product of two heterosexuals, how could I not respect them?
Secular humanism is the ideology most open to new ideas and different shades of opinion, which is why I embrace it and you ought to. Note: I have not dismissed anything you have said as "bollocks" - I respect your right to take issue and think there is some sense in what you're saying.
Some people do espouse "gay friendly" politics, some people espouse "gay hostile" politics. Look at the Parliamentary debate last night over lesbian IVF. Such issues are complex and it doesn't help to retreat into entrenched dogmatic positions either way. Let's proceed on substantiated facts alone, not prejudice.
If indeed you are as "straight" as you claim, why are you so defensive about it? Homosexuality is practically absent from the social sphere and if you want to, you can avoid it easily. Perhaps you have what the Americans call "issues" ...
Contrary to what you may fear, minorities are not out to get you! Your neurosis about a tiny percentage of the population is unfounded, though it does mirror the hysteria about Jews in Germany just a few decades ago. History is full of examples of deluded majorities thinking they were being undermined by minorities of one sort or another.
Of course, democracy and civilization go hand-in-hand with tolerance and mutual respect. Even though you have set out to insult and inflame, you will have noticed how courteous I am being to you and your bitterly expressed views.

Andy Armitage said...

We're drawing an end to this strand of comments now. All that can be said has been said and the main protagonists have had an equal say. Thanks.