The Daily Toast: Ken Livingstone, Mental Health And The New Politics

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Ken Livingstone’s attack on Kevan Jones’ depression is typical of the hard activist Left. They are happy to use the poor, the sick and other minorities as cynical campaign props, but hate it when they dare to speak for themselves

Today’s Daily Toast goes to James Kirkup for his furious, relentless evisceration of Ken Livingstone in the Telegraph.

Some context: When Red Ken was unexpectedly appointed to co-lead the Labour Party’s upcoming defence policy review (bringing his open minded attitude toward vital questions like Trident renewal), the Labour MP Kevan Jones – who had previously spoken out in a parliamentary debate, attempting to reduce the stigma of mental illness by revealing his own struggles – raised political concerns about whether Livingstone was the right person for the job.

And in response to Kevan Jones airing his political concerns, Livingstone responded with an extraordinarily personal attack:

Mr Livingstone told the Mirror: “I think he might need some psychiatric help. He’s obviously very depressed and disturbed.

“He should pop off and see his GP before he makes these offensive comments.”

So this is the New Politics that we were promised with the Jeremy Corbyn era – more of the same coarse, unbecoming personal insults that we have always had.

It’s no surprise. Because many on the Left see themselves as the only virtuous people in town – the sole custodians of the nation’s morals – they think that somehow it “doesn’t count” when they say rude, aggressive, condescending, racist or sexist things. They believe are allowed to get away with it because they spend their careers policing the debate and controlling the language, casting out anyone else who says or thinks the wrong thing. Just like a corrupt cop might consider themselves above the law, so the egotistical leftist believes that they have carte blanche to cross any of the lines that they draw to constrain the rest of us.

All of which makes Kirkup’s takedown of Livingstone so satisfying – and worthy of the Daily Toast:

I believe in civilised debate and generally try to avoid throwing around personal abuse when writing about politics. But there’s no way of being polite or restrained about this. Ken Livingstone’s words are vile, a poisonous act that would leave him consumed by shame if he had a shred of decency.

Yet he’s standing by those comments. He told the London Evening Standard: “It doesn’t matter what disorders he’s got, he doesn’t have the right to be rude … to be constantly undermining Jeremy Corbyn.”

This is utterly hateful. Mr Livingstone he hasn’t just grotesquely insulted Mr Jones, denigrating his suffering and his bravery, he has sent a brutal message to anyone else who suffers mental illness: stay quiet or you’re fair game.

Even if he wasn’t part of a leadership team that had so piously promised a nicer, kinder politics and to embrace open political debate, Mr Livingstone’s behaviour would be disgusting. The staggering hypocrisy involved just compounds his disgrace.

And if Mr Corbyn does not act quickly and firmly, by dropping Ken Livingstone into the deep dark hole of political obscurity where cockroaches like him belong, he deserves to share every bit of that disgrace.

Ken Livingstone was eventually forced to apologise for his behaviour, but was unable to stay contrite and was soon walking back his apology with justifications and angry asides to journalists.

The Labour Party – and the British Left in general – can’t have it both ways. They can’t spend half the time prancing around pretending to be high-minded emissaries of the New Politics, holding hands and singing Kumbaya, and then spend the other half acting like vicious thugs, smearing people because of their mental health conditions or whipping their activists up into a Tory-hating, phlegm-lobbing rage. It’s time to pick a side.

And yet Ken Livingstone is perfectly entitled to say mean or ignorant things about his fellow MPs in public if he chooses. That much is a fundamental free speech issue, so let’s see no talk about Parliament needing to be a “safe space” where coddled MPs need to be praised and affirmed at all times.

However, the question here is not one of free speech, but one of hypocrisy. Ken Livingstone and much of the virtue-signalling Left love to use the mentally ill, the poor and other groups as cynical campaign props, showering them with ostentatious sympathy in order to make themselves look good and pick up votes. But as soon as one of those same people becomes a threat – whether it’s a former welfare recipient questioning the welfare state or a fellow MP simply raising a political objection – suddenly the tribal thuggishness comes out and the Left’s feigned concern for the disadvantaged is revealed as the sham that it is.

That’s the real story here. Yes, Ken Livingstone’s behaviour was boorish and inexcusable, but he’s a left wing bruiser and unlikely to change his ways any time soon. But this incident was just the most high profile recent example of behaviour that is not uncommon on the Left: behind the friendly faces, the talk of inclusivity and a new, kinder politics, too often there lurks a hardened, egotistical ideologue who always responds to criticism by lashing out.

So by all means let’s haul Red Ken over the coals – certainly Corbyn should publicly condemn Livingstone if the Labour Party’s newfound passion for mental health is to be taken seriously – but let’s not pretend that this incident is anything other than standard behaviour from a certain segment of the activist Left.

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