KEN LIVINGSTONE, the former Labour MP and runaway favourite in the race to be elected Mayor of London on May 4, has today caused outrage in the British press over comments made in this week’s issue of NME, cover dated April 15 and out in London today.
The independent candidate, who has been expelled from the Labour Party over his mayoral campaign, sparked controversy by calling for a softening of the government’s approach to drugs legislation and by comparing international financial bodies to Hitler.
He claimed the war against drugs was “over” and that “we could consider decriminalising things like ecstasy and cannabis”. He added: “Drugs are not all the same. Ecstasy is clearly not addictive, cannabis is clearly not the same as booze. For every person killed by drugs, 90 are killed by fags.”
The Leah Betts Action for Drugs Awareness and two of Mr Livingston‘s election opponents slammed the remarks claiming them to be an attempt to harnass the young London vote.
Jan Betts, mother of Leah Betts the teenager who famously died after Ecstasy and who set up the Action Group in her memory, told both The Sun and The Mirror newspapers “his comments are a cheap gimmick to try and win the votes of young people. He would think differently if he lost a member of his family.”
Steve Norris, the Conservative MP and mayoral rival, told The Sun, “To play fast and loose with something that has cost lives is absolutely unacceptable,” while the Labour Party’s official candidate Frank Dobson said: “Parents in London will be very concerned because everyone knows both these substances are harmful and decriminalising them will encourage their use.”
Livingstone, nicknamed Red Ken because of his avowed hard left policies during his time as leader of the Greater London Council (GLC) during the early eighties, stoked further debate by his Hitler remark.
He said: “The IMF and World Bank are still appalling, and now the World Trade Organisation too. All over the world people die unnecessarily because of the international financial system. Every year the international financial system kills more people than World War II. But at least Hitler was mad.”
Ken Livingstone features as cover star of the NME this week in the London area only. Elsewhere Paul Weller appears. His ‘Heliocentric’ album was released yesterday (April 11). It’s the only time in the paper’s 48 year history that a regionally spilt cover with identical content inside has been run.
And as announced yesterday on nme.com, the NME backed All Back To Ken’s fundraiser at London’s Astoria, this Thursday (April 13) has sold out.
Proceeds from the night, which features Fatboy Slim, Darren Emerson and Paul Oakenfold, will go towards the cost of Livingstone‘s campaign.
The April 15 issue of NME hits the shops in the rest of the UK tomorrow.