Multicultural capital turns on Livingstone over death-camp slur

Ken Livingstone is no stranger to making enemies but even by his gladiatorial standards the outspoken Mayor of London's latest battle with the press is a bloody one with the potential of causing him long term political damage.

He is under sustained attack from Jewish community leaders and a gay rights group over remarks he made during an encounter with a newspaper reporter. Mr Livingstone has refused to apologise to the Evening Standard or its journalist, Oliver Finegold, after he likened the reporter to a "concentration camp guard" upon being told by Mr Finegold that he was Jewish.

The Mayor's differences with the press can be traced back to the early 1980s when, as leader of the GLC, he was labelled "Red Ken" for promoting a socialist agenda and extending an invitation to the capital to Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams.

His bust-up with the Standard is the latest in a series of spats which began soon after the appointment of the editor, Veronica Wadley, in 2002.

That year he urged Londoners to boycott the paper after a front-page story accused him of drunkenly pushing a man over a 15ft stairwell and manhandling his pregnant girlfriend at a party. The Mayor denied the allegations, accusing the Standard of waging a politically motivated campaign against him.

The London paper went on to repeatedly attack his congestion charge policy and last year led a chorus of condemnation after he invited the radical Muslim cleric, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, to a conference.

Mr Livingstone thinks the Standard's coverage of London to be unreasonably negative and has set up his own title, The Londoner, extolling the benefits of living in the capital.

Ms Wadley hit out in The Spectator magazine last month, saying the Mayor was still riled because she refused to have lunch with him after becoming editor. The latest controversy also reopens old wounds with Jewish leaders. A remark four years ago that global capitalism kills more people than Hitler was condemned by Jews.

On a tape of his encounter with Mr Finegold, the Labour politician can be heard asking the reporter if he is a "German war criminal" before learning of his Jewish background. He then describes the staff of the paper as a "load of scumbags and reactionary bigots".

Mr Livingstone woke yesterday morning to find representatives of some of the causes he has championed waiting to deliver a critical verdict on what his office insisted had begun as "relatively light-hearted comments". The verbal fracas, which followed a gay event in honour of the Labour MP Chris Smith on Tuesday night, brought swift condemnation from Jews, gay rights campaigners and from within his own party.

Henry Grunwald, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said: "I find his language appalling and this man's insensitivity appears to know no bounds at all. He should consider his position."

Writing in the pages of the Standard, Gerald Kaufman, one of the country's leading Jewish MPs, said: "To liken anyone ­ let alone a Jew ­ to a concentration camp guard is crass and insensitive."

Mr Livingstone, who described the Standard's decision to doorstep the event as harassment, also attracted criticism from the gay rights group, OutRage!

Brett Lock, a spokesman, said: "His sensationalist rhetoric cheapens the experience of Jews, gays, the disabled, Roma, black people, communists and others persecuted by the Nazis."

Opponents wasted no time in suggesting his comments would damage London's Olympic bid. Tony Arbour, the Tory vice-chairman of the Greater London Authority standards com- mittee, said: "He has brought London and his office into disrepute, and may have single-handedly ensured London will fail to win the 2012 Olympics."

The Mayor will try to crown his second term in office next week by convincing a 14-member Olympic delegation of his native city's merits.

Details of Mr Livingstone's diary from last week, seen by The Independent, show he attended five events to which the media were invited, apparently providing the grounds for his office to complain that the Standard was unfairly pursuing him.

Last night, Mr Livingstone was in no mood for a climbdown. He said that "nobody who works for the Daily Mail group of papers [which owns the Standard] deserves respect".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark episode 8, review
News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ramsay Bolton in Game of Thrones
tvSeries 5, Episode 3 review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

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

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence