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Ken Livingstone to fight 2012 London mayoral election

By Dipankar De Sarkar, IANS,

London : Ex-mayor Ken Livingstone invoked the spectre of resurgent racism at an event packed by Indian-origin Labour supporters here to declare his intention to fight the 2012 London mayoral elections.

“I actually support the government policy that we should work longer – I intend to. And I intend to apply for another job in four years’ time – and it’s the one that Boris Johnson’s got,” Livingstone told an applauding dinner audience of more than 500 people in the west London suburb of Ruislip.

The banquet was hosted by Indian-origin MP Virendra Sharma to mark the first anniversary of his election from Southall constituency.

Livingstone, who was ousted as London mayor after eight years in office in May, accused his successor Boris Johnson of the Conservative Party of fomenting racial divisions in the British capital.

“In the last eight years, one after another, mayors from around the world came and asked again and again, how is it that in this city we’ve made multiculturalism work – so many different communities and faiths and (people of) different nationalities living side by side in remarkable harmony,” Livingstone said.

“It’s under assault. There’s a really unpleasant tide of division coming through from the right,” he said, adding this trend was reflected in “some of the early resignations from Boris Johnson’s administration – people that don’t welcome that diversity.”

Johnson’s deputy chief of staff James McGrath was forced to quit his post in late July after advising Caribbean immigrants to “go home” if they did not like London.

Livingstone also accused Johnson of removing the City Hall advertising strapline, ‘Londoners united against racism’.

“How can anyone be opposed to that line?” he asked.

Earlier, the former mayor opened his speech by recalling how over 30 years ago, he and Virender Sharma went through “much more difficult and stressful times in moulding together the communities in London”.

“My first encounter with Virender is him driving me around Southall after riots when we passed smoking buildings and when what was then the forerunner of the British National Party, the National Front, was a visible and violent presence.”

“We have a come a long way since then in building a safe city which is an example to the rest of the world in tolerance and multiculturalism,” he said.

While racial and religious hate crimes had gone up in the rest of Britain they were coming down year by year in London.

And 15 of the 25 wealthiest people in London were born abroad, he added.