Boris & Ken, Churchill & Hitler, Good & Evil
It was with some amusement that His Grace read the latest splutterings of
The context of the comments? In a Total Politics interview, Ken Livingstone was asked why people should vote for him next year. He joked:
"It's a simple choice between good and evil – I don't think it's been so clear since the great struggle between Churchill and Hitler… The people that don't vote for me will be weighed in the balance, come Judgement Day. The Archangel Gabriel will say, 'You didn't vote for Ken Livingston in 2012. Oh dear, burn forever. Your skin flayed for all eternity.'… I'll come round with a serious pitch nearer the time."And he also gave his take on the News International relationship with politicians:
"Boris was the News International candidate last time, and he will be this time. That is why he was still defending News International after the Milly Dowler revelations… When Boris and George Osborne are locked in a death throe to succeed Cameron, the Mail will vote for Osborne. The Telegraph will vote for Boris because the Barclay brothers have been grooming him for years, and they want access to a prime minister. So the big media focus is the group in contention – News International. Osborne has been very close to them and Boris needs at least to have them neutral."He doubts Boris' motivation as mayor:
"I'm coming in with all these ideas, whereas Boris came in and thought, 'Oh, shit, I didn't expect to win this. What am I going to do next?' I think he was horrified (to win)."And he stresses that he's physically ready for the mayoral fight:
"I've got a low cholesterol level. My doctor says I've got the same heart profile as an Olympic runner. I can't run like a champion athlete, but I can cope with a lot of stress… (My teeth) are shit. That's the weakness."And so The Daily Mail spouts forth its condemnation, quoting (anonymous) Labour frontbenchers who want Livingstone replaced. And the Mail helpfully includes pictures of ‘Winston Churchill (L) and... Hitler’ (they don’t specify ‘(R)’, but there are only two images, so they trust their readers with a process of elimination). Conservative Gavin Barwell MP said: “Londoners need a mayor who will unite our city, not one who regards people who don't share his views as evil.”
And The Evening Standard carried similar condemnatory splash, quoting ‘a source close to Mr Johnson's campaign’ as saying: "We always knew that Ken was a nasty, divisive character who would fight a dirty campaign but the Labour leader must surely distance himself from these, and similar comments, made in recent times and clarify to Londoners that this is not how his party conducts itself in 21st century democratic politics."
It is really quite sad that in order to be a politician one must have a humour bypass. Ken Livingstone obviously spoke in jest, not least because he ascribed to the Angel Gabriel the judgement that belongs to Christ: it is not for mere angels to divide the sheep from the goats and despatch the latter to the everlasting lake of fire. And skin-flaying is actually qur’anic; not biblical. So, theologically, Ken is all over the place and clearly intended his comments to be taken in jest. A further clue may be found in ‘I'll come round with a serious pitch nearer the time’.
Ken made his comments in a spirit of good humour during a light-hearted interview. Boris makes a living out of oral hyperbole: indeed, only a few months ago, amidst a row over housing benefit reforms, he referred to ‘Kosovo-style social cleansing’ in London, after Ken had described Boris’ Chief of Staff Edward Lister as ‘the Ratko Mladic of local government’. Frankly, His Grace thanks God that there are a few political characters still on the stage who aren’t afraid to use humour, hyperbole or colourful language.
Next year’s mayoral battle is not between Churchill and Hitler, and neither is it a struggle between good and evil: it is a democratic contest between a refined Tory reformer who says ‘piffle’, and a fossilised Socialist who says ‘shit’.
There is, quite simply, no competition.