February 24, 2006

London mayor Livingstone suspended for “Nazi” jibe

By Peter Graff

LONDON (Reuters) - London's outspoken Mayor Ken Livingstone
was suspended for a month on Friday after being found to have
brought his office into disrepute for comparing a Jewish
reporter to a concentration camp guard.

A spokeswoman for the Adjudication Panel of England which
hears complaints against local authorities, said it had
suspended Livingstone, 60, for four weeks from March 1 in a
case brought by a Jewish group.

The mayor, one of Britain's most colorful and popular
politicians, could have faced a penalty ranging from a formal
rebuke to a five year ban on holding public office.

Livingstone sparked the rumpus when reporter Oliver
Finegold of the city's Evening Standard newspaper cornered him
outside a private party for a gay politician in February 2005.

When the reporter identified himself as working for the
Standard, a paper loathed by the mayor, Livingstone asked:
"Have you thought of having treatment?" and then: "What did you
do? Were you a German war criminal?"

Finegold said he was Jewish and found the remarks
offensive, to which Livingstone replied that by pestering him
the reporter was acting "like a concentration camp guard -- you
are just doing it because you are paid to."

Livingstone, once known as Red Ken for a history as a left
wing maverick in local government in the 1980s, won election to
the newly created post of mayor in 2004 after leaving Prime
Minister Tony Blair's Labour Party and defeating Blair's

He later returned to the party, but has frequently clashed
with Blair over issues like the war in Iraq, which he marched

He was widely praised last year for guiding a successful
bid for the 2012 Olympics and for his handling of suicide bomb
attacks on the city's transport system in which 52 commuters

But he has long taken on the press and had a particularly
prickly relationship with the Evening Standard, where he was
once an occasional freelance restaurant critic.

He had refused to apologize for the Nazi jibe, arguing that
the Standard's owners, the Daily Mail group, had a history of
anti-Semitism, and that the reporter's aggressive questioning
was offensive and unnecessary.

Livingstone said at the time of the incident that he had
been rude to reporters for 25 years, no others had ever
complained, and he had no intention of changing his style.