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DW2So, Ken Livingstone has said something dumb. Welcome to 1968 and just about every year since he first joined the Labour Party. It is now Saturday afternoon and Ken still hasn’t retracted what he said. It’s hardly a surprise. The only part of this that genuinely surprises is that it has taken until 2016 to pin something on him that might actually stick. ‘Red Ken’ might well be renamed ‘Dead Ken’ since it’s hard to see him reviving the corpse of his political career.

Consider, again, what he said on Thursday:

Let’s remember, when Hitler won his election in 1932, his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews.

The problem initially appears to be one of fact. He was asserting something about Hitler in 1932 that might or might not be correct. His defenders are already circulating memes highlighting the details of the Haavara Agreement which they claim supports Livingstone’s version of history. Newspapers are profiling the book ‘Zionism in the Age of the Dictators’.

Yet let’s try to be generous. Let’s accept that Ken is correct. Let us suppose that in 1932 Hitler did have a policy of moving German Jews to Israel. Let us be even more generous and accept that this amounts to ‘support’ for Zionism, even if that means stretching the definition of ‘support’ to breaking point. None of that actually helps Livingstone’s case because he should be focusing his attention on explaining the phrase ‘before he went mad’. It implies that there was a point at which Hitler lost the plot. Ken seems to be saying that, up to that point, Hitler was not mad. Livingstone is saying that Hitler’s position in 1932 was sane. He is suggesting that forcibly moving people from one country to another, in the name of ethnic cleansing, was the action of a rational man.

This, surely, is the point that Livingstone is singularly failing to address. We needn’t actually prove what Hitler’s policy was in 1932 because, really, it is of no significance to the argument at hand. We are discussing what Ken Livingstone believes was or was not a sign of sanity. And in Ken Livingstone’s own words, ‘before he went mad’, Hitler believed that ‘Jews should be moved to Israel’.

Ken has, of course, done Naz Shah a great service. How noble of him to leap in and distract the media from the anti-Semitic wittering of a former nobody and future political has been. At a time when Labour was being attacked for Naz Shah’s Facebook posts, Ken Livingstone tried to trip neatly around the facts and intellectualize the debate. He end up nose-planted in his own ordure.

It is habitual of the hard Left to embellish their politics with grandiloquent appeals to logic or the law. It is the thinking behind the ‘right to peaceful protest’ which begins with a protestor standing in front of police lines and taunting them in a way they think is legally acceptable. Told to move on, they sit down. Told to stand up, they chain themselves to a tree. It is, to leap momentarily across the Atlantic, the same twisted logic that preoccupies those protestors who believe they are acting in the finest ideals of democracy by silencing Donald Trump. Ken Livingstone wanted to blur the distinctions between good and bad, support and opposition, Zionism and anti-Zionism. It amounted to a embarrassing attempt at deconstructing history and was typical of many on the far Left who over think their positions.

Labour now finds itself with a problem but it’s a problem that the party has known about for a long time. Labour is deeply divided, at least inside Westminster, but the divisions are not simply between Old Labour and New. The Old Labour movement is itself fractured and it is simply naive (and unfair) to class all those to the left of left as anti-Semitic. Even the left are divided between the old style class warriors and a new breed of politician that panders to (or emerges from) the growing migrant underclass. George Galloway, for example, has made a career of eel-like wriggling and wriggled so far left that he eventually emerged on the far side of the far Left. Born in Dundee to a Scottish trade-unionist father and Irish mother, he has found a place for himself stirring the antagonism between cultures, slowly assimilating the dress, manner, language and (perhaps) even the religion of his largely Muslim electorate. It has allowed him to make a career on the periphery of the Labour movement, where easy votes are won among migrant communities eager to hear their MPs denounce Israel with every breath rather than work on local issues.

It was unsurprising, then, that Galloway emerged to comment on the Livingstone debacle. It’s the kind of performance that Galloway obviously relishes. He is also far too wily to make mistakes. Gorgeous George is the Supreme Leader Snoke to Livingstone’s Kylo Ken and when he appeared on Sky News to offer his judgment, Galloway was in blistering form.

Naz Shah’s, frankly, half witted scribblings were from before she was an MP and they were on Facebook. They were not like the two Palestinian children who were shot down dead in Jerusalem yesterday and left lying on the street like stray dogs. This is an entirely synthetic crisis. Ken Livingstone said absolutely nothing wrong. Everything he said was the truth. Historical fact. Proven. I’ve got the books. So should you. There was an agreement between the Nazi filth of Hitler and the Zionist leaders in Germany to send Germany’s Jews to Palestine.

As always, Galloway sounds like he’s appealing to the evidence. He gives with one hand (‘half-witted’ and ‘Nazi filth’) whilst taking even more away with the other. This might work fine except no news source — not even Twitter — has been reporting the death of two Palestinian children shot in Jerusalem in recent days. As of this moment, the best fit I can find is the shooting of a 23 year old Palestinian woman and her 16 year old brother, who were accused of attempting to stab an officer at a checkpoint. Their uncle’s accusation was that they were heading to a doctor’s appointment.

We cannot possibly authenticate either story but, really, in this case, we needn’t try. We need barely note that even if you consider 16 years to be a child, the same is not true of a 23 year old woman. Yet even if we accept Galloway’s characterisation as the death of two young people, we can still not explain Galloway’s own half-witted mumblings. How are Facebook posts in any way like ‘two Palestinian children who were shot dead in Jerusalem’? Galloway is implying there’s a comparison through a wild juxtaposition and, because of the force of his character, makes it sound almost logical. It was, however, simply a emotive non sequitur dropped into the argument to colour the water. It is misdirection, rhetorical gamesmanship, the art of magician making you look up so you ignore the shady goings on in your back pocket.

It is precisely the kind of double-talk that the Labour Party must now address. Both Livingstone and Galloway have always been adored and loathed in equal measure. Rarely talking the party line, they are individually gifted and blessed with a certain charisma. Yet both have developed a clever way of speaking around their points. They dance, they opine, they posture, but they rarely ever say what they truly mean. Jeremy Corbyn must now prove what he truly means when he says that there’s no place in the Labour Party for racism and he must face the problem of the many politicians on the far left who think we’re all too stupid to know what they’re saying when they try to sound clever.


10 Comments on "The Stupidity of Cleverness"

  1. The problem is Corbyn is further … in the direction of Galloway than Livingstone is. Corbyn has appeared and been lauded in various Iranian adventures. It doesn’t take any digging at all to find Corbyn’s form in this area. And much of the groundswell of Corbynism is from exactly the areas everyone things Corbyn with excise.

    Labour is fundamentally broken. It no longer speaks for British people, especially the working class. It’s had to appeal to worse and worse ideas, and should its current path stay, you can see Labour smashing the centre ground left MPs base, and just having a lunatic fringe pandering mob of idiots and declining deeply into a Labour party in the 2010 that look very like the Liberals from 90 years back.

    And should it not change course, thats where it will deserve to sit. Sidelined. Irrelevant. Pointless. Rudderless, Souless, Meaningless. The home of hard left communists, unionists, islamists and miscreants. The idea that you can somehow weld Labour ideals with abuse of women, children, islamist agendas, is one that is farce. How can you even use the word ‘equality’ in the same universe. Everyone sane knows you can’t.

  2. I didn’t get past your first sentence, Tim. Dumb? No.

    Do you remember I worked with you for years at Sky? Can’t you do me the courtesy of a response?

    • I’m not Tim. My name is below the title. Perhaps it was best that you didn’t get past my first sentence but I did you the courtesy of a response.

      As to whether what Ken said was dumb: perhaps you should read further before commenting on my judgement.

    • I’m confused. Often. Hello Geoff, I’ve just seen this, you made a statement, I published it, I didn’t see the need for a response. However, here is one –
      I don’t know if you mean ‘Hard left’ – dont be silly its not just the hard left, or,”hard left’ dont be silly its not the hard left doing this. No offence intended.

    • mahatmacoatmabag | 30th April 2016 at 10:19 pm | Reply

      By any chance Geoff did you any videotape editing for Dominic Waghorn when you were at Sky News?

  3. mahatmacoatmabag | 30th April 2016 at 8:08 pm | Reply

    Ken Livingstone like the rest of his colleagues in the Labour party can genuinely claim the insanity defence, unlike the voters who voted Blair & Labour into office 3 times in a row, they can only claim temporary insanity.

  4. Lesley Lubert | 30th April 2016 at 9:45 pm | Reply

    I am at a loss as to why Ken Deadstone has raised this matter now, can it be divine intervention to lose Labour votes at the upcoming elections?

    I imagine we all know Hitler was Jewish himself…his mother was Jewish, therefore the maternal line makes him a Jew. How he must have hated himself. What is more horrific, is how so many people blindly followed him. IS, and Assad are the present scourge of society, at least some attempts are being made to do something about it. However nowhere near enough where Assad is concerned.

  5. Paul Corrick | 3rd May 2016 at 3:47 pm | Reply

    Was this a clumsy attempt by Red Ken to equate Zionism with Nazism? Or somehow to say Israel was Hitler’s idea? Whatever his motives he has only stirred up a hornets nest but what is clear is Hitler was trying to profit by evicting Jews. Hitler did not like Zionists and did not support Zionism and to suggest otherwise is perverse and wrong. Labour does have a massive problem now with a vocal minority who believe in a Zionist or Jewish Conspiracy that includes Jews Controlling the banks or Jews controlling the media or Jews control the president of the United States etc. . . . The problem is often rooted within those who do not believe the Jewish People have the right like everyone else to self-determination and that Jewish people act together in some World Zionist plot to control everything and this is anti-Semitic to say so.

  6. The best line in this piece is: “We needn’t actually prove what Hitler’s policy was in 1932 because, really, it is of no significance to the argument at hand.”

    I completely agree. In the wider world, convoluted discussions (whether or not they involve history rewriting) leave people cold. They are so divorced from the reality of now, of the present.

    Many people are understandably sceptical of detailed argument that tries to prove something. Okay, so a certain Mr A. Hitler, as a young man, doesn’t appear to have been a hater of the Jewish people and had Jewish friends, I seem to remember reading once, but this was long before 1932 and by the time of the war, his policy was truly set and the result horrific.

    It might be of academic interest how he travelled from A to B, but it has no real or proper resonance. Like most of History, it is arrogant for the historian to claim we can learn from the story, and idiotic to argue that we HAVE learnt from it.

    If Red Ken and co have proved nothing else this week, it is that we never learn lessons – ever. We are doomed to appear to repeat mistakes simply because all events have one thing in common – they all had a human being attached to them, and humans have changed not one iota in the last couple of thousand of years.

    As for the Labour party, they are left with a problem that they will never solve. They may hunt down anti-Semites in their midst, but they will only find those that open their mouths, and they will be the minority. And this is true of all the other parties too.

    To a certain extent, having Ken set off his own personal bomb might be a blessing for the Labour Party. The general public has seen him as an idiot for so long, that it will be just “there goes Ken again.” It is almost a useful distraction.

    As we get to the end of this election today, will we know whether any of this has had an effect on polling?

    I doubt it because we really do not know what would have happened otherwise. So it will be down to the pundits and politicians to claim one way or another, probably citing history again to support their arguments.

    Sensible observers might be wise and just say, “Oh, look. Humans being human again.” And then look for the next shocking story which will have people running off to watch Bake Off as fast as they can.

    We do need to tackle intolerance, racism, anti-Semitism and all the other divisive instincts that dwell in society. But I somehow doubt that any of the current arguments and battles either within parties or across the benches will help in any way whatsoever.

    They will reduce serious human problems to slanging matches and political posturing.

    How sad.

  7. The problem is the root of Labour. It doesn’t give a shit about intolerance, racism, anti-semitism, equality, or anything else. Its a vehicle for come people to use to gain power, or access to power and it always has been.

    It ‘cares’ about immigration for example, and the extended problems of poverty, disenfranchisment, lack of education, social problems – because its fuel that feeds the monster. Without these things Labour loses its pithe and its reason for existing. Its always quite interesting when you delve because you find that the leftists seem then to re-create their own imperialism with housekeepers, cleaners, and cheap jobs from these people. If one was as deeply cynical as me you might even see it as a new form of very low end economics with a dose of slavery.

    But I digress. Getting back on the subject, the *reason* it’s imploded is that when you make it your core value that you take all kinds of ‘values’, like having Hamas and Hezbollah as Friends, or if you cosy up to the worst and most despicable despots, and tyrants, and then you try to play some crazy joker like caring about womens rights, ‘think of the children’ or better yet, ask Jewish people for their votes, somewhere along the line the bullshit collapses in on itself.

    The Labour party can now choose. It can be a party where radical, disgusting, foul, militant islamist shit gets peddled, said, whispered, or they can grow some balls and comprehend that it can’t stand. You can’t be the party of equality, liberty, fairness, (add in your own favourite spinning words and fantasy) and be the party of FGM, acid thrown on women and children, child abuse and child rape, kaffirphobia, fascism, stupidity, terrorism, and lets have a caliphate, and sectarian and antisemite hatred.

    And IF it really does make a real stand, it quickly ceases to be a party that operates in the segregated sectarian towns and thus – muslim vote winner. It loses the muslim vote but might eventually regain some middle ground and jewish vote.

    Eventually in the end, this isn’t a Labour issue. In the end this really ends up staring down the barrel where Islamist Muslims actually get held to account and their values get tarred and feathered in a way that leaves no room for them in any oxygenated public space whatsoever.

    And the sooner that happens the better. Red Ken is small beans compared to that core issue.

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