Livingstone likens Jewish reporter to Nazi guard

The feud between the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, and the capital's Evening Standard newspaper reached new depths yesterday after Mr Livingstone described the paper's staff as "a load of scumbags and reactionary bigots".

His remarks after a party to celebrate gay and lesbian freedoms drew him into a race row when he likened aStandard reporter - who had already told him he was Jewish - to a "concentration camp guard".

The journalist, Oliver Finegold, had told the Mayor that he was deeply offended by his advice that he should work for "a paper that doesn't have a record of supporting fascism" and his suggestion that Finegold must have taken his job because he was previously a "German war criminal".

Mr Livingstone's office said the exchange began in a "relatively light-hearted manner" and ended with the reporter swearing at the Mayor.

The incidenton Tuesday is the latest in an apparent vendetta between Mr Livingstone and the Standard which began soon after the appointment of the editor, Veronica Wadley, in 2002, when the paper reported that the Mayor had launched a drunken attack on his partner and her friend at a party. Mr Livingstone denied the claims.

He has since been a thorn in the side of the Standard's owners, Associated Newspapers, by taking legal action over the arrangements to distribute the free title, Metro (also owned by Associated), on the London Underground. He has threatened the paper's exclusive distribution rights, thus encouraging Richard Desmond, to publish his own free London title.

Mr Livingstone considers the Standard's coverage of London life to be unreasonably negative. He set up his own title, The Londoner, full of articles about the benefits of living in the capital and delivered free to homes.

Ms Wadley hit back in The Spectator magazine last month, saying that the Mayor regarded Mr Desmond as his "new best friend" and callingThe Londoner "Ken's Pravda".

"Could it be that Ken Livingstone, formerStandard magazine restaurant critic, is still riled by my refusing, three years ago and a few hours after my appointment as editor of the Standard, to have lunch with him?" she wrote.

The Mayor's office said the Standard had provoked Mr Livingstone by attending an event on Tuesday (to mark the 20th anniversary of the former minister Chris Smith coming out as gay) which it would not normally attend. "The Mayor took the Standard's relatively unusual actions in this regard to be harassment of a predominantly lesbian and gay event," it said.

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