Progress | Centre-left Labour politics

An open letter to Ken Livingstone

Dear Ken,

I was there at Edgware Road on July 7 2005 when Mohammad Sidique Khan detonated a bomb killing Laura Webb, Colin Morley, Jennifer Nicholson, David Foulkes, Jonathan Downey and Michael Brewster, and maiming many others.

The scenes at Edgware Road were beyond description. I returned to the station for the first time this year on the 10th anniversary of these horrific attacks and spoke to station staff who were there on the day.

Ken, your comments don’t just make me extremely angry – they are a betrayal to the bravery of the station staff, the emergency services and the ordinary citizens who stepped forward on that day. I don’t think any of my fellow passengers were thinking that Tony Blair had done this. I don’t think anyone was thinking that this was understandable given we had decided to go to war in Iraq.

What I saw was people hanging together, united by their humanity – humanity you appear to have lost, Ken – regardless of their nationality or their religion. From the woman who worked for South West Trains on her way to a shift, who calmed the panicked businessman who wanted to jump out onto the live rails; to the young man who gave his iPod to two German children scared to their wits end in order to calm them down; to the people who left the carriage to go further down the train to see if they could help and assist those screaming in agony and fear.

I could go on, but I won’t. But let’s be clear exactly what Khan did say:

We are at war and I am a soldier. Now you too will taste the reality of this situation …

‘I myself, I myself, I make dua (pray) to Allah … to raise me amongst those whom I love like the prophets, the messengers, the martyrs and today’s heroes like our beloved Sheikh Osama Bin Laden, Dr Ayman al-Zawahri and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and all the other brothers and sisters that are fighting … this cause.

These people’s teachings advocated an attack on our liberal, humanitarian values long before Iraq, long before 9/11.

It’s why a week after the attacks, I decided it was important to stand with you in Trafalgar Square with Seb Coe, the chief rabbi, the general secretary of the British Muslim Council and a host of other civic leaders to say we will not be cowed.

This is what you said when responding to the attacks back then:

Those who came here to kill, last Thursday, had many goals, but one was that we should turn on each other like animals trapped in a cage, and they failed. They failed. Totally and utterly …

‘And out of this tragedy, let us redouble our efforts to build a better city for our children and our grandchildren and lift our hearts, rather than worry about who to blame or who to hate.

I could only say amen to that. I left that square with hope. It fitted with my memory of the atrocities a week earlier, and with the immediate response of those I was with.

Yesterday was not the first time you have offended me. Nor do I care too much for your position on any matter of foreign and defence policy.

What makes me angry is you have betrayed not just the memory of those of us who were there, not just the people of London, but you have betrayed yourself. Your sentiments on Question Time last night were said in anger. They were said for the purpose of political division and advantage, but this is not how to rediscover our purpose as a democratic socialist party.

This morning I read once again the back of my membership card.

To remind you it reads thus:

The Labour party is a democratic socialist party. It believes that by the strength of our common endeavour we achieve more than we achieve alone, so as to create for each of us the means to realise our true potential and for all of us a community in which power, wealth and opportunity are in the hands of the many, not the few, where the rights we enjoy reflect the duties we owe, and where we live together, freely, in a spirit of solidarity, tolerance and respect.

Every time I read this it reaffirms that I am in the right party pursuing the right cause. You, Ken, however leave me in no doubt. Your words, your actions show me you do not – no matter what your achievements. You legitimise the action of evil terrorists if you want to, but our party, our city, and our country deserves better from its official opposition.


Joe Goldberg is cabinet member for finance on Haringey council and tweets @joedgoldberg


Photo: BBC Question Time


This post is republished with permission from the author

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Joe Goldberg

is a Labour councillor for Seven Sisters ward in Haringey


  • Unfortunately, for those squawking the most loudly on Twitter and elsewhere, it appears that the previous Director General of MI5 (2002-2007) Eliza Manningham-Buller, also supported the position taken by Ken Livingstone on Question Time:

    A year after the invasion, she said MI5 was “swamped” by leads about terrorist threats to the UK.

    “Our involvement in Iraq, for want of a better word, radicalised a whole generation of young people, some of them British citizens who saw our involvement in Iraq, on top of our involvement in Afghanistan, as being an attack on Islam,” she said, before immediately correcting herself by adding “not a whole generation, a few among a generation”.

    The ex-MI5 chief said she shared her concerns that the Iraq invasion would increase the UK’s exposure to terrorism with the then home secretary David Blunkett, but did not “recall” discussing the matter with Prime Minister Tony Blair.

    MI5 did not “foresee the degree to which British citizens would become involved” in terrorist activity after 2004, she admitted.

    “What Iraq did was produce fresh impetus on people prepared to engage in terrorism,” she said, adding that she could produce evidence to back this up.

    “The Iraq war heightened the extremist view that the West was trying to bring down Islam. We gave Bin Laden his jihad.”

    As a result, she said she was not “surprised” that UK nationals were involved in the 7/7 bombings in London.

    As reported during the Chilcott inquiry 20/07/2010, link below:

  • I understood giving their lives was to them a privilege and a fulfilment of their ambition.livingstine, McDonell and Corbin would in those countries they support be rotting in some insanitary gaol.
    Here they are given the chance to abuse the liberties this country offers and have managed to organise like minded people to give them positions of power and we are now seeing how they manipulate our democratic values

  • Agree with Ken Livingston on this one, but am concerned if you are upset by what he has said. We may have fundamentally different attitudes but we have killed a lot of people in the Middle East over the years and played our part in upsetting many people.

  • Are you aware that we are already dropping bombs on ISL but in Iraq, will it make these people even angrier if we drop them in Syria bearing in mind that ISL. recognise no boundary between the two.
    Dame Manningham Buller would of course be ifentified as an appeaser the last time we took up arms against a similar threat

  • You fucking idiot. You are an all too typical labour fanatic. Bin Liner tried to blow up the twin towers in 1993, whose fault is that? What possible reason can you give to support his action. Dickheads like you are the reason labour is a turd being flushed into electoral oblivion.

  • Rather rude – I am a Middle Class Psychotherapist and object to your abusive language. I am concerned about Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership skills and do not know whether that is sustainable in the long term. I also believe in careful and accurate analysis. My post is hardly offensive, just clear and logical. Feel free to look at your hostility towards someone you do not actually know, but can be abusive towards, nevertheless.

  • Psycotherapise this. You’re a dick. Your blind support of the current Labour party is the reason it’s going down the shitter. I for one am glad, in its current form it should be proscribed. Why did bin Liner try to blow up the twin towers in 1993?

  • What an ignorant diatribe. Make all the assumptions you like, but you know nothing of my political views about a whole host of matters. Frankly, you show a scant regard for your fellow human being and I would appreciate you managing your inaccurate rudeness in a more mature way. I voted for Yvette Cooper in the leadership contest and am certainly not hard left by any manner of means, just not an ignorant, angry idiot!

  • Are you sure you’re qualified to be a psychotherapist if you can’t handle bad language and dismiss everyone you don’t agree with as ignorant? I’d be shouting ‘cunt’ at every available opportunity if you were mine.

  • It’s true. We’ve upset Assad, Saddam Hussein, Colonel Gaddafi, Ayatollah Khomeini, the list is endless. Upsetting these people is absolutely the wrong thing to do isn’t it Martyn.

  • Quite right about us, but what about the peace-lovng, Thais. Philippinos, Indonesians, and many others across SE Asia who are attacked by Muslims on a daily basis?

  • I am very happy dealing with bad language. Just think you are a bit of a twat, if you need to shout ‘cunt’ at every available opportunity during a reasoned discussion.

  • I thought that the Head of Mi5 said that the war on Iraq would probably lead to an increased security threat in the UK. I don’t know why you think that this makes me a Jihadi sympathiser.

  • We’ve played our part in upsetting people. Yes we have. But they were upset before we arrived. The Kurds were upset their villages were being nerve gassed by their President, for example.

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