Skip to Content

Blogs Coffee House

Does Ken Livingstone really get his advice on Islamic theology from The Sun?

23 February 2016

4:24 PM

23 February 2016

4:24 PM

As some light relief from all this EU discussion, I thought readers might like to hear about Isis. Or at least what to do about Isis.

The week before last I teamed up in London with General John Allen to argue that Western boots may be needed on the ground in Syria and Iraq to destroy Isis. We were opposed in the Intelligence Squared debate by Ken Livingstone and the journalist Rula Jebreal. A video of the event went out over the weekend on BBC World and is now available to view here.


I should add a note to say that in order to fit the schedules the BBC edit has to lose about half of the debate. It’s a fine art, and the final edit keeps in most of the main points. Nevertheless I was sorry that they shaved off a couple of heated exchanges with Rula Jebreal, who wouldn’t stop talking whenever anyone else did. Though I’m glad they kept in her casually racist dismissal of the views of ‘two white men’. I don’t care myself, but the thoughts of one of America’s most experienced Four-Star Generals (and President Obama’s former envoy for the coalition to counter Isis) would strike me as worthwhile whatever the colour of the his skin.

I am also sorry that the edit lost a most interesting morsel from Ken. During my opening remarks I mentioned that there isn’t much to separate Isis’s theology from that of the House of Saud, the Revolutionary Islamic government in Iran or some of the people who Ken Livingstone used to roll out the red carpet for when he was Mayor of London. During the Q+A a young ex-Muslim in the audience followed up on this, castigating Livingstone for backing such a wrong-un as Sheikh Qaradawi. All of which led Livingstone to say (I think for the first time) that he had never heard of Qaradawi until after 7/7 when he read about him in The Sun newspaper, thought he sounded good and invited him as a guest of honour to London.  Personally I think the claim may be cobblers, but if it is true it is fascinating (as I pointed out to him on the night) that the former Mayor of London should have been getting his advice on Islamic theology from The Sun (fine publication though it is).

Anyhow – there was much more. But the TV edit above more than captures some of the heat and light of the debate. As ever with these events, what actually makes them is the audience questions. I’ve rarely come across such a well-informed and thoughtful audience. And I’m glad their final verdict proved that.

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.


Show comments

Comments

Close