Says Bush Is
'Greatest Threat To Life On Planet'
by Nigel Morris, November 18, 2003
Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London, launched a stinging attack
on President George Bush last night, denouncing him as the "greatest
threat to life on this planet that we've most probably ever seen".
His provocatively timed comments, on the eve of Mr Bush's arrival
in London tonight, threaten to create severe embarrassment for
the Prime Minister. They also come with talks under way on whether
to re-admit Mr Livingstone to the Labour Party before his five-year
Although he made his many differences with the Government on a
range of issues clear, he reserved his strongest comments for
the American President in an interview with The Ecologist magazine.
The President's three-night trip, which will culminate on Friday
with a visit to the Prime Minister's Sedgefield constituency,
has sparked a flood of protests from those opposed to his foreign
policy. But Mr Livingstone's outburst makes him one of the most
high-profile and explicit of his critics.
Mr Livingstone recalled a visit at Easter to California, where
he was denounced for an attack he had made on what he called "the
most corrupt and racist American administration in over 80 years".
He said: "Some US journalist came up to me and said: 'How
can you say this about President Bush?' Well, I think what I said
then was quite mild. I actually think that Bush is the greatest
threat to life on this planet that we've most probably ever seen.
The policies he is initiating will doom us to extinction."
Mr Livingstone, who is holding a "peace party" for anti-war
groups in City Hall tomorrow, added: "I don't formally recognise
George Bush because he was not officially elected. So we are organising
an alternative reception for everybody who is not George Bush."
He said he supported stronger links between European Union countries
only because he wanted to see a powerful bloc emerge to rival
the United States. "The American agenda is sweeping everything
before it, and although it's not perfect, the EU is better on
environmental issues. It's a less rapacious form of capitalism."
The Mayor said he had viewed Labour's 1997 election manifesto
as a "load of old guff they'd come out with because they
didn't want to upset the Daily Mail" that would rapidly be
ditched. "I was amazed when it transpired that Blair had
been serious," he said.
Accusing Mr Blair of suffering from a "background problem",
he said: "There is nothing in his past that was radicalising.
He wasn't interested in all the great student activities, the
"He did not get involved in politics until the 1970s, when
the high point was passed. So you have someone of the summer of
'68 generation who actually wasn't part of it."
On GM foods, he said: "If the Government ignores public opinion,
then civil disobedience on this issue is legitimate, as long as
it's not violent.
"But the most important thing that affects a government is
not peaceful protest, but fear of the ballot box.
The Mayor's comments will infuriate Downing Street at a time when
No 10 is examining ways of bringing Mr Livingstone, who was expelled
from the Labour Party for standing as an independent in the London
mayoral elections of 2000, back into the fold.
AS THE PRESIDENT PREPARES TO VISIT SEDGEFIELD, TONY BLAIR'S CONSTITUENCY,
WILL HE BE WELCOME?
Chris Lloyd, political editor of The Northern Echo: "The
paper is Bush neutral and he has a right to visit but equally,
the people here have a right to demonstrate. I hope he gets to
see all, or at least some of those protests and I hope Mr Blair
will explain what they are about because that's what friends are
for. Despite Mr Bush's unpopularity, there is a frisson of excitement
because nothing of this magnitude has ever happened there."
Lucy Hovvels, vice-chairwoman of Sedgefield constituency and Labour
councillor in Trimdon: "I've had local people asking where
they can get Union Jacks and American flags because they think
it's an exciting and historic visit. I really believe Bush will
get a warm welcome in Trimdon and the mood is one of excitement.
We have the two most important people in the world coming to us
- no one would otherwise know where Trimdon is."
Richard Wanless, co-ordinator of the 'Sedgefield Against War'
protest: "The visit is a massive security risk and for those
living in the area, it jeopardises our safety. No matter where
he goes, there will be protests from London to the North-east
to make sure he knows he is not welcome. To me, he is a war criminal
that has illegal occupation of Iraq. To add to the insult, there
are families here who lost their children to the war."
The Rev Martin King, rector of Sedgefield: "A lot of people
here are very angry with the way the US administration is putting
itself above the law. One person in my congregation said if President
Bush wanted to look around the church, he would be welcome because
it is a place for sinners, but he hoped his henchmen would leave
their ironware at the door. His policies are very unwelcome in
the region - I have not heard anyone voicing support for him."
Martin Callanan, Conservative MEP for Sedgefield: "The visit
is hugely beneficial for the area. Most of the security threat
to the people in Sedgefield will be represented by left-wing demonstrators.
And how would we feel if our Prime Minister, whatever his political
party, was treated similarly in another part of the world? It
was Blair's decision to send our troops to Iraq, so those who
are anti-war should not take it out on Bush."
Martin McTague, former chairman of the North-east Regional Federation
of Small Businesses: "It will put Sedgefield on the map and
benefit the image of the North-east. Our business community is
often viewed as a backwater and this will redress some of the
old stereotypes. Because this is Blair's constituency, a security
risk is always there. The fact that Bush will be with him increases
that risk but it is a notional increase."