Bright’s fright night
(Tuesday 22 January 2008)
Martin Bright’s feeble TV hatchet job on London Mayor Ken Livingstone may have missed its target, but it speaks volumes for the pro-war ‘left,’ writes ANDREW MURRAY.
THE most remarkable moment in this week’s partisan hatchet job on London Mayor Ken Livingstone on Channel 4 was not in fact about the mayor at all.
It was the moment when reporter Martin Bright, in the course of a segment about Venezuela, dismissed the Chavez regime in terms straight from the Bush State Department handbook – allied to Iran, associated with cocaine-smuggling guerillas and accused of human rights abuses.
With that passing phrase, Bright managed to align himself with the global neocon agenda on the Middle East and Latin America as well as the matter ostensibly in hand.
For make no mistake, the travesty of journalism that was the Dispatches programme reveals two things above all. First, getting Livingstone out of office is now priority number one for the warmongering, Muslim-bashing neocon “left.” Second, they are now prepared to openly embrace even the reactionary Toryism of Boris Johnson in order to further this end.
One of only two people can be elected mayor this year – Livingstone or Johnson. And Bright, seconded by his soulmate Nick Cohen in The Observer, has effectively come out for a Johnson victory, so great is his venom against anything even approximating to an authentic socialist left.
That was made abundantly clear in the Evening Standard, in which Bright hyperventilated on his personal mission to see the mayor driven out of office.
“I feel it is my duty,” he intoned with a pomposity worthy of a higher office than political reporter on a small-circulation weekly, “to warn the London electorate that a vote for Livingstone is a vote for a bully and a coward who is not worthy to lead this great city of ours.”
Bright himself has form working to the agenda of the global right. He teamed up with the Policy Exchange, which is run by charter neocon and former Daily Telegraph chief leader-writer Dean Godson, to produce a pamphlet telling Britain’s Muslims how they should behave.
This venture earned him a public commendation from Richard Perle, the leading imperial strategist for the Reagan and Bush administrations and one of the chief boosters of the Iraq war in Washington. The Policy Exchange has since been accused of fraudulent research in a subsequent Muslim-baiting television programme.
Research was not an issue for “BoJo” Bright. When the shadow secretary of state for business and enterprise Alan Duncan popped up in the programme in the guise of a “former oil trader” to bear expert witness on Venezuela, we knew that we were not really in the realm of Woodward and Bernstein but in the party political broadcast zone.
A similar incidence of “research-light” was the risible interview with Marc Wadsworth, a former anti-racist activist who sensationally announced that some of Livingstone’s advisers were affiliated to the “Communist Fourth International based in Moscow.” Did no-one bother poor “Bright” with the news that the Communist International and the Fourth International were two entirely different and bitterly opposed bodies and that the latter has never ever been based in Moscow, a famously inhospitable location for Trotskyists?
As for the attack on “Socialist Action,” surely John Ross, Redmond O’Neill and the rest can, after eight years, be judged on their contribution to the running of London rather than their membership of any particular political group. This is simply McCarthyism at a puerile Daily Express level, an attempt to scare the Tories of Orpington and High Barnet into getting to the polls in May before the Soviet comes to town.
There was Peter Tatchell passing through as a “former informal adviser” to the mayor, which does not sound very much like being on the inside track but did give him the opportunity to reprise his riff about the left having let him down by hanging out with dodgy Muslims once more.
And then came star exhibit Atma Singh, who I recall from years back as an amiable bloke but a couple of contradictions short of the full dialectic as a Marxist, who revealed a plot hatched by the Livingstoneites in 2000 to not only “make London economically powerful” but to do so in the interests of a “bourgeois democratic revolution,” which all sounds harmless enough. Bright didn’t ask Singh why he stuck around City Hall on a salary for a further five years advancing such devilish work.
Singh’s turn was accompanied by an unsourced allegation of a quote by Ross urging the workers to kill the capitalists, but this is presumably some sort of a misunderstanding, since that is not how “bourgeois democratic revolutions” carry on. Nor does it correspond to the actual conduct of economic life in contemporary London where, sad to say, oligarchs pass to and fro unscathed.
“BoJo” Bright’s own tuppence-worth was to slag the mayor off for endeavouring to “impose a personal agenda on the city.” Hello? That’s what politicians get elected to do – when they win, they’re allowed to. But then Bright also felt that “undermining the opposition” was somehow beyond the democratic pale, which suggests that his grasp on the conduct of democratic political life is unsteady.
It took the programme a full 50 minutes to get to any issue of relevance in the forthcoming mayoral election and when that issue did arrive – the congestion charge – it became completely unclear what point Bright was trying to make, although it seemed to turn on the notion that having fewer cars going through central London did not reduce congestion. Whatever.
Now, if all this had either been billed as a piece of Tory Party propaganda or had been balanced with other points of view, one could have merely enjoyed the parade of the embittered and the never-weres waffling on about Trotskyism, how they never got to meet O’Neill and the mayor wasn’t taking them seriously.
The bemused bloke from Stoke Newington who said that he hadn’t seen anything or anyone next door for three years or maybe longer – the man could be a Dispatches reporter soon – was a personal favourite, run a close second by the Liberal lady who claimed that a glass of wine before a meeting was fine, but a glass of whisky during it probably wasn’t.
But, as an investigation of the problems of governing London, it was a travesty of journalism and a prostitution of Channel 4 to a hard-right, neocon agenda.
The giveaway, apart from Bright’s little anti-Chavez rant, was the ringing endorsement that the programme received from Nick Cohen in The Observer last weekend. He picked up on some of Bright’s allegations at the weekend and threw in the corpse of the long-dead Gerry Healey, with which he seems to have developed a mildish fixation, for good measure.
Cohen, remember, is the dining companion of Iraq war mastermind and disgraced World Bank boss Paul Wolfowitz – see, this stuffed-by-association stuff is pretty damn easy – and the man who sold us the Iraq war on the grounds that CIA chancer and bank fraudster Ahmed Chalabi was Iraq’s answer to Nelson Mandela.
Chalabi won no seats at all in the Iraqi elections, even with The Observer’s backing. So, Cohen’s decision to call for a vote for Boris “piccaninnies” Johnson in preference to Livingstone, thus presumably completing his journey across the political spectrum – although there is still room for further movement if he really is indifferent to racism – is by no means bad news for the mayor.
At any event, the best efforts of the Perle-Wolfowitz “left” to smear Livingstone will have the sure and certain effect of consolidating anti-war, trade union and generally decent London opinion behind him.
And everyone should now firmly and finally grasp this about Bright, Cohen and the rest of the pro-war, anti-Muslim Western supremacist “left” – they are not left at all. When the chips are down, they back a Tory rather than a left-wing victory.