... Ken's leadership of the GLC was a triumph or a travesty, depending on who you ask, and few periods in London's modern political history have been more written-about and discussed. Less well- rehearsed is Ken's shadowy relationship with the Workers' Revolutionary Party.
The WRP is often associated with Vanessa Redgrave, the actress, because of the support she and her actor brother, Corin, gave it. But it was led by Gerry Healy, a bully and sexual predator who was accused of coercing women party members into "cruel and systematic debauchery", as one of his alleged victims put it.
When Healy died in 1989, Ken spoke at his funeral. He said the then defunct WRP (and by association, Healy) had been the casualties of an MI5 operation "because they believed it (the party) was becoming too pivotal in terms of domestic policies". This produced derisive laughter among serious figures on the Left. Ken was being silly again.
The WRP was a ragbag of factionalism and back- stabbing that imploded under the pressure of its own ineffectuality. The publicity it received because of the Redgrave connection and Healy's cavortings certainly raised its profile, but not in a sense that gave it political relevance.
That is not to say MI5 was uninterested. There is evidence to show that during the early 1980s the WRP received money from two dictators about whom Britain had grave suspicions: Colonel Gaddafi of Libya and Saddam Hussein of Iraq. The WRP, in return, spied on alleged enemies of these regimes based in Britain.
The party also peddled a virulent anti-Israel and anti-Zionist - some would say anti-Semitic - message through its daily newspaper, News Line.
Ken Livingstone was with them every step of the way. He was an editor of Labour Herald, a soft-Left paper many suspected of supporting Trotskyite entryism into the Labour Party. The paper was printed by a firm based in Runcorn, Cheshire, which also printed News Line and publications sponsored by the Libyan government.
When Private Eye ran a piece claiming Ken Livingstone, then leader of the GLC, was editing a paper financed by the Libyans he successfully sued for libel. It has to be remembered that at that time Gaddafi was encouraging the assassination of his political opponents abroad and wiping them out at home. In 1984 his thugs fired on demonstrators outside the Libyan embassy in St James's Square, killing WPC Yvonne Fletcher.
Although no one doubts Gaddafi was subsidising News Line and Labour Herald there is absolutely no evidence Ken knew about it. But he did support the WRP when it published an extraordinary anti-Jewish rant in News Line.
On 20 March 1983, BBC2 ran an investigation on its Money Programme. Its central thesis was that the WRP's newspaper, Ken's Labour Herald and other publications were being funded by Gaddafi. Looking at the transcript today one sees a thorough, rather measured, piece of journalism. The response was quite different.
Under the heading The Zionist Connection, News Line published an editorial denouncing the Money Programme's investigation. It blamed a "powerful Zionist connection" that ran through the Labour Left, Mrs Thatcher's government, to the BBC. It cited the placing of Stuart Young, a director of the Jewish Chronicle, as chairman of the corporation and the appointment of his brother, David Young, to head the Manpower Services Commission. The Jewish Chronicle, the editorial noted, gave "support and advance publicity" to the Money Programme.
On the day of its hysterical editorial News Line ran a piece in which Ken suggested the Money Programme report was indeed the work of Zionists. In the same piece he blamed "smears" against him on agents working for Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin's government.
Interestingly, Ken's Labour Herald ran a cartoon depicting Begin in the uniform of an SS officer, making the Nazi salute. Some might imagine this was inspired by precisely the same mindset that led to Ken calling Oliver Finegold a Nazi concentration camp guard.
After the News Line tirade, Ken was tackled about anti-Semitism by Sean Matgamna, the Trotskyite theorist and an iconic figure on the Left. Matgamna, now in his mid-sixties, was one of the WRP's most severe critics.
He told me: "The WRP ceased to be a political organisation and was merely a group paid for by Islamic regimes. They were spying on dissident Arabs and Jews for Gaddafi and Saddam, here in London.
"The WRP was taking money from Libya to subsidise Livingstone's paper. He had an accommodation with the WRP. After they ran that piece in News Line, we said to Livingstone: 'That editorial was anti-Semitic - where do you stand on it? Should we shrug our shoulders and accept that anti-Semitism is a legitimate part of the Left?' Livingstone didn't answer."
Read the whole piece, in the Standard, by Keith Dovkants, here.
For more on Ken Livingstone, see here.
Ken Livingstone, Gerry Healy, MI5, Libyan money and the Zionist connection
Added by David Hirsh on April 17, 2008 08:46:03 PM.