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Board stitch-up Ken

by: Leslie Bunder - Last updated: 2006-02-24

Leslie Bunder

Leslie Bunder

For years The Board of Deputies of British Jews have been trying to get one over London Mayor Ken Livingstone.

It's fairly well known, there isn't much respect between the two and when Ken met a journalist from the Evening Standard in February 2005, the Board knew it was onto a winner.

After years of trying to do something to Ken, this was their opportunity and now Ken is suspended from office for four weeks.

Last year, a slightly inebriated Ken was coming out of a party to mark the 20th anniversary of former Culture Secretary coming out as a gay MP and was approached by the journalist.

Feeling he didn't want to talk to him and discovering that Oliver Finegold was from the Evening Standard, Ken picked up on the 1930s support Associated Newspapers showed towards Hitler's Germany.

Ken become a bit short with the journalist comparing his behaviour with that of a concentration camp guard and when Finegold told Ken he was Jewish, he shrugged that off.

Sure, it was insulting, but what's the big issue.

While he was attending an event as Mayor he was leaving to get home. Some will say that public figures should refrain from what they feel in public.

But why did the Board decide to jump onto this issue when they are other more important issues that are facing the Jewish community rather than some off-the-cuff comments a mayor said when he was slightly pissed?

How about The Board taking the same sort of energy it pursued in dealing with Ken to that of helping Jews with real issues they face such as poverty in the community, real issues of racism and trying to develop inter-community dialogue between the various strands of Judaism?

Why don't they intervene when they see Jewish community members causing bad feeling and division to others? Quite simply, it's because they are not about that. They live in their virtual world of self-importance and blow things out of proportion to justify their existence.

It's clearly a personal issue and the unelected leadership that runs the Board should realise there are far more pressing issues facing the Jewish community rather than what Ken said.

The Board is supposed to represent the interest of British Jews, by taking action against Ken, it is once again representing the interests of its own self.

In a statement The Board said:

"The Board of Deputies of British Jews regrets that the Mayor’s intransigence over his hurtful comments last February outside City Hall and his subsequent failure to apologise has lead to a finding that the Office of the Mayor has been brought into disrepute.  Had the Mayor simply recognised the upset his comments had caused, this sorry episode could have been avoided.  He has been the architect of his own misfortune."

What upset did he cause, if only to the journalist in question?  If you are a journalist doing any sort of door stepping or going up to public figures in the street, you should be made of thicker skin. Ken did not insult all Jews, he insulted one and it was within context.

The Board further added:

"The Board of Deputies has at no stage passed judgement on the motivation for the Mayor’s comments, nor have we sought anything other than an expression of regret and an acknowledgement that the words used were wholly inappropriate for the elected representative of Londoners of all faiths and beliefs. We hope that all those involved can now move on from this episode."

It's obvious they sought more than just an expression of regret.  But a decision has now been made, wrongly in my opinion against Ken.

The Board hopes all those involved can now move on. Well, The Board may like to think that, but it opens up a can of worms and questions what role it actually serves in the Jewish community.

While it's useful to have groups to represent their interests, Britain's Jewish community could be and should be better served than what The Board is currently doing.