What They're Saying About Ken

By Rob Last edited 150 months ago
What They're Saying About Ken
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You know what we're talking about here, so let's get right down to it: as thorough a roundup as we can of what Ken said to Finegold and what the papers are making of it all.

The actual conversation:

Oliver Finegold: Mr Livingstone, Evening Standard. How did tonight go?

Livingstone: How awful for you. 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 and I'm actually quite offended by that. So, how did tonight go?

Livingstone: Ah right, well you might be [Jewish], but actually you are just like a concentration camp guard, you are just doing it because you are paid to, aren't you?

Finegold: Great, I have you on record for that. So, how was tonight?

Livingstone: It's nothing to do you with you because your paper is a load of scumbags and reactionary bigots.

Finegold: I'm a journalist and I'm doing my job. I'm only asking for a comment.

Livingstone: Well, work for a paper that doesn't have a record of supporting facism.

The arguments

Ken says: Associated Newspapers and the Evening Standard (which Finegold writes for) have campaigned against him since he led the Greater London Council in the 1980s. Ken also argues that if he backed down he would be only appeasing the media.

This is what he said at his press conference this morning:

"You may think my remarks to that reporter — and many over the years — are offensive. That is purely a matter of judgment. If you think they are racist I think you are wrong. It would be very easy for me to buy off media pressure by lying but I am not going to do it."

He is also quoted as saying that the Daily Mail would have been, "at the front of the queue of collaborators" had the Nazis won the war. He went on to call the Daily Mail one of "the most reprehensibly edited" organs in the world.

They say:

The London Assembly passed a unanimous motion calling on the mayor to withdraw his remarks yesterday after hearing a tape of the conversation.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews has made an official complaint to the Committee on Standards in Public Life to demand an investigation into the mayor's comments.

In its submission the board said: "In making such comments, Mayor Livingstone demonstrated a gross insensitivity to, and a wilful disregard for, the feelings of appreciable numbers of those he is supposed to represent."

The complaint may be passed on to the local government watchdog, the Standards Board for England, which has the power to suspend the Mayor for a year or ban him from public life for five years if he is found guilty of misconduct.

Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell has also called on Ken to apologise.

What the press/internet is saying:

A leader in today's Telegraph notes that Ken's claims are "peculiar...from one who has earned money from the Evening Standard as that paper's restaurant critic, enjoying several years of lavish meals at its expense. It then goes on to link Ken's claims with other "nasty" and "rude" Labour party actions over the past few weeks:

"the senior Labour MP Fraser Kemp calling for a personal campaign against Michael Howard; the posters depicting the Tory leader as Fagin; Alastair Campbell's foul-mouthed e-mail sent to the BBC; and now Mr Livingstone's outburst..."

Yesterday's Times had this to say

"The only thing that needs to be considered about Ken's phrasing is whether or not he knew the recipient was Jewish. From his response, we can only presume that he didn't, and therefore he has nothing to apologise for. It's much the same as if he'd asked 'what would your mother think if she knew you were harassing me?', to be informed that the journalist's mother had died two years ago."

Harry's Place put forward the argument that Ken was using 'racist discourse':

"For most people, Ken is simply confirmed as a boorish hypocrite, who dresses up his rudeness as a brave blow against '100 years" of Standard/Mail bigotry: a stand which is wholly undermined by his readiness to take the Standard's pay check himself. The same sort of racists who use Holocaust Memorial Day as an opportunity to rail against "Zionists", already regard Livingstone's predicament as a put up job. And for anti-racists who have followed Ken Livingstone's conduct closely over the last year, last week's outburst will simply be another manifestation of the peculiar sort of left-racism to which this fellow appears to subscribe."

Menawhile Rottweiler Puppy thinks that "wherever Livingstone goes, chaos is sure to follow," because

"Livingstone really is such a walking disaster. Whether he's rolling out a costly congestion charge for London that doesn't actually relieve any of the congestion, or hugging Islamonazi clerics who praise suicide bombings and wife-beatings."

Strangely, it seesm the blogging community has, so far, been relatively quiet on this whole matter. Are we bored with the whole thing? Has it been blown out of all proportion? Or is just difficult to know what to think yet? Time will tell.

Last Updated 15 February 2005