Livingstone wins reprieve as judge freezes his suspension
LONDON - Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London, has had his four weeks' suspension from office postponed pending appeal, as a High Court judge freezes the ruling of the Adjudication Panel for England.
The panel, which is unelected, suspended Livingstone on Friday for remarks he made comparing Jewish Evening Standard reporter Oliver Finegold to a Nazi concentration camp guard.
The case has dragged on for months, after Livingstone refused to apologise for his comments, leading to his referral to the Adjudication Panel for England by Standards Board for England, the body responsible for English local government standards. On Friday, the panel ruled he should be suspended for four weeks from March 1.
The Mayor, who has attacked the ban as undemocratic, has applied for a judicial review and might take his case to the court of appeal and the House of Lords if need be.
Livingstone said: "I believe what I said was right. I said it to many journalists. No one has ever complained before.
"The adjudication tribunal found that my comment to the Evening Standard journalist had been 'unnecessarily insensitive' and 'offensive'. Those are not grounds for overturning the decision of the voters of London to elect me as Mayor. 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."
The case has become a battle ground between Livingstone and Associated Newspapers, which owns the Evening Standard and the Daily Mail.
The comments were made as Livingstone left a party for former Labour MP Chris Smith, marking 20 years as Britain's first openly gay MP.
Livingstone has accused Associated of 25 years of abuse and Veronica Wadley, the Evening Standard editor, of waging a campaign against him and his office.
"Wadley complained in her personally written editorial that I had failed to show 'the minimum standard of behaviour that everyone should respect'. She then went on to describe me as a liar, a hypocrite, a coward and arrogant. Clearly Ms Wadley has had an irony by-pass.
"Nor is her venom in this instance untypical. Shortly after she became editor of the Evening Standard on the November 21 2002 she published a profile of me in which I was described as a 'snappy, snarling brute', 'voracious', 'frightening', 'ugly', 'raging' and 'gripped by paranoia'," Livingstone said in a statement.
Livingstone said he believed that at the heart of the complaint, which was brought by the Board of Deputies of British Jews, were his views on Israel, because opponents accuse his criticism of Israel as being anti-Semitic.
"Some time before this incident was blown out of all proportion, the Board of Deputies asked to meet me to urge me to tone down my views on the Israeli government. For far too long, the accusation of anti-Semitism has been used against anybody who is critical of the policies of the Israeli government. Even Tony Blair was recently described as a 'common anti-Semite' in an Israeli newspaper," he said.
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