The Mayor was wrong, and he should apologise

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Commendably, Ken Livingstone has never been afraid to stand up to the bullies and reactionaries of the media. But now the wise thing would be to admit that he made a mistake - and apologise.

Ken Livingstone's remarks last week to Oliver Finegold, a journalist on London's Evening Standard newspaper, were crass and offensive. When the Mayor of London compared the reporter to a concentration camp guard he did not distinguish his office. The mayor's words were deeply insensitive, especially considering Mr Finegold had just informed Mr Livingstone that he was Jewish.

The claim that the Mayor was unfairly provoked does not hold water. Mr Livingstone is an experienced politician and knows that being asked questions by journalists at odd times of the day comes with the territory. On this occasion, Mr Livingstone seems to have simply lost his temper. It is more than likely that, in private, he regrets saying what he did.

The best way end this row would be for the Mayor to make a personal apology to Mr Finegold. It is disappointing, therefore, that Mr Livingstone has ruled this out. At a press conference yesterday, the Mayor argued that, "I'm not going to apologise if I don't believe it." It has clearly become a matter of pride. Now we will have to wait and see if the Standards Board for England, which scrutinises local government, will launch an official investigation into the Mayor's conduct. It could end with Mr Livingstone being suspended from office.

Yet while the Mayor is being overly stubborn in resisting a personal apology, he has a point when he complains about the grossly unfair treatment he has received in the past from reactionary elements in the populist press. It was this treatment that clearly lay behind his intemperate remarks to Mr Finegold.

Mr Livingstone was in the wrong on this occasion, but he has right on his side when he deplores the intrusions that certain newspapers regularly make into people's private lives, including his own. It is refreshing when figures such as Mr Livingstone point out the hypocrisy that pervades certain right-wing publications. Commendably, the Mayor has never been afraid to stand up to the bullies and reactionaries of the media. But now the wise thing would be to admit that he made a mistake - and apologise.

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