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Ken Livingstone

by: Leslie Bunder - Last updated: 2004-06-11

Ken Livingstone

Ken Livingstone

As London went to the ballot box on June 10 to vote for a new mayor for the capital, SomethingJewish invited all the candidates to respond to a series of questions on where they stand on general as well as specific issues. Find out what current mayor and Labour candidate Ken Livingstone said.

1. Why should Jewish Londoners vote for you?
Because of the work started over the last four years improving London. Compared to four years ago, we now have 5,000 more police, 1,000 more buses, 30 per cent less traffic congestion in the central area and a policy of zero tolerance of racism and anti-Semitism. I want to move on to bring the kind of improvements we have seen on the buses to the Tube and rail services and deploy locally based teams of police to every neighbourhood in London.

My administration has both fought racism and anti-Semitism and positively celebrated London's diversity as one of our city's greatest strengths. 

2. How have you worked with Jewish Londoners (either personally or professionally)?

I have held a series of meetings with the Board of Deputies of British Jews to understand and act upon the issues of concern to the Jewish community. I have also consulted Jewish organisations on all of the strategies - ranging from transport, culture and the environment - which the Greater London Authority is obliged to develop.

I have made clear publicly that London must be a city of zero tolerance for anti-semitism. To that end I have worked closely with the police to deal with every anti-semitic incident brought to my attention – such as the recent desecrations of Jewish cemeteries.

I have officially marked Holocaust Memorial Day in London every year since my election and I'm about to welcome back the Anne Frank Exhibition to City Hall for the second time.  I think it's very important that young people are educated about the holocaust.

I sponsored the Standing Together Against intolerance campaign that brought communities together across London together to oppose racist, anti-Semitic and other hate crimes.

I've met the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations and asked my staff to address this community's concerns about planning, housing sand transport. My supplementary planning guidance for new developments will include guidance on preserving uniqueness for example, housing developments should include provision for communities with large families.

3. What do you understand about Jewish life and culture and the contribution Jews have made to London life?

My broad view is that the entire modern humanist, liberal, progressive culture of today has its intellectual and historical origins in Judaism and the work of Jewish scholars and rabbis going back more than 2,000 years.

The contribution of generation after generation of Jewish people and communities across all fields of human achievement - the sciences, political thought, arts and culture - is simply astounding.

In London one of our first debts is to the role played by the Jewish community in the East End in confronting and defeating Moseley's Blackshirts in the 1930s.
Jewish Londoners have been around longer than virtually any other community and are inseparable from London's history and its prosperity.  I'm very proud to have such a community in this city. 

4. If elected mayor what would you do to help promote Jewish culture in London?

I will organise an official annual London Jewish cultural event to celebrate the contribution of the Jewish community to London and I will consult with the Jewish community on the content of this celebration.

I will include Jewish culture events, cuisine and other appropriate activities in the promotions of London like the Totally London campaigns which, last year for example, included promoting Jewish restaurants.

I will continue to mark and celebrate key Jewish festivals and support promotions like Jewish Book Week.

I would like to see a co-ordinated campaign promoting Jewish art, culture, music and history. I would also like to promote important places of worship - including some of the very beautiful synagogues -  as places for school visits. we could have a chain of buildings which young people could visit and improve their understanding of Londoners' faiths and cultures

5. What will you do to help facilitate better relations between ethnic and religious groups in London.
First and foremost, I will continue to promote understanding of different faiths and cultures. The ethos of my administration will remain one of celebrating London's diversity as one of its greatest strengths.

I want build on the work I've already done in partnership with community and faith groups to encourage communities to work together.  I will also continue to ensure that police take religious hate crime seriously and take swift action against perpetrators. My office will continue to promote Black-Jewish dialogue.

I formally meet London's faith leaders in meetings where all London's major faiths are represented - there are going to be differences between groups, obviously, but there is also always common ground and space for discussion. I am committed to supporting dialogue between all faiths and all communities and through my policies, my strategies, my equalities work and my dialogue with Londoners, I am going to continue that process with all the resources at my disposal.

6. What is your position on the conflict in the Middle East between Israelis and Palestinians and how do you think the situation can be resolved?
I believe that Israel should withdraw from the territories occupied in 1967. There should be an independent Palestinian state. Both Israel and the Palestinian state should exist within secure, internationally recognised borders.

7. They are calls by some to ban the practice of ritual slaughter of animals used for food. This practice is paramount to both the Jewish and Muslim faiths, what is your position on ritual slaughter of animals for food and do you support those who think it should be banned or those who do not want it banned.
I publicly condemned the proposal to ban the ritual slaughter of animals for food. I support campaigns such as the campaign on shechita and halal butchery where Muslims and Jews have a common interest in working together to uphold their cultural and religious rights. 

8.  What steps will you take to ensure that the rising tide of anti-Semitism is curbed?

I want to protect Jewish communities from attack and help educate young people and adults about Jewish culture and contribution of Jewish people to London.  I'll continue to work with the police and to promote tolerance, equalities and antiracism.  Last year I held a very successful conference on what towns and cities in the UK can do to promote anti-racism and cultural diversity and I am going to continue with that work.

Also, as a mayoral candidate I am going to campaign as hard as I can to ensure that there is no BNP member of the London Assembly  - that would be a disaster for London and for human rights.  It's important that everyone who wants to fight racism and anti-semitism turns out to vote and encourages their friends, family and colleagues to vote.  The BNP only needs 5 per cent to get a seat on the London Assembly, so let's not let this happen.

9. Name some Jewish people you admire and respect and tell us why?

From the immense galaxy of outstanding individuals, just think of Marx, Einstein and Freud, for example, I would single out Rabbi Hillel, a contemporary of Jesus, who was one of the originators of the concept of humanitarianism.
10. What is your favourite Jewish food and why?

One of my fondest memories as a candidate in Stoke Newington in 1977 was the ability to buy smoked salmon and cheesecake from the same Jewish bagel bakery.

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Ken Livingstone