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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 February 2006, 16:43 GMT
Ken jibe 'did not damage office'
Ken Livingstone arrives at the hearing
Ken Livingstone said he had not meant to offend Jewish people
Ken Livingstone may have damaged his reputation in his remarks to a Jewish journalist, but not that of the office of London mayor, a panel has heard.

The Adjudication Panel for England is deciding whether his remarks a year ago brought his office into disrepute - breaching the code of conduct.

If he is found guilty, he could be barred from office for five years.

It has already ruled he was acting as a private individual when he compared a reporter to a concentration camp guard.

Mr Livingstone's solicitor Tony Child listed scandals which have ruined political careers, but not damaged their office.

He listed former War Minister John Profumo, former Home Secretary David Blunkett and former Tory party deputy chairman Jeffrey Archer as examples of politicians who had resigned over scandals.

Blunkett 'peccadilloes'

But in each case, he said, it was the individuals themselves, not the office they held, which was damaged by the stories.

"Why would an informed observer see the peccadilloes of David Blunkett as affecting the government?," asked Mr Child.

He said there was "no evidence" that he brought his office into disrepute and it is "untenable" to suggest it.

The inquiry began after Mr Livingstone accused Evening Standard reporter Oliver Finegold of "door-stepping" him at a party in February 2005 marking 20 years since Chris Smith came out as the first gay MP.

Oliver Finegold
Oliver Finegold was door stepping the mayor at a party
The Mayor asked whether he was a "German war criminal", only to be told by Mr Finegold that he was Jewish, and was offended by the remark.

Mr Livingstone went on to say: "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?"

This, the panel was told, was his "long-held and honestly-held" political view of Associated Newspapers, owners of the Standard.

He said he did not intend to offend the Jewish community, but was exercising his freedom of speech and has been rude to journalists for years.

According to Kim Moorshead for the panel's Ethical Standards Officers, Mr Livingstone's argument was "absurd".

"Mr Livingstone is not just a private individual," he said.

"He chose to run for office. He signed a code of conduct. There are consequences."

A second charge of failing to respect others was dropped at an earlier hearing.

The case was brought against him by the Standards Board of England to decide if he had breached the Greater London Authority code of conduct.

The hearing continues.

See Ken facing a hearing over his Nazi jibe comments

Mayor to face Nazi jibe hearing
14 Dec 05 |  London
Mayor facing Nazi jibe hearing
30 Aug 05 |  London
Boris opposes Livingstone apology
17 Feb 05 |  UK Politics

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