Saturday, February 25, 2006

Ken Livingstone suspended for 4 weeks over gibe.

The London Mayor Ken Livingstone has been suspended for four weeks after being found guilty of bringing his office into disrepute by comparing a Jewish reporter to a concentration camp guard. A disciplinary tribunal said he had been "unnecessarily insensitive and offensive" when approached by a journalist from London's Evening Standard after a party at City Hall last February.

The Mayor, who earns a £138,000 salary, will be suspended on full pay for four weeks starting on 1 March. Since he lost the case he must pay his own costs, estimated at £80,000.

This tale was referred to the tribunal following a complaint by the Jewish Board of Deputies.

This is a transcript of the taped exchange between Ken Livingstone and Oliver Finegold which led to the Mayor of London being suspended from office yesterday. Mr Livingstone was leaving a reception at City Hall in February last year when approached by the reporter.

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

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

OF: "How did tonight go?"

KL: "Have you thought of having treatment?"

OF: "How did tonight go?"

KL: "Have you thought of having treatment?"

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

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

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

KL: "Ah ... right."

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

KL: "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?"

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

KL: "It's nothing to do with you because your paper is a load of scumbags."

OF: "How did tonight go?"

KL: "It's reactionary bigots ..."

OF: "I'm a journalist. I'm doing my job."

KL: "... and who supported fascism."

OF: "I'm only asking for a simple comment. I'm only asking for a comment."

KL: "Well, work for a paper that isn't ..."

OF: "I'm only asking for a comment."

KL: " ... that had a record of supporting fascism."

OF: "You've accused me ..."

After the words "You've accused me" there is a gap on the tape followed after five seconds by a sound indistinguishable other than it being a male voice.

I think that the tribunal was wrong to suspend Ken Livingstone because of his remarks. We should have free speech in this country and the journalist approached Ken looking for some quotes. It is part of the territory of a journalists' job to take some flak from the public, they are interrupting peoples' lives to get a story. Oliver stopped Ken and asked questions, Ken was not attending a pre-arranged interview. If you stop anyone else in the street and start asking questions, you may be given a rude reply, it is the risk you take for interrupting someone. Oliver certainly takes offence very easily indeed. His skin must be very thin to take Ken's remarks as offensive. The Jewish Board of Deputies have not done their community any favours making a big issue out of these remarks. The only people Ken may have to answer to is the voters, when politicians screw up the electorate will push them out at the next election.

This tribunal has let Londoners down and wasted their money. Londoners voted Ken to be their mayor, he has not changed overnight and I am glad that he has stood up to these media bullies at the London Evening Standard by not apologising to Oliver. This tale also shows just how much influence the Jewish lobby has in the UK, another cultural change we are adopting from America! Do not worry about it Ken, not all of the voting public are touchy. Ken has done a very good job for London as mayor and should be re-elected for a third term at the next election. Oliver, get a life and don't take life and the past so seriously. Most people after a party like a laugh and a joke but you Oliver, need to be able to take it on the chin like a man.
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