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Wednesday, 26 June, 2002, 13:18 GMT 14:18 UK
Livingstone denies 'scuffle' claims
Ken Livingstone, London Mayor
Livingstone brands claims as "outright lies"
London Mayor Ken Livingstone has denied pushing a man 15ft over a stairwell during a row at a late night party.

Mr Livingstone gave his full version of events for the first time during a special meeting called by the London Assembly to quiz him on the subject.


Londoners will make up their own minds - they're a jury and a pretty big one

Ken Livingstone

Mr Livingstone said that the victim, Robin Hedges, had earlier "jumped" on him, bringing him to the ground in the street as the mayor and his pregnant girlfriend, Emma Beal, left the party following a row.

Mr Hedges had been wrongly led to believe by other people at the party that an argument between Mr Livingstone and Ms Beal had "turned nasty", said the mayor.

Mr Livingstone said that following the attack, he made his way back to the party with Mr Hedges following him up the stairs outside the house.

Cigarette claim wrong

He said that there were lots of people on the stairs and, although he did not see Mr Hedges fall, he thought the injured man may have overbalanced as he climbed past people on the stairs.

Mr Livingstone was also quizzed about the issuing of a press statement on Mr Hedges' behalf by the mayor's office.

Trevor Phillips
Trevor Phillips chaired Wednesday's question session
He said Ms Beal and Mr Hedges were close friends and spoke about whether to issue a statement once the story appeared.

Using the mayoral facilities to put out the statement was justified because the allegations could have brought the mayor's office into disrepute, he said.

Mr Livingstone said that there were no drugs at the party and that press reports that he was drunk were inaccurate.

He had three glasses of wine, then slept from 10pm to 1am. When he woke he was told his pregnant girlfriend had been smoking, which led to the two having an argument.

Mr Livingstone told the London Assembly that it turned out Ms Beal had not actually had a cigarette after all.

Newspaper advice

The mayor's main target in his statement and answering questions was the London Evening Standard, who first printed allegations about the party.

Mr Livingstone said his advice to Londoners was not to buy the newspaper, which later said it was standing by its story and rejected claims it was engaged in a political campaign against the mayor.

Eric Ollerenshaw, the leader of the Conservatives in the 25-member cross-party group, said the meeting was "about the trust and credibility of the mayor".


At no point did Ken and I scuffle, nor did he manhandle me or frogmarch me

Girlfriend Emma Beal
Mr Hedges, 35, who needed a brain scan after the fall, initially described the fall as an accident, but later told a newspaper the mayor had pushed him over the wall.

Mr Livingstone has consistently denied assaulting Mr Hedges, manhandling his pregnant girlfriend Emma Beal, and fleeing the scene before police arrived.

Ms Beal has also denied being manhandled by Mr Livingstone.


It is not just about Ken Livingstone, it is about the integrity of this whole institution

Labour GLA leader Trevor Phillips
Mr Hedges has told police he did not want to make a criminal complaint about the matter.

Mr Livingstone said he would not be suing the Evening Standard for libel, or reporting it to the Press Complaints Commission because of bad experiences in the past with such action.

Instead he was happy for "Londoners to judge", he said, adding: "They're a jury and a pretty big one."

Baroness Hamwee, deputy chairwoman of the assembly, suggested the newspaper should consider referring the matter to Standards Board for England if it had evidence of misconduct by the mayor.

Trevor Phillips, the assembly's Labour chairman, told BBC Radio 4's World At One programme that move would be a way of getting to the bottom of the row.

If it was not referred "this is going to hang around like a bad smell for quite a long time and it is not just about Ken Livingstone, it is about the integrity of this whole institution"..

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Shaun Ley reports:
"Livingstone is well aware that the allegations could destroy his reputation"
The BBC's Nick Robinson
"The charges are serious"
London Assembly Chair Trevor Phillips
"This is about the integrity of the whole institution"

Click here to go to London
See also:

26 Jun 02 | UK Politics
26 Jun 02 | UK Politics
26 Jun 02 | UK Politics
25 Jun 02 | England
20 Jun 02 | England
22 Jun 02 | England
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