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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 February, 2005, 16:53 GMT
No apology over Ken's 'Nazi jibe'
Ken Livingstone
The mayor said he has received letters of support
London mayor Ken Livingstone has said he will not apologise to the Daily Mail group for likening a Jewish reporter to a concentration camp guard.

In a statement he said he did not mean to offend London's Jewish community and instead launched an attack on the newspaper group.

On tape, the Labour mayor told the Evening Standard's Oliver Finegold he was "like a concentration camp guard".

The paper called Mr Livingstone "arrogant" and defended its reporter.

The mayor told the news conference at City Hall: "A week ago I said it was not my intention to apologise to the Daily Mail group or the journalist."

To the Daily Mail group, no-one in Britain is less qualified to complain about anti-Semitism
Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London

He said that after a week of reflection he had "decided to stand by that position".

"There will be therefore no apology or expression of regret to the Daily Mail Group."

He added: "To the Daily Mail group, no-one in Britain is less qualified to complain about anti-Semitism.

"In truth, those papers were the leading advocate of anti-Semitism in the country for half a century."

'Hatred and fear'

He said that while it is true the Daily Mail has moved on from anti-Semitism, it now targets asylum seekers and Muslims.

"For the Mail group the victims may change but the intolerance, hatred and fear pervade every issue of the papers," Mr Livingstone said.

He added that over the past two weeks his "main concern" was for many Jewish Londoners, and regretted if his comments "may have been seen to downplay the horror and magnitude of the Holocaust".

HAVE YOUR SAY
This is all just the usual tabloid feeding frenzy over what is really just recreational outrage
Andy GM Wood, London, UK

"I wish to say to Londoners my words were not intended to cause such offence and that my view remains that the Holocaust against the Jews is the greatest racial crime of the 20th century."

Jewish leaders have responded to Mr Livingstone's comments.

Chief Rabbi Dr Jonathan Sacks said: "He [Livingstone] knows that Holocaust survivors were deeply wounded by his remarks.

"He may not have intended this, but that was the effect of his words, and therefore he must accept responsibility.

'Pain still there'

"His failure to offer an unequivocal apology is both regrettable and damages the stature of his office."

Karen Pollock, of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said it was an opportunity for the mayor "to say sorry and say he regretted the offence and upset he caused to Holocaust survivors and to the Jewish community".

"He failed to do that today, and therefore the upset is still there and the pain is still there."

Mr Livingstone also called into question the journalist's approach of "doorstepping" him, accusing him of "pursuing me along the pavement, thrusting your tape recorder at me whilst barking the same question".

Mr Livingstone once again attempted to divert attention from the real issue with a long tirade against the Daily Mail and Associated Newspapers
Evening standard statemet

The Evening Standard said Mr Livingstone's accusation was "absurd" and "irrelevant".

A statement from the newspaper read: "Mr Livingstone's supposed attempt to draw a line under the matter today has done nothing to mend the hurt caused by his original remarks.

"His only words of contrition, aimed at the Jewish community, were that his words 'were not meant to cause offence'," it said, adding it believed the comments had offended Jews.

"Mr Livingstone once again attempted to divert attention from the real issue with a long tirade against the Daily Mail and Associated Newspapers.

Letters of support

"His accusations against the Mail are absurd. But they are in any case irrelevant: the Evening Standard is a different newspaper."

The Daily Mail said the mayor's attempt to drag the paper into a row with the Standard was "a red herring".

Mr Livingstone said he has received 1,500 letters and emails, 74% of which were in support.

On Monday, an investigation by local government watchdog the Standards Board began into allegations Mr Livingstone had brought his office into disrepute.

The board has the power to suspend or bar the mayor from office for five years.

But Mr Livingstone said the board's code of conduct - that councillors "must treat others with respect" - is a threat to the freedom of speech.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Watch all of Ken Livingstone's statement



SEE ALSO:
Boris opposes Livingstone apology
17 Feb 05 |  Politics


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