Ken Livingstone is a Labour politician. He was Mayor of London from 2000, when the post was created, until 2008, when he was defeated by Boris Johnson. He unsuccessfully contested the mayorship again in 2012. Mr Livingstone had previously been GLC leader (1981–1986), and MP for Brent East (1987–2001).
Answering an interview question about his religion in 2005, Livingstone stated:
- "I had no interest in religion. I am technically Church of England, I went to a Church of England primary school and my parents had me christened, but we never went near a church again except for a wedding or a funeral. My mum actually went to a spiritualist church to try and contact her relatives on the other side! And so I grew up totally without religion, I didn’t suffer from it as a child whereas some of my Catholic friends spent a lifetime recovering from brutality and beatings in the convent and so on. And I became an atheist by the time I was 11, I rejected all this mumbo-jumbo in favour of rational science."
Meeting Yusuf al-Qaradawi
In July 2004, Mr Livingstone welcomed Islamic scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi to London for a conference opposing a French ban on the wearing of the hijab. Al-Qaradawi has been accused of expressing "controversial" views on homosexuality, beating women, and suicide bombings which he justifies by referring to Islamic law. Livingstone was sharply criticised for the association in the media.
In January 2005 Mr Livingstone issued a document examining the claims made about Dr al-Qaradawi: http://web.archive.org/web/20050324203018/http://www.london.gov.uk/news/docs/qaradawi_dossier.rtf
To which Peter Tatchell responded: http://www.newstatesman.com/node/149786
Livingstone defended himself at 2008 Mayoral hustings saying:
- "Now, when I met him, later on that day, I put these points directly to him, and all I can do is tell you what he told me. He said that he was opposed to attacks on homosexuals, and you must obey the law of Islam, he was opposed to men striking women, and he believed the Jews and Christians, like Muslims, were Children of the Book.
- "Now, I am then asked to believe, that what I heard with my own ears, I should ignore, and rely instead on interpretations in a press which I never believed what they wrote about me.
- "Now, you're not going to get Sheik Qaradawi on a gay rights march, of course you're not. You're not going to get the Pope or the Chief Rabbi, or the Archbishop of Canterbury. I'm not aware of any religion which the leadership of is right out there at the front of the lesbian and gay rights march. But I made it clear when I introduced Qaradawi, that I was introducing him to a diverse city. I listened much more to Ilga(?), the largest lesbian and gay Muslim organisation in Europe, who were not in favour of banning him.
- "And I also say this: we will not change Islam from outside shouting at it, you've got to support people inside (unclear).
- "... I will engage with anyone from the Muslim community who denounces al-Qaeda and terrorist attacks. That he did. When you had the 9/11 bombings he went on his Muslim TV channel and urged Muslims round the world to give blood to the victims of 9/11. He denounced the attacks here. You're not going to get him on a lesbian and gay march, but he represents a more progressive strand in Islam than the Mahdavi sect, and I'd rather work and encourage, as I do with Tariq Ramadan, an engagement between Islam and the West, because I don't want a clash of civilisations. I want to work with the best elements in the Muslim world to actually come to some accommodation for the future."
Churches in the Community
During the 2008 mayoral election campaign, Ken Livingstone, Boris Johnson, Brian Paddick and Alan Craig took part in hustings organised by the Evangelical Alliance, with the candidates trying to gain votes from the Christian community. Mr Livingston was asked about difficulties faced by churches applying for planning permission, he indicated that in general they received planning permission, but was reported to have promised to ensure that churches or other religious places of worship are included in community planning and stated "People's faith needs are every bit as important as their housing needs"
In 2001 Livingstone set up Britain's first register for gay couples as a step towards equality under the law for same sex couples, even though the register did not have any legal status.
In 2010, in the run-up to the selection of Labour's London Mayoral candidate, Livingstone produced a document titled "A Mayor for Equality - Delivering for LGBT London" where he set out his achievements and proposed policies in the area.
As part of his 2012 election campaign, Mr Livingstone has claimed that the number of police officers has been cut by Boris Johnson, and he pledged to reverse this. In fact, the statistics are not so simple and it is difficult to apportion credit for the fluctuations (both up and down) in police numbers since 2008.
- http://ph.christianpost.com/article/europe/2/section/christians.quiz.mayoral.candidates.on.faith.issues/1.htm; mainstream report from these hustings: http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/faith/article2099143.ece (behind a paywall)