UK Politics

This sorry tale

I think the recent furor over Mayor Livingstone’s remarks to Oliver Finegold are a ‘storm in a teacup’. There, I’ve said it. I prefer not to think of this as defending Livingstone, rather as not kicking him when he is down.

What Ken said was boorish and pretty uncomplimentary, but anti-Semitic? A trivialisation of the Holocaust? I think not.

The first remark alluding to an imagined previous life of Mr. Finegold as a German war criminal was made before the journalist had mentioned his Jewish roots. The mayor’s follow-up regarding the concentration camp guard defence of “only doing my job” was a direct reference to Mr. Finegold taking his shilling from the Evening Standard, the object of the Mayor’s hate. It seems clear to me that Livingstone would have made the same remarks to any ES journalist of any ethnicity or religious background. That doesn’t make it right, but neither does it support any claim that the religion of Mr. Finegold was a factor in the Mayor’s comments.

A campaign to have the Mayor issue an apology because of his un-Mayor like behaviour, would not elicit a post of this type from me. But the apology demanded is for an offence he did not, so far as I can see, commit. If Livingstone were to accede to the calls for public contrition, it necessarily implies that he accepts he is guilty of the anti-Semitism and bigotry of which he stands accused. In this context, I can perfectly understand his reluctance to give way.

A few weeks back, the Mayor invited a misogynistic, homophobic, racist bigot to the capital. Let’s have him apologise for that, rather than some fantastically contrived and unsupportable accusations of drunken, anti-Semitism.

Harry adds: I disagree with Brownie on this one. Looking at the text of the exchange:

Finegold: No, I’m Jewish, I wasn’t a German war criminal and I’m actually quite offended by that. So, how did tonight go?

Mr Livingstone: Arr right, well you might be [Jewish], but actually you are just like a concentration camp guard, you are just doing it because you are paid to, aren’t you?

The journalist said he was Jewish and Livingstone’s next phrase was to call him ” like a concentration camp guard”.

This is not only personally offensive, it echoes a current approach in modern anti-semitism to compare Jews to Nazis.

That is something he should not only apologise for but totally repudiate.