Jewish group to boycott Ken over his Nazi jibes

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The Independent Online

* Allegations of anti-Semitism have dogged Ken Livingstone since he compared Jewish journalist Oliver Finegold to a "German war criminal" and a concentration camp guard earlier this year.

Ken repeatedly refused to apologise for the remarks and was found to have brought his office into disrepute. It took intervention by the High Court to save him from being suspended as London mayor.

He also upset Jewish groups by hosting an event attended by the Muslim cleric Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, accused of anti-Semitism and encouraging suicide bombers.

The row burns on: celebrations this weekend to mark the 350th anniversary of the readmission of Jews to England have been snubbed by a senior Jewish organisation because of the mayor's involvement.

The Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women (Ajex) are boycotting the Leicester Square festivities, Simcha on the Square, because the mayor's office helps fund it.

"We will not support it," says chairman Harold Newman. "I've told all of our members that any of them who wish to attend are welcome to do so, but because of Ken Livingstone's track record and his comments about Jews, and his failure to subsequently apologise, we don't want anything to do with him.

"He is not someone we wish to be associated with."

Livingstone has this time opted for diplomacy and will send his deputy, Nicky Gavron. A spokesman said yesterday that Ken could not be reached to comment.

* William Jefferson Clinton and Kevin Spacey have long been buddies. On Saturday night they joined forces to sell the most expensive tickets ever to London's Old Vic theatre - £57,500 apiece.

Spacey flew to Toronto to chair Bill's 60th birthday and charity auction. Guests including Jon Bon Jovi and comedian Billy Crystal (who joked about older men's sporadic urination) raised $20m for Clinton's Aids initiative.

An unnamed bidder paid $230,000 for four tickets to see Spacey perform the lead in Eugene O'Neill's A Moon for the Misbegotten, which opens tomorrow. The prize includes flights to London and dinner with Spacey after the show.

"Kevin hadn't planned it," says his spokeswoman. "He was onstage and saw the astronomical sums paid for other lots."

There were two $650,000 bids to accompany Clinton to Africa. The theatre trip's a snip!

* Reassuring to hear that despite his recent success playing an incomprehensible Asbo chavette, a "gayer" Welshman and a monosyllabic "disabled" fraudster Little Britain's Matt Lucas can be starstruck like the rest of us.

Lucas met Madonna backstage at a recent concert and meekly requested a memento of his encounter with Her Madge. "There were about seven of us sat on a sofa, including her, and someone took a photo," the cherubic comic tells this week's Heat.

"I was thinking, 'Look handsome, this could be a framed picture of you and Madonna for your wall.' Then, when I got given a copy, my flies were undone."

The photograph was not available for Pandora to reprint.

* Cabinet Neighbours From Hell! Part Deux. After Gordon's decision to move his family into Downing Street (to the delight of the Blairs next door - presumably pressing teacups against the wall to see how they long they can stay), two more ministers have been awkwardly paired off.

Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett today moves into her new grace-and-favour flat in Carlton Gardens - situated directly above her predecessor, Jack Straw, unceremoniously shunted to make way for her in May. Hopefully Straw can resist the temptations to throw raucous late-night parties and steal her mail, however, as he still claims the sweeter deal.

"Jack's place is more comfortable than Margaret's poky flat," I'm told, "and it has the most wonderful garden."

* As Charles Kennedy prepares his keenly anticipated comeback speech at next week's Lib Dem conference, moves are afoot to ensure he doesn't outshine embattled successor Sir Menzies Campbell.

"It'll obviously be embarrassing if Charles proves more popular than Ming," points out a colleague. "The word is that party officials will be planted across the conference hall when Ming speaks to keep the applause going and secure him a longer standing ovation."

Just how will Ming celebrate should he win? The hot money is on apparatchiks releasing white doves of peace - although Ming walking through the audience on party members' heads and chairs (after Roberto Benigni's Life is Beautiful Oscar acceptance speech) might be worth a wrinkled fiver.

pandora@independent.co.uk

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