28/02/2006

Court delays Livingstone suspension

The Mayor of London Ken Livingstone has had his four-week suspension from his post delayed pending an appeal against the decision.

Mr Livingstone's ban, which was due to begin tomorrow, was imposed after he was found guilty of bringing his office into disrepute for making a Nazi remark to a Jewish journalist.

Speaking at City Hall on Tuesday, Mr Livingstone defended his remarks and vowed to fight against the ban, which was imposed by the Adjudication Panel for England.

Mr Livingstone was suspended because of remarks made to 'Evening Standard' journalist Oliver Finegold, whom he likened to a concentration camp guard.

Mr Livingstone said: "The Adjudication tribunal found that my comment to the Evening Standard journalist had been "unnecessarily insensitive" and "offensive". Those are not grounds for overturning the decision of the voters of London to elect me as Mayor.

"The fundamental issue is not whether or not I was 'insensitive', it is the principle that those whom the people elect should only be removed by the people or because they have broken the law.

"It is because this fundamental principle is at stake that I pledge to do everything in my power to have this attack on the democratic rights of the Londoners overturned."

Mr Livingstone also said that the British Board of Deputies of British Jews, who had made the complaint about his remarks, had done so because of his views on the Israeli government.

He denied claims that he was anti-Semitic, saying that he had appointed black, Asian and Jewish people to "the highest levels of my administration" and "waged an unrelenting war on every manifestation of racism, anti-Semitism and every other kind of discrimination". He said: "For too long, the accusation of anti-Semitism has been used against anybody who is critical of the policies of the Israeli government."

Mr Livingstone also accused the editor of the Evening Standard, Veronica Wadley, of having "an irony by-pass". He said: "Shortly after she became editor… she published a profile of me in which I was described as a "snappy, snarling brute", "voracious", "frightening", "ugly", "raging" and "gripped by paranoia". He said: "I find it a bit strange that some journalists have worked themselves up into a frenzy because I exercise my free speech rights to tell journalists what I think of them as well."

Mr Livingstone again refused to apologise for his remarks and said that he would consider taking the case to the Court of Appeal and the Law Lords if he lost, even if it cost hundreds of thousands of pounds.

(KMcA/GB)


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24 February 2006
Livingstone suspended for Nazi remark
London Mayor Ken Livingstone has suspended for four weeks after he was found guilty of bringing his office into disrepute for comparing a Jewish journalist to a Nazi concentration camp guard.
22 February 2005
No apology from Livingstone over Nazi remark
London Mayor Ken Livingstone has said that he will not apologise for comparing a Jewish reporter to a concentration camp guard. Mr Livingstone was caught on tape accusing Evening Standard reporter Oliver Finegold of behaving like a concentration camp guard.