London Mayor wins first stage of appeal

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

The High Court has delayed a four-week suspension of London’s Mayor Ken Livingstone imposed for comparing a Jewish reporter to a concentration camp guard outside a party to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the first openly gay MP.

Mr Livingstone was ordered suspended for a month beginning March 1 by a tribunal last week for bringing his office into disrepute during an exchange with the reporter outside a party.

But a High Court judge accepted his request to have the suspension delayed until an appeal can be heard.

The adjudication panel of the Standards Board for England ruled that the Mayor of London brought his office into disrepute when he acted in an “unnecessarily insensitive” manner following a reception held commemorating 20th anniversary of Chris Smith being the first MP to reveal he was gay.

Panel chairman, David Laverick, said they decided on a ban because Mr Livingstone had failed to recognise the seriousness of his outburst. He said: “The case tribunal accepts that this is not a situation when it would be appropriate to disqualify the mayor.”

“The case tribunal is, however, concerned that the mayor does seem to have failed, from the outset of this case, to have appreciated that his conduct was unacceptable, was a breach of the code (the GLA code of conduct) and did damage to the reputation of his office.”

Mr Laverick added that the complaint should never have reached the board, but it was Mr Livingstone’s reluctance to apologise that caused it.

The mayor defended the outburst, saying Evening Standard reporter, Mr Finegold was “doorstepping” him outside a party.

He believed he was expressing his honestly-held political view of Associated Newspapers, but he didn’t mean to offend the Jewish community. “As far as I am aware, there is no law against ‘unnecessary insensitivity’ or even ‘offensiveness’ to journalists harassing you as you try to go home.”

Mr Livingstone also denied any bias against Jews, and said that accusations of anti-Semitism were being raised “to give weight to charges which would otherwise be too trivial to merit the gigantic fuss that has been made about this brief private exchange.”

If his appeal fails, Mr Livingstone will have to pay his own legal costs, estimated at £80,000.

Ken Livingstone has been a recognised defender of gay rights, he launched the first ever Partnerships Register in the UK, which eventually led to the Civil Partnership Act last December, and supported the repeal of Section 28.