First of all, it's hard to imagine a mayor of a major city in this country having a public debate on a political subject with a public intellectual. How this encounter came about is in itself an interesting question.
Pipes observed that some on the Left have been attempting an alliance with the extreme forms of Islam in their countries, even though the Left is generally hostile to religion:
The SWP has probably gone further than most communist groups. It's also interesting that the British SWP was founded by a Palestinian Jew (born before there was a State of Israel) named Yigael Gluckstein, pseudonymously Tony Cliff, among other monikers. Whether this alliance is simply a pushmeppullyou that can't last, or a harbinger of something more long-lasting remains to be seen. Meanwhile, the SWP seems to be pretty serious about the alliance, which could last until the British sharia state puts the Reds up against the wall.
Pipes then homed in on the strangest aspect of the present British situation: the alliance between the U.K.'s radical Left and fundamentalist Islamist ideology. Pipes identified the former as a phenomenon distinct from, and contrary to, the traditions of the Islamic faith.
The absurdity of the relationship between Islamism and Marxism--given that leftists are strident in their defense of modernism and feminism--was nicely illustrated by Livingston's choice of debating partner. The mayor chose Salma Yacoob, who represents the Respect party--best known as the shelter for George Galloway--in a local council in Birmingham. Yacoob appeared wearing a hijab, even though the Respect party is, in theory, an arm of the secularist Socialist Workers Party (SWP).
Late in the discussion, Livingston declaimed his atheism and proposed that British parents should have no chance to opt their children out of the state school system in order to receive faith-based education. It would seem that these sorts of attitudes should make the Marxist-Muslim alliance trickier than it appears.But of course, British left's adulation for Islamic fundamentalism is restricted to that single variety of religious experience. While Livingston flatters reactionary Muslim clerics such as Yusuf al-Qaradawi, much of the Labour party spends its time assailing Catholic adoption agencies for declining to turn children over to homosexual couples. (Islam is generally opposed to adoption except by familial relatives, which might help square this particular circle for Britain's leftists; although Qaradawi has publicly called for homosexuals to be executed.)
Passing strange, in any case.