Friday, February 24, 2006
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A disciplinary panel today took the highly unusual step of suspending the mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, for four weeks to punish him for comparing a Jewish reporter to a Nazi concentration camp guard. [...]
[...] The mayor's suspension — a more severe punishment than many had expected — relates to a conversation with a reporter, Oliver Finegold, in which the mayor responded to the reporter's request for comment by saying: "What did you do before? Were you a German war criminal?" According to the transcript of the reporter's recording of the exchange, Mr. Finegold replied: "No, I'm Jewish. I wasn't a German war criminal."
Later, the mayor said: "Actually, you are just like a concentration camp guard. You're just doing it 'cause you're paid to, aren't you?" After The Evening Standard reported details of the incident, a leading Jewish organization, the Board of Deputies of British Jews, lodged an official complaint that Mr. Livingstone had broken the ethical code of conduct covering his office.
The panel ruled that the mayor had breached the Greater London authority's code and damaged the reputation of his office as a result of his exchange with the reporter, Oliver Finegold.
It branded his treatment of the journalist, whom the mayor compared to a concentration camp guard after being told that he was Jewish, as "unnecessarily insensitive and offensive".
Commenting on the ruling, the Evening Standard editor, Veronica Wadley, said: "The Evening Standard has always believed that Mr Livingstone should apologise for his remarks.
"There is no question that he caused offence to many Londoners by his comments, and his stubborn refusal to say sorry aggravated the position.
"Mr Livingstone not only offended London's Jewish community but then he did not show the stature expected of the mayor of London by apologising. As the Standards Board found, our reporter questioned Mr Livingstone in a 'civil tone'.
Ken Livingstone is, by far, the most high-profile scalp of the Standards Board for England.
Last month the local government watchdog reprimanded the slightly less well known Pete Allen, a Labour councillor in Hull, for objecting to a park and ride bus scheme which would go past his house - without declaring an interest.
Today's suspension over the 'Nazi' jibe he made at an Evening Standard reporter - which appears to have taken everyone from Ken on down by surprise - is an entirely different matter. It leaves the country's capital - a city of nine million people - essentially rudderless for four weeks.
Ken Livingstone is an arse of the first water, and it makes me grimace to have to stand in solidarity with him, but I have no choice. He's right; the British "code" is wrong.
And the fact that our Muslim friends won't distinguish Britain from America from Denmark (we don't extend the same courtesies to them, either), but will lump all this under the "hypocrisy of the West," means that somewhere, somehow, George W. Bush is going to be burned in effigy for this.
Here's the transcript of Livingstone's offense, courtesy of the AP:
Partial transcript of encounter between London Mayor Ken Livingstone and newspaper reporter Oliver Finegold after city hall reception, as taped by the journalist:
Finegold: "Mr. Livingstone, Evening Standard. How did it ..."
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