Friday, February 24, 2006

Ken Livingstone Should Resign


I've just heard on Sky News that Ken Livingstone has been suspended from office for a month for the comments he made to an Evening Standard journalist, likening him to a concentration camp guard. The Standards Board for England, who have made the judgement, are rapidly becoming a revolting kind of thought police. Yes, his comments were illjudged and he should have apologised, but who are these unelected people? What they're doing is denying the people of London the services of the person they elected to serve them. As you might imagine, I don't agree with Ken Livingstone on anything, but when people elected Ken, they knew full well what they were getting. If I were Ken I would consider resigning and fighting a by-election (I presume the system allows for this). This is a freedom and speech and democracy issue. It's about the power of unelected quangos to usurp the democratic process. The Standards Board for England and the Adjudication Panel should be abolished.

26 comments:

PoliticalHack said...

There's some all-party agreement on this. I don't like the way the Standards Board is being used and even John Hemming is of the same mind.

These are matters for the public to decide at the ballot box. Short of criminal behaviour in public office - which has a sanction of its own - there shouldn't be a reason to remove an elected official because somebody was offended by him.

The bigger problem is that some elected officials are being threatened into silence by the promise of a complaint to the Standards Board. An attempt was made a few weeks ago to try that trick on the leader of the Birmingham Labour Group, which got suitably short shrift from him.

If a councillor is bent, then let the criminal law remove him. If a councillor is offensive or rude, then that's tough luck and a matter for the electorate to decide if they want that person representing them.

Anonymous said...

I don't agree with you. What Ken Livingstone did, when he clearly already knew that the journalist in question was Jewish, raises many serious questions when taken in conjunction with previous statements he has made with regard to the Middle Eastern conflict, Jews, suicide bombers etc. etc.

Mr.Livingstone would doubtless claim to be an anti-Zionist rather than an anti-Semite, but his words and actions over an extended period suggest otherwise.

If you think about the incident in question, he felt he was dealing with an over zealous and intrusive reporter. Would any normal person choose to compare an intrusive reporter with a Nazi concentration camp guard? Where is the similarity? A spy perhaps, or a voyeur or low rent private eye, but why oh why a concentration camp guard?

There is only one obvious answer. He knew the journalist in question was Jewish and wanted to be as offensive as he possibly could.

I am a Jew myself and certainly not of an extreme Zionist or right wing variety. I support multi-culturism, I would like to see a full and fair settlement in the Middle East, I am not without a sense of humour and will happily tell Jewish jokes, my trips to synagogue are rare and my Saturdays are usually spent worshipping at White Hart Lane instead. But do I personally think Livingstone is an anti-Semite who is unfit to be mayor of London? I'm afraid my answer is yes.

Iain Dale said...

You miss my point. I don't think he is fit person to hold office, and I cast my vote accordingly. But it is fpor the electorate to decide that, not an unelected quango. The other thing to say is that this journalist had been harrassing Livingstone for months. That's not an excuse for what he said, but I can understand him flipping.

Bulldog said...

No it's not a freedom of speech and democracy issue.

It's a standards in public life issue.

I agree that he should resign though.

Anonymous said...

Hi. I'm the same anon, my name is Gary Kaufmann.

I don't think I've missed your point. Do you honestly think that a politician who acts in a totally unacceptable manner should be allowed to continue in office until they are next due to stand for election again?

Let's face it, Ken would be far too thick skinned to resign, wouldn't he? Likewise the Labour party machine have never been able to control him.

If not the Standards Board, how else do you hold a politician to account for behaviour that is totally unacceptable?

With regard to your point regarding the journalist's constant tracking of Livingstone, surely that further indicates that he knew the journalist, knew his background and was very deliberate in what he said?

I'm sure no-one would have been surprised or felt it inappropriate if Ken had sworn at him or aimed some other abuse of a general nature in his direction, but this incident appears premeditated, specific and honestly raises valid questions about Ken's whole attitude toward Jews, and quite a few of us live in London.

Whilst I'm not the sort of person who looks for insults, slights or prejudice where none is intended, I want to feel that my mayor represents me in the same way he represents all other faiths, colours and creeds in my city. In Mr. Livingstone's case I'm far from convinced.

I congratulate the Standards Board on their action.

Chris Palmer said...

After "public citizen" Ken Livingston claimed that the comment was made as a member of the general public - who ended up paying for his legal bills?

Anonymous said...

If you see what he said i think his argument was logical if offensive. i don't like ken but this is a very weird end to the situation.

Inamicus said...

With you and Political Hack all the way on this. The Standards Board are an extremely insidious organisation. V concerned about the implications of this.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand why anyone would think an annoying reporter who keeps chasing Ken around is in some way like a Nazi concentration camp guard? Where is the supposed similarity?

If, for instance, he had accused an over zealous policeman of being like a member of the Gestapo you would at least see some twisted logic, but Ken's comments appear to be a clear and premeditated attempt to cause offence to someone he knew to be Jewish.

Paul Leake said...

MPs would never have accepted anything like the Standards Board regulating what they say - and a quick browse through the internet will show some saying things that the SBE would certainly have regarded as breaching a local government code of conduct.

Perhaps its time to bring in US style 'recall' ballots.

Anonymous said...

what he said was that reporter was using the same excuse as a nazi concentration guard e.g. "I am just doing my job. its what i am paid to do." yes it is a tasteless and crude point but he should be allowed to say things like that if he wants to.

Anonymous said...

It's an awful decision, let's face it. Think what you might about Ken Livingstone, but his well documented exchange with Finegold has got absolutely nothing to do with an unelected body of nobodies with a political agenda.
As for Iain dale wanting Livinstone to resign, well, I'm sure Livingstone doesn't think much of Dale either.
Handbags at dawn.
Boz

Iain Dale said...

Boz, did you actually read beyond the headline? I'm actually supporting him!!!

Unity said...

It's worth look at the full transcript of what was said:

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: 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?

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.

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


Does that seem anti-semitic? Does it even look like Finegold was particularly offended? Certainly not offended enough to stop worrying about getting quotes for the paper.

Fair enough, if Ken had referred to Finegold as a 'Kapo' on being told that he was Jewish I'd say it was a fair copy, but from the full transcript the context of his remarks is very clear - its a comeback to the attitude of 'just doing my job'.

There's another point here which seems to be escaping somne people - Ken did not know the journo was Jewish, he was merely told that by the Finegold after making the 'war criminal' comment. Ken's initial comment...

'Arr well you might be' sounds a lot like a not of scepticism - in fact, faced with someone who's just asked you if you're a war criminal, isn't 'I'm Jewish' pretty much the obvious comeback if you're trying to stir things up in the hope of getting a story, whether you really are Jewish or not?

The real story here is that three unelected career bureaucrats have suspended a democratically elected politician for speaking out of turn in a private matter.

And that's bullshit.

James Cleverly said...

I agree with the standards board decision, Livingston was being deeply anti-semitic (intentionally or otherwise) and hypocritical. Remember he was attacking someone for working for the Evening Standard when he was once the same paper’s restaurant critic.

I agree that he should resign, but he won’t. The suspension is mainly symbolic and I hope that in the London mayoral elections people remember this episode.

Toque said...

Ken should resign and then devote his political energies to fighting the anti-free speech state that people like him helped to create.

Hoist by his own petard.

MTK said...

Anonymous Gary Kaufmann - I am as repelled by Livingstone's anti-semitism as the next man, but he didn't actually break abny law.

Why should anyone's subjective definition of "totally unacceptable" be a valid basis for removing an elected person from public office?

Kate said...

Whatever the rights and wrongs of this particular case, it's at least throwing the Standards Board into the public spotlight. Cases involving councillors don't have this kind of media draw, and it's them that the Standards Board is having a daily impact on.

The constant threat of a Standards Board investigation is having a detrimental impact on the role of councillors, who are having to watch their every move and word for fear of being reported to the SB, and often being over-cautious as a result. Many of the complaints are being made with solely political motives, but even when that happens individuals are put through weeks or months of stress as the enquiry is conducted, and their reputation is tarnished whatever the outcome.

Unity said...

Gary:

So presumably you'll be calling for the dissolution of the monarchy the next time Phil the Greek cracks a dumb comment about 'slitty-eyed Chinks' will you?

Livingstone didn't clearly know that the journo was Jewish when he made the 'concentration camp guard' comment.

The journo said he was Jewish in response to the 'war criminal' comment, which given the comment he was responding to could just as easily have been a smartarse comeback as the truth.

As has been pointed out, he didn't break the law in any way - the worst you could say is that he made a comment in bad taste.

Let's turn this around, Gary. Do you support the right of newspapers to publish the recent 'Mohammed Cartoons' on the grounds of free expression?

Because if you do, then you're being entirely hypocritical in calling for Livingstone's resignation.

You can't have it both ways - either you want have free speech, in which case you're going or hear people saying things you don't like, or you don't in which North Korea should suit you nicely.

mol said...

The Adjudication Panel for England and the Standards Board of England are both rather pompously titled, but they do operate to enforce a Code of Conduct which was established by Primary Legislation.

Just because someone is elected to office, with, in the case of Ken Livingstone , only about 13% of the electorate actually voting for him, that does not mean that you have a mandate to do anything you like until the next election.

The Adjudication Panel does seem to have carefully considered all the public / private life arguments and the Human Rights aspects of the case.

You can read their full judgement as a .pdf image scan of a fax on their website, or the transcribed text on the (unofficial) Mayor of London blog

As they point out in their judgement,

"4 Moreover a decision to seek and accept office of a kind subject to the Code of Conduct was an entirely voluntary act on the part of the Respondent. He had chosen to do that and had signed an undertaking to abide by the code."

If you get rid of the Standards Board, perhaps we should enforce the Code of Conduct through a court of law with criminal penalties instead ?

bebopper said...

Did the journalist go back to his editor and say, "Boss, the wicked man dissed me and I'm distraut." (Sob, Sob.)
No. He went back and said, "Boss, I've got the bastard on tape. Listen to this."
Unfortunately, Jews, Muslims, Gays, Blacks, etc. are all too busy riding around on their high horses to realise how unreasonable their constant complaining is.
Is Livingstone a loathesome creep? Yes. Should he resign? No.

William Norton said...

For the reasons you cite Iain, abolition of the Standards Board was one of the 168 quangos to be culled in the last Conservative manifesto:
kill or keep review

As far as I'm aware, it's still policy.

Dylan said...

When Finegold asks: "Mr Livingstone, Evening Standard. How did tonight go?"

and Ken replies: How awful for you. Have you thought of having treatment?

Ken is immediately disrespectful - I would not have an issue with what Livingstone had said had the party been private - but it wasn't. It was provided for by public funds - Finegold had the right to ask for a comment - whatever that would be e.g mentioning Chris Smith positively. Ken didn't though - he should have realized that at a publically funded event his duty if asked was to provide a comment so that we can pretend that the party had some use to the taxpayer.

Antony Calvert said...

Of course he should resign! He is holding high public office and receives a lot of public money to execute his duties.

I get so p*ssed off with this sort of hypocrisy from those in the public eye. They are all happy to use the media when wanting to promote their own agenda, but when the same newspapers have the rank audacity to criticise them they come out with this sort of "strikes at the heart of democracy" tripe.

They are either politicians or drama queens.

Neil Craig said...

You shouldn't get a "get out of being called a Nazi free" card because you are Jewish (or Russian or Serb or Gypsy).

This is not only the first time I have agreed with him it is the first time I have thought that he was taking a decision that cost him out of principle.

john said...

Not that it mattters, but the code of Conduct was Secondary Legislation.