Livingstone steps up his battle with 'reprehensible' media group

London's Mayor, Ken Livingstone, last night stoked the fire in his battle with Associated Newspapers with an attack on the editors of the
Daily Mail and the
Evening Standard.

London's Mayor, Ken Livingstone, last night stoked the fire in his battle with Associated Newspapers with an attack on the editors of the Daily Mail and the Evening Standard.

In an increasingly acrimonious row, triggered after the Mayor's now infamous exchange with a Jewish Evening Standard reporter, the Mayor claimed the Daily Mail titles "continue to provide food for racism today".

Labelling the Daily Mail group as among the "most reprehensibly managed, edited and owned newspapers in the world", the Mayor suggested its wartime owner, the first Viscount Rothermere, the great-grandfather of the papers' present owner, would have been "at the front of the queue of collaborators" had Britain been defeated by Hitler.

At a weekly news conference yesterday, Mr Livingstone ducked criticism that he had been prepared to accept money from the group as a restaurant critic for the Evening Standard, by claiming it had changed under the current editorship of Veronica Wadley, a former deputy editor of the Daily Mail, to become a "clone" of its sister title.

He took a swipe at the Daily Mail's editor, Paul Dacre, saying: "He wanted an editor he could control and bring [the Evening Standard] into line to reflect the general views of the Mail group."

Despite widespread calls for him to apologise, from Holocaust survivors to his own party, the politician again failed to say sorry for his comments last week when he compared Evening Standard reporter Oliver Finegold to a Nazi concentration camp guard.

Batting aside fears that the row was damaging London's multicultural credentials in a crucial week for its bid to hold the 2012 Olympic Games, Mr Livingstone conceded that his remarks to Mr Finegold could be seen as offensive and even liable to legal complaint.

But he insisted that because his remarks - following a party in honour of the gay Labour MP Chris Smith - were not racist, there were no grounds for an apology.

At the media briefing, scheduled to deal with the minutiae of the transport system, Mr Livingstone said: "You can make the case my remarks were offensive and that they may be actionable and may have recourse in law, but you can't make the case they were racist.

"I have been through several of these media firestorms. I have always had the view that if I had made a mistake, I would apologise. I am not going to apologise if I do not believe that I have done something wrong."

Instead, Mr Livingstone, who faces an inquiry by local government watchdogs after a complaint from the Board of Deputies of British Jews, stepped up his attack on the Evening Standard and its sister paper, the Daily Mail.

He reiterated his criticism of the Daily Mail's flirtation with fascism during the 1930s and subsequent coverage of minorities from Irish immigrants to asylum-seekers.

Associated Newspapers, the owner of the Daily Mail titles, last night made no comment.

But there were signs that the row was causing more widespread damage, in particular to London's Olympic bid. Lord Coe, the head of the bid, sought to play down the dispute by saying the International Olympic Committee team, which starts its inspection today, was interested only in analysing technical aspects of the campaign.

He said: "That is what they are here for and we will certainly not be deflected from anything else. This is absolutely what the focus is."

In the meantime, a battered but unbowed Mr Livingstone sought to make a virtue of his obstinacy by insisting the Olympic officials should admire his strength of character.

The row started after Mr Livingstone was approached for a comment by Mr Finegold outside City Hall following a party marking the 20th anniversary of former culture secretary Mr Smith coming out as Britain's first openly gay MP.

Referring to the decision of the Daily Mail to support Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists in the 1930s, he first asked Mr Finegold if he was a "German war criminal".

When the reporter replied he was Jewish, Mr Livingstone said: "You're just like a concentration camp guard. You're just doing it because you're paid to, aren't you?"

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £60,000

£25000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Care Workers Required - The London Borough of Bromley

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This homecare agency is based in Beckenh...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas