Evening Standard "A Load of Scumbags"

By london_ken Last edited 167 months ago
Evening Standard "A Load of Scumbags"

It pains us to bring you news of an attack on a venerable London institution like the Standard but we couldn't let this one go: an article on Media Guardian headlined Livingstone Attacks 'Scumbag' Standard.

Sheriff Ken apparently laid into a Standard journalist at a party on Tuesday night, which had been held to mark the 20th anniversary of Chris Smith becoming the first MP to come out as gay.

The exchange makes for marvellous reading:

After Finegold had announced himself as a Standard journalist, Mr Livingstone said: "How awful for you. Have you thought of having treatment?"

Mr Livingstone repeated his question and then asked: "What did you do? Were you a German war criminal?"

Finegold told the mayor that he was Jewish and therefore found the remark offensive, before asking again how the event had gone.

Mr Livingstone replied: "Arr 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?"

Mr Livingstone: "It's nothing to do 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."

Mr Livingstone: "Well work for a paper that doesn't have a record of supporting fascism."

Brilliantly, Ken's office didn't come out with a wishy-washy "things were said in the heat of the moment which the Mayor now regrets". That's not our Ken's style, after all.

The Standard's Diary journalists, who only ever write anonymously, can dish it out but they aren't prepared to take it...

With regards to the mayor's comments about the relationship between the Rothermere press and fascism, these are simply a matter of historical fact.

The statement obtained by The Guardian then goes on to describe in lengthy detail the Daily Mail's support of the British Union of Fascists, the Nazis and the Italian fascists.

Much as we'd love to stand round in a circle shouting 'fight, fight, fight' while Ken and Associated Newspapers lay into each other, there are a couple of serious points here.

Firstly, as the statement from Ken's office pointed out:

Of all the mayor's many events and receptions, the Evening Standard chose to 'door-step' the people attending an event with a large number of lesbian and gay attendees, thrusting a camera into their faces as they left.

The mayor took the Standard's relatively unusual actions in this regard to be harassment of a predominantly lesbian and gay event.

This is a fair point and one does have to question the motivations of the Standard in choosing that particular event to cover. It's not just being 'politically correct' to ask this, it's just being rightly cynical of a newspaper's not-so-hidden agenda.

However, if we are to question the Standard, we ought to look at Ken's behaviour too. The statement goes on to say:

In these circumstances it is hardly surprising that the discussion between the journalist and the mayor escalated, from relatively lighthearted comments of the mayor asking whether the journalist's previous job had been as a war criminal - given the paper he was working for - to the journalist eventually telling the mayor to 'f**k off'.

If we're going to be sensitive about the Standard's motivations behind covering the event, then we should apply the same level of sensitivity to Ken's comments. Is it really appropriate for Ken to be making jokes about someone working as a concentration camp guard as a result of him revealing he is Jewish? It hardly seems light-hearted banter to us.

In the final analysis, it looks as if Ken is trying to have his PC cake and eat it; applying double standards, as it were. Much as we are entertained by Ken's antics, we can't escape the feeling that his remarks were on the wrong side of offensive so we'll call this particular incident a score draw.

Last Updated 10 February 2005