« Home | A dangerous imbalance. » | The destruction of everything is the beginning of ... » | Prince Charles: About as much of a dissident as a ... » | Jack Straw continues to lie through his teeth over... » | Torygraph-watch: Unmarried couples panic! » | Free David Irving. » | "Dr" John Reid: An insult to intelligence. » | He's a man of the people! » | Predictable accusations of anti-semitism against s... » | 325,000 names on US terrorist suspect list. » 

Saturday, February 25, 2006 

Livingstone suspended: Knowing when to say sorry.

From the very beginning of this storm in a teacup, Ken Livingstone could have defused the whole situation just by simply saying sorry to the reporter he offended. He didn't need to apologise to the newspaper itself, or its parent company, just the reporter. Instead he chose to take the matter up against the newspaper itself, and that is half the reason why he is now faced with being suspended from his job as London mayor for a month.

One thing that seems to have been completely forgotten by all parties is that Ken Livingstone was emerging from a party for one of his friends, celebrating 20 years since Chris Smith had been "out of the closet" as the first openly gay MP. Ken was most likely the worst for wear if not entirely drunk. Emerging as he did to find himself accosted by a journalist, he was obviously not very pleased, and the drink set him off on a rant as soon it emerged that Oliver Finegold worked for the London Evening Standard, a paper that was opposed to him to start with and then downright hostile. No one seems to have acknowledged that we all say stupid things and do stupid things when we're drunk, things we don't mean or things that might be unnecessarily hurtful in the heat of the moment. This is what happened.

It should also be noted that Ken himself was not reported to the Adjucation Panel by the London Evening Standard or the journalist, Oliver Finegold, but rather by the Board of Deputies of British Jews, an organisation that continues to scream anti-semitism whenever Zionism is criticisied and which also had to pay costs to a Palestinian charity it accused of funding terrorists. It and the London Jewish Forum still don't seem satisfied by the decision of the board however, and said the following:

Adrian Cohen, said: "It should never have reached this point when a simple apology could have avoided all the pain caused to so many Jewish Londoners who have been affected by the Holocaust."

The chief executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Jon Benjamin, said they still require an apology from Mr Livingstone but added: "There is no suggestion that the mayor has shown any contrition or understanding of the hurt he has caused."

Pain, hurt? Let's take a look at what Ken actually said:

Oliver Finegold: "Mr Livingstone, Evening Standard. How did it ..."

Ken Livingstone: "Oh, how awful for you."

Finegold: "How did tonight go?"

Livingstone: "Have you thought of having treatment?"

Finegold: "How did tonight go?"

Livingstone: "Have you thought of having treatment?"

Finegold: "Was it a good party? What does it mean for you?"

Livingstone: "What did you do before? Were you a German war criminal?"

Finegold: "No, I'm Jewish. I wasn't a German war criminal."

Livingstone: "Ah ... right."

Finegold: "I'm actually quite offended by that. So, how did tonight go?"

Livingstone: "Well you might be, but actually you are just like a concentration camp guard. You're just doing it 'cause you're paid to, aren't you?"

Finegold: "Great. I've you on record for that. So how did tonight go?"

I don't see how what Ken said to Finegold, which was clearly a personal attack influenced by drink and annoyance at the press not leaving him alone even at a private party caused hurt or pain to the Jewish community in London. While as both the London Jewish Forum and Board of Deputies of British Jews are right in saying that a simple apology would have defused the whole thing, nothing which Ken said was directed against the Jewish community as a whole. He wasn't, as David Irving repeatedly did, denying the holocaust. He didn't say make a stereotypical or generalised statement about Jews as a whole. It was comments directed at a journalist, and him only. It's worth noting that the Board of Deputies of British Jews were very unhappy about Ken inviting Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who defended suicide bombings in Israel as being legitimate as they were targeting an occupying power, while condemning them elsewhere. Ken is a fierce pro-Palestinian figure, and the Board of Deputies leaps on anyone who so much as speaks out against the militarist policies of Israel. In short, they had other reasons to complain about him.

Which brings us to the decision by the Adjudication Panel themselves. It's been said that the panel could be spending its time better elsewhere, and is used to hearing of more serious offenders - as anyone reading Private Eye's Rotten Boroughs column will be able to tell you. The panel was therefore ruling on whether Livingstone had brought his office into disrepute by making comments which were neither illegal, nor sweeping but directed at a journalist who himself did not make the complaint. They decided he had, and that he had also acted in a "unnecessarily insensitive way". No one could disagree with that - but you can certainly disagree with their sentence; banned from office for a month and landed with £80,000 costs.

That it took a year for the matter to come before the panel was bad enough. Then that they ignored the recommendations of the Standards Council, which had stated he should only be giving a reprimand and a dressing down was adding insult to injury. It's rather a sad state of affairs that a quango can suspend London's chief elected representative, something which has been rightly noted should only be available to his peers in the London Assembly, or to the electorate. Nicky Gavron, the deputy who will take over during Ken's suspension, if it is not annulled by the courts, is entirely right to say the issue was blown out of all proportion. While Ken should have said sorry and apologised for behaviour influenced by drink from the beginning, he has been attacked by those opposed to him and his political views for a moment of weakness. When a prime minister can go to war on a tissue of misinformation and turn a country that, while it was suffering was peaceful into a powder keg and not be reprimanded by the Commons or the electorate, the London mayor finds himself removed from office for saying something stupid which he no doubt regrets but for which he refuses to apologise to a newspaper he hates about it. Welcome to Britain.

Share |

Links to this post

Create a Link


  • This is septicisle


Powered by Blogger
and Blogger Templates