Mayor of London Ken Livingstone has always seemed to me to be a relatively harmless, if misguided, individual. Besides which his role as Mayor of London doesn't give him much scope for inflicting his lunatic policies on someone like me who lives a safe 500 or so miles away from 'The Smoke'.
Of course I do visit London occasionally and during my visits I normally make some use of the Underground system to get around, so I am not personally disinterested in whether a convicted terrorist can gain employment within the Tube network. When I first heard a few days ago that a son of Abu 'the hook' Hamza, the gentleman convicted earlier this year for incitement to murder and racial hatred and sentenced to seven years in gaol, had been employed as a labourer on the underground I wasn't unduly alarmed - I don't believe it is justified to punish people solely on the basis of crimes committed by their friends or family when there is nothing to suggest they they have themselves committed any crime. I can even understand that the contractor for Transport for London, with whom he gained employment, acted perfectly correctly in employing him as there was at the time no knowledge of him having received a prior conviction for criminal, terrorist activities in Yemen in 1999. I understand the man in question, Mohammed Kamel Mostafa, has been dismissed since this conviction came to light. All very proper and correct, in my view.
However, what I cannot understand is remarks Mr Livingstone is quoted as making:
"Has he broken any law here in Britain? [No, so] we are happy to have him working for us."
I am forced to agree with Labour MP Andrew Dismore who wants conviction for terrorism-related activities anywhere in the world to be a bar to employment on the Underground. Frankly I think it should be a bar to any but the most innocuous types of employment anywhere in the UK. Mr Livingstone, please note!
Postscript: The linked article above has been modified since I began to write this post and Mr Livingstone is now reported to have performed a U-turn:
"Mr Mostafa has convictions in Yemen. These must be taken into account."
- but not without attempting to diminish the effect of his earlier outrageously irresponsible attitude, until it became clear to him that even a very left-wing union boss and a Labour MP had taken exception, by saying this:
"They should have been brought to light by those doing the security checks, the failure to do so must be investigated."
- undoubtedly lessons need to be learned for the future, but this failure does not diminish the crass lack of judgement shown by Mayor Livingstone.