London mayoral election gay hustings: Ken Livingstone urges Muslims be treated fairly

15:57 14 April 2012

London mayoral candidates (left - right) Jenny Jones, Brian Paddick, Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone attend the London Gay Mayoral Hustings hosted by Stonewall at the British Film Institute

London mayoral candidates (left - right) Jenny Jones, Brian Paddick, Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone attend the London Gay Mayoral Hustings hosted by Stonewall at the British Film Institute

Ken Livingstone has called for Londoners to be united after claiming that it is “the Muslims’ turn now” to be discriminated against.

Mr Livingstone said he would like to see Muslims depicted in a “better balance”.

Labour’s London mayoral candidate, who is competing to take back City Hall from Conservative Boris Johnson, also claimed that right-wing politicians “pander to bigotry”.

He said: “In 1906 the front page of the Daily Mail’s headline was ‘Jews bring crime and disease to Britain’.

“Then it was the blacks, then it was the Irish, then it was the lesbians and gays - there has always got to be an enemy.

“Right-wing politicians pander to bigotry.

“I remember the deputy leader of the Tory group at the GLC, when we launched our lesbian and gay policies, said to me ‘Every time I make a homophobic speech in Ruislip-Northwood I get an extra 1,000 votes’.

“It is the Muslims’ turn now. Don’t be divided.

“No Muslims ever came to me and said ‘I want homosexuality banned’. Muslims came to this city to flee oppressive culture. They came here so their children could have democracy, that they could achieve their best.”

Mr Livingstone was referring to comments he made while visiting Finsbury Park Mosque on March 16.

He is reported to have said he wants to make London a “beacon” that demonstrates the words of the Prophet Mohammed - particularly his last sermon, which preaches equality.

Mr Livingstone made his comments as London’s mayoral candidates appealed to the gay community for votes.

During Stonewall’s hustings at BFI Southbank, Mr Livingstone took a verbal blow from rival Mr Johnson.

The flamboyant Tory made a joke about Mr Livingstone’s party political broadcast.

The election film features Londoners urging him to win the race - the clip moved Mr Livingstone to tears.

Mr Johnson said: “I will just say to my old chum on my right, Ken Livingstone, he is not the only person capable of shedding hot tears of real emotion at the prospect of his return to power in this city.”

But then Green candidate Jenny Jones took a swipe at Mr Johnson, calling the new Routemaster buses an “ego project”.

She said: “It is interesting with the budget that we have got at City Hall - it is clear that quite often there are little ego projects that get under way and I would say that the new bus for London is one of those projects that is costing far too much.”

Liberal Democrat candidate Brian Paddick, former deputy commissioner of the Met Police and Britain’s most senior openly gay officer, said that there needs to be a “culture of change” at Scotland Yard.

He said: “A poll the other week showed that 20 per cent of Londoners do not believe that the police are on their side and I think that proportion may even be higher because of the history that the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community has had, particularly with laws which specifically discriminated against men and the enthusiasm with which the police enforced those laws.

“There needs to be an absolute culture change in the police.

“What I promise you is if I become the mayor and the crime commissioner on May 3, I will put that pressure on to deal with racism and homophobia within the police.”

Stonewall chief executive Ben Summerskill said: “It’s really impressive that all of the main mayoral candidates wanted to engage lesbian, gay and bisexual Londoners - something that would have been unthinkable 15 or 20 years ago.

“What was particularly interesting was that many of the people in the audience were completely undecided about how they were going to vote, so clearly no one should take London’s 350,000 gay voters for granted.”

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