The real cost of Ken's 'Nazi war criminal' abuse

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The Independent Online

Ken Livingstone – not for the first time – is proving rather expensive to the taxpayer.

London's amphibian-loving Mayor infamously abused a Jewish reporter, comparing him to a "German war criminal" and a "concentration camp guard". Ken's foul mouth was said to have cost the public kitty a whopping £77,000 in legal fees.

But a new report now reveals that the total cost has almost trebled to £200,000.

After he barracked the Evening Standard journalist Oliver Finegold two years ago, the Standards Board for England suspended Ken for four weeks for bringing his office into disrepute.

Livingstone won an appeal in the High Court and his suspension was lifted. However, the judge commented that the remarks were "indefensible", and added that Livingstone could have apologised and prevented all the legal hassle and public expense. "Had he done so," said Mr Justice Collins, "it is likely that no action would have been taken against him".

The Government has now revealed the full £198,000 cost. That's £120,000 given to Ken to cover his legal fees; £64,000 in costs to the Standards Board; and £14,000 to the Adjudication Panel.

Livingstone says he had intended to be abusive and he made the comments because he was being harassed by the newspaper. It was all worth it because he was making a stand for "free speech" and "democracy".

The Tories say the new bill raises questions about Ken's use of public funds: "He has no regard for how taxpayers' money is spent."

Dita signs up to play Mata Hari laid bare

Yet further cinematic delights await us from the springy, snowy-skinned Dita Von Teese.

In June, Pandora reported that the burlesque dancer, formerly married to the mascara-wearing controversialist Marilyn Manson, had agreed to play a young stripper in The Boom Boom Room, being shot at Willie Nelson's Texas ranch.

In addition, she will play the lead next year in Martha Fiennes' biopic of the exotic Dutch dancer Mata Hari, who was executed for spying in the First World War.

"Dita has done a little acting before and I think she can handle it," says Fiennes, younger sis of Ralph, at the launch of Marie Helvin's autobiography. "In fact, I approached her myself. She is perfect for the part." Fiennes hopes to shoot next summer.

"I have written the script but it will probably need some developing," she says, "so I don't expect filming for another eight to 10 months."

Fanny strikes again

At last! The return of Pandora's old friend, Simon Fanshawe. The broadcaster and self-professed manners expert (he has written a book) last year suffered an "episode" when I asked him about the £35 "party tax" he charged friends to attend his 50th birthday. He responded with a puce eruption of cusswords. The swear box count reached seven "Fs", one "C" and a single "shit".

Fanny now offers a course for businessmen called "Leadership in the Raw", which will "inspire and give confidence".

He cold-emailed a stack of people, some of whom he didn't know, to advertise this. A senior professor at a London business school appeared not to appreciate the offer and emailed back: "Simon, you've gone bonkers. I presume this is a joke..." I would ring Fanny but am feeling a bit delicate at the moment.

No Shell out

Vince Cable boycotted Buckingham Palace's banquet honouring the Saudi monarch, King Abdullah. Cable was once chief economist at oil behemoth Shell, which has obvious interests in the Kingdom. Surely he enjoyed red carpet-and-Cristal treatment at Saudi expense? Insists a spokesman: "No, they have never met in that capacity."

* Yum! A delicious humble pie, cooked for Pandora by the Labour MP Barry Sheerman. I must warn any reader at Helpston's Blue Bell Inn, expecting to see Patrick Stewart sipping a pint of Best after last week's story that the pub had been bought by the John Clare Trust (of which Sheerman and Stewart are prominent members), that it is in fact the Exeter Arms down the road that has been purchased. Those keen to assist the trust's regeneration of poet Clare's old house should visit its website.

Piers having a knightmare

I do hope the work keeps coming in for Piers Morgan. The former Daily Mirror editor – now a television "talent" show judge – has been spotted pounding the sidewalk in New York in unusual attire.

"I saw Piers Morgan in Times Square a few days ago," says a colleague, "dressed head to foot in chain mail, pretending to be a medieval knight. We saw him the day before in Madison Square Garden. He was dressed as a knight there, too. It was very peculiar."

Apparently, Morgan then tried to sell them tickets to see the Monty Python musical, Spamalot. "It was a horrible, cold, wet day," addes my colleague. "He was standing there in the pouring rain, dripping with water. I was worried. I felt quite sorry for him." Mmm.

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