Politicians only apologise for what others have done

Ken Livingstone is aware that those demanding he apologise only want to humiliate him

Share
Related Topics

The best part about the row in which Ken Livingstone told a Jewish journalist he was like a guard at a concentration camp is the brilliant, drunken-sounding dialogue. On hearing the journalist wrote for the London
Evening Standard, Livingstone said, "I'd advise treatment," then a few moments later said it again. Then he added that his paper was "full of scumbags". It's a shame the journalist wasn't on the same wavelength. Then the conversation would have continued:

The best part about the row in which Ken Livingstone told a Jewish journalist he was like a guard at a concentration camp is the brilliant, drunken-sounding dialogue. On hearing the journalist wrote for the London Evening Standard, Livingstone said, "I'd advise treatment," then a few moments later said it again. Then he added that his paper was "full of scumbags". It's a shame the journalist wasn't on the same wavelength. Then the conversation would have continued:

"No, you're the scumbag."

"Are you having a go at my old man?"

"I never wanted to be a journalist. I wanted to play the clarinet."

"He was a good bloke, my old man, a good bloke."

"You're right, he was. I never met him but he was. Here, I've nicked some Pernod, do you want some?"

"I've got some Grand Marnier in the office at City Hall, let's go and finish that off."

And the whole thing would have been resolved with the two of them the best of friends.

Maybe this is the way to re-engage politicians with the public. Prime Minister's Questions should be conducted while paralytic. Howard would start with "The honourable member's a slag. And furthermore, we know where you live."

Blair would get up, but the Speaker would call Margaret Beckett, who'd say "Leave it, Tony, the party opposite isn't worth it."

By the end, they'd be all chummy, with Blair saying to Howard, "Let's face it, Mikey, you don't like 'em, I don't like 'em, but we can't kick 'em all out."

Instead, Livingstone is being advised to apologise by almost everyone, including most of the Labour Party. One Labour spokesperson said: "It's perfectly normal in these situations to stop short of an apology but say you regret any offence caused by your remarks."

As if there's a handbook for how to make apologies you don't mean. Blair has proved a genius at this, saying sorry only for things he had nothing to do with because they happened before he was an MP, like jailing the Guilford Four. Just before the election, he'll announce, "I apologise wholeheartedly to the dinosaurs for the misjudged meteor that struck the Earth during the Jurassic period, causing them a great deal of anguish by making them extinct."

But the most vigorous in their demands for an apology are the same people who, for years, whenever blacks or gays objected to offensive remarks, screamed about PC madness. For example, Simon Heffer, stoic opponent of political correctness, said in yesterday's Daily Mail that Livingstone's comment was "vile, tasteless and offensive with impunity". Perhaps the Mail and Heffer have become far-left anarchists. Next week the headline will be "Hurrah for the Crusties", and the Femail section will show the latest fashions from Paris in balaclavas. Or maybe the Mail has another agenda. The paper is so sensitive about offence to ethnic groups that they've flown reporters to Prague to warn of the "hordes" of gypsies preparing to "swamp" us, informing us of "whole towns in Eastern Europe paid for by asylum-seeking beggars". And all perfectly tastefully, without a hint of vileness or offence.

And in yesterday's Standard, the political editor, Anne McElvoy, insisted that Livingstone was "defending the indefensible by refusing to apologise". I met her once, just after the Americans occupied Baghdad, and suggested the weapons of mass destruction didn't exist. "They'll find them, they'll find them," she insisted, with such manic confidence I wondered if she had them herself, stacked in a locker in Euston Station. Given her enthusiasm for apologies, I'm sure she'll be offering her readers a full statement regretting how she misled them, as soon as there's space once this Livingstone thing has blown over.

The reason, I imagine, why he hasn't apologised is that he's aware that most of those demanding it are not really offended by the remark, but want to humiliate him for other reasons. They want revenge for his radical past, or oppose his defence of asylum-seekers, or they're like the spokesperson for the Jewish Chronicle on the BBC news, who suggested that the proof that his comment was anti-Semitic was that he supported the Palestinians.

The most ridiculous argument of all is that he's damaged the Olympic bid, when surely we shouldn't get them anyway because we'd be rubbish. The 1,500 metres would start with the track still rubble, and the hockey final would take place with a digger on the half-way line, while the referee said, "You'll have to try and knock the ball round it." But the strangest part of the bid is that our multiculturalism is paraded as a selling point, yet it's backed by the Evening Standard, which thrives on trying to terrify Londoners about immigrants.

Maybe the plan is to hold the Olympics here, then bring in laws that mean no foreign athletes will be able to get in the country and then we can clean up all the medals in the gymnastics. So Livingstone should apologise for putting in the bid in the first place. And if there's a Labour Prime Minister in the year 2,650, I'm sure he'll apologise for lying about the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Account Manager

£30 - 38k (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking a digitally focussed Account Man...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - PHP / MySQL / HTML / CSS

£23000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion, this digital ...

Recruitment Genius: Receptionist / Cashier

£16500 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the South East's leading...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Automotive

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity exists ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: Ancient Labour rivalries – Bevan versus Morrison

John Rentoul
Labour leadership hopefuls, from left, Yvette Cooper, Liz Kendall, Andy Burnham and Jeremy Corbyn on the BBC  

If you’re thinking of voting for Jeremy Corbyn, here are my promises to you

Andy Burnham
A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935