He is senior editor (politics) at the New Statesman, and he's writing in today's Guardian about London's mayoral election. But Mehdi Hasan - for it is he - is unwilling to allow that voters have any choice other than that between Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone:
"I don't want to see Boris Johnson re-elected," wrote [Jonathan] Freedland, "but I can't vote for Ken Livingstone." This is an evasion, pure and simple: if you don't want to see Boris re-elected then you have to vote for Ken. Sorry, there are no two ways about it.
On 3 May, the choice is as stark as it is simple: Ken or Boris? A mayor who will stand up to austerity or one who'll demand more of it? A mayor who wants to tax bonus-hungry bankers or one who wants to shill for them?
The senior editor (politics) at the New Statesman seems to overlook that in free elections involving more than two candidates there are a number of options other than voting for one of the front-runners. One can abstain; one can spoil one's ballot; why, one can even vote for a third candidate. These are all perfectly well-known and legitimate electoral practices. How can Hasan have failed to register them?
His failure is due evidently to the dogmatic insistence that all that matters is who wins. But he should set himself in that case to the task of explaining to his readers why voters sometimes do those other things - abstaining, voting for candidates who have little chance, etc - without necessarily being regarded as either fools or pariahs; being seen by many merely as citizens exercising their democratic rights, articulating their preferences and, indirectly, their principles. Some voters, Hasan might also like to reflect, care about other things than the result, one of these being what kind of individual they give their support to, and whether he or she has fallen foul of any important moral and/or political principle.
It is notable in this connection that Hasan passes over the concerns expressed by Jonathan Freedland with a mere six words, referring to 'his [Livingstone's] alleged comments about Jewish voters'. In fact, Freedland laid out several related matters concerning Livingstone's track record in this matter. Hasan just passes over it. Well, he's allowed - though no one need admire him for it. At the same time, London voters are entitled to vote according to their own beliefs and consciences, their own weighing of the things that matter in this world, and (as it may be for some of them) their own choice about whom they wish to associate with politically and whom they do not.
(See also in this connection the Guardian's recent judgement: 'a troubling set of allegations about Mr Livingstone's attitude to Jews that no Labour sympathiser can easily ignore'.)