Would you Ken it? Tape casts doubt on Mayor's 'swear' claim

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* You may or may not think Ken Livingstone should apologise for his "Nazi jibe" at an Evening Standard reporter, but it's now difficult to see how he can survive the affair with his integrity intact.

* You may or may not think Ken Livingstone should apologise for his "Nazi jibe" at an Evening Standard reporter, but it's now difficult to see how he can survive the affair with his integrity intact.

When first asked about the incident, London's Mayor issued a statement claiming Oliver Finegold, the Jewish reporter at the centre of the row, had eventually lost his temper and sworn at him.

The claim - made before it emerged that their encounter had been tape-recorded - was printed in several of the following day's newspapers. But (oddly, given the subsequent controversy), it has never since been repeated.

Perhaps I can now explain why: it simply wasn't true. Pandora was yesterday played a full and unedited recording of the conversation, which proves Finegold did not utter so much as a "fiddlesticks".

Instead, in direct contradiction to Livingstone's claim, the encounter ends with the Mayor walking away. His footsteps can be heard for some time.

"We hotly dispute the claim that our man ever swore, and believe this was a deliberate and calculated attempt to smear him," says my man at Associated.

Asked, in writing, if his boss had lied, Livingstone's spokesman said yesterday: "I have now been advised that, as with yesterday's statement, the Mayor is focusing solely on the IOC [International Olympic Committee] visit and not commenting further."

* SADIE FROST and Jemima French's fashion show, a highlight of London Fashion Week, took place at a church in an edgy part of Maida Vale.

So far, so trendy. Until, that is, a group of youths from the next-door council estate got wind of the celebrities in their midst.

Within minutes, guests tripping up the red carpet were being subjected to heckling, wolf whistles, and (according to one victim) "kids in hoodies chucking safety barriers at me".

Fortunately, both Frost and French are at home on the mean streets. "I'm used to it, darling," says French. "My daughter goes to a comprehensive, and there's a lot of this kind of thing about.

"We had a terrible Valentine's Day, actually. There were groups of boys outside our house, chanting and all sorts. You get a thick skin after a while."

* DAVID FURNISH resigned as contributing editor of Tatler last week in protest at the glossy rag's decision to interview Rebecca Loos, bête noire of his chums, David and Victoria Beckham.

Interesting, then, to see Tatler editor Geordie Greig's attempt to smooth things over at Wednesday's Moët tribute for Matthew Williamson. My picture shows him collaring Furnish for a "friendly chat".

Are they now chums again? "I don't want to comment on that," said Furnish. "I never have done, and never will do."

I'll let his body language do the talking, then.

* STAND BY for claret-spitting at the MCC: there are plans to hold London Fashion Week on the sacred turf of Lord's.

A delegation from the British Fashion Council recently visited the home of cricket, with a view to moving their biannual event to St John's Wood from its current location, in Battersea Park.

"We're in two minds," reports one of them. "On the plus side, it's a great British venue, with loads of history. On the minus side, there are space issues, as they won't let us cover any of the pitches."

The MCC hopes a deal can be struck, though. "We've had fashion shows here before, in the nursery pavilion," says a spokesman.

* Lateral thinking from Michael Howard's Tories: they've decided to picket Labour events dressed as groundhogs, claiming that - as in the 1993 film Groundhog Day - we've "seen it all before".

It's a clever stunt, but maybe too clever. "At the weekend, a load of spotty youths from Conservative Future were sent up to Labour's spring conference," I'm told.

"Unfortunately, no one knows what groundhogs look like. So although they spent an entire day at Gateshead conference centre, no one got the joke. There was vague speculation they were animal rights campaigners."

Undeterred, party strategists have now instructed one junior worker - a short-sighted chap with buck teeth - to be a full-time groundhog during the forthcoming election campaign.

pandora@independent.co.uk

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