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Last Updated: Monday, 14 February, 2005, 15:45 GMT
Mayor censured over Nazi jibe row
Ken Livingstone leaves the assembly chamber after the motions are passed
Ken Livingstone has refused to apologise for the remarks
London mayor Ken Livingstone has been censured by the London Assembly for a Nazi jibe made to a Jewish reporter.

Two motions were passed asking him to apologise and withdraw his comments.

Labour's Mr Livingstone, who says he is "standing by" his remarks, had accused an Evening Standard journalist of being like a "concentration camp guard".

The local government watchdog, the Standards Board for England, could investigate after a complaint from The Board of Deputies of British Jews.

The row was discussed at Monday's budget meeting of the assembly, which is made up of 25 members elected to examine the mayor's activities.

I could apologise but why should I say words I do not believe in my heart?
Ken Livingstone

Defending his actions, Mr Livingstone claimed he had been the victim of a 24-year hate campaign by newspapers, particularly Associated Newspapers, publishers of the Evening Standard, and the Daily Mail.

He said: "If I could in anything I say relieve any pain anyone feels I would not hesitate to do it but it would require me to be a liar.

"I could apologise but why should I say words I do not believe in my heart?

"Therefore I cannot. If that is something people find they cannot accept I am sorry but this is how I feel after nearly a quarter of a century of their behaviour and tactics."

An Evening Standard spokesman said the paper was not biased against the mayor.

Suspension or ban

He went on: "We supported him in the mayoral election last year but in this case we feel he fell far short of what is expected of a figure in his position and he has caused great offence."

The Board of Deputies of British Jews lodged an official complaint with the Committee on Standards in Public Life but it does not investigate individuals and referred the organisation to the Standards Board for England.

It 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.

The complaint reads: "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 as holder of the office of Mayor of London, including but not limited to Jews and gays and lesbians in London."

Oliver Finegold
Oliver Finegold allegedly swore at the mayor

The London-wide Anti-Semitism Policy Unit also handed a petition into City Hall on Monday saying Mr Livingstone's remarks had "shocked us deeply" and urging the mayor to give a "swift and unequivocal apology".

Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell has also called for the mayor to apologise for making the comment at a party marking the 20-year anniversary of former Culture Secretary Chris Smith coming out as the first gay MP.

The exchange with the reporter took place as Mr Livingstone left the party.

On tape Mr Livingstone is heard asking reporter Oliver Finegold if he is a "German war criminal".

Mr Finegold replies: "No, I'm Jewish, I wasn't a German war criminal. I'm quite offended by that."

The mayor then says: "Ah right, well you might be, but actually you are just like a concentration camp guard, you are just doing it because you are paid to, aren't you?"


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Ken Livingstone defends his actions despite an outcry



SEE ALSO:
Profile: Ken Livingstone
09 May 03 |  Politics


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