Richard Ingrams' Week: What Ken and Mussolini have in common


Bush and Blair still don't seem to understand that there is no necessary connection between democracy and liberty. So the Palestinians have voted for Hamas, the Afghans for a government that permits the execution of any Muslim who converts to Christianity.

You can't have it both ways - call for democracy and then object to the electorates' choice. And what applies to Hamas applies just as much to Red Ken Livingstone, the controversial mayor of London, who was once again accused of racism this week when he told two Jewish businessmen to go back to Iran when they hadn't come from there in the first place.

Ken was already threatened with suspension for a trivial incident when he insulted a Jewish reporter from the Evening Standard at a party in north London.

Several worthy citizens called for his resignation or expulsion, apparently forgetting or prepared to overlook that the people of London had elected him as their mayor in two successive elections. So wasn't it up to the voters to decide whether or not he should be kicked out?

Personally I will be prepared to forgive Red Ken almost anything - his ruthless elimination of the pigeons in Trafalgar Square, even his abandonment of the Routemaster bus - for his introduction of the congestion charge.

A truly radical move unlike anything that Blair or Brown has ever done to improve the quality of life, it has resulted in a cleaner, quieter city, one in which you can now get around with relative speed.

Ken may not have made the trains run on time like Mussolini but he has done nearly as well.

Barclays indulge in a spot of legal tourism

Those mysterious twins the Barclay brothers who recently acquired the Telegraph papers have at least one thing in common with the previous owner, Lord Black of Crossharbour, now facing criminal charges in America: both parties are keen issuers of libel writs.

In 2004, Black famously sued a group of American investigators into his business accusing them of turning him into "a loathsome laughing stock". He even once sued the British ambassador in Germany for daring to criticise The Daily Telegraph's somewhat negative attitude towards the EU.

The Barclays have recently taken the even more unusual step of suing The Times for criticising their business dealings.

The strange thing is that they are bringing the case in France where, one imagines, The Times has a rather limited circulation. A spokesman for the Barclays explained this week that the only reason for this bizarre legal manoeuvre was that in the French legal system things worked much more quickly than in this country.

But as the offending article was published in November 2004 and the case will not be heard at the earliest until December 2006 one wonders what exactly he had in mind.

There is seldom any justification for journalists, let alone the proprietors of newspapers, to seek redress in the courts.

Unlike others who claim to have been defamed they have the privilege to answer back in kind.

If the proprietors of the Telegraph don't like what The Times says about them then they could use their own pages to put the record straight, to denounce and vilify those responsible, for days on end, if they so wish.

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