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The wrong kind of alcohol...

by: Lior Cox - Last updated: 2006-10-20

Ken Livingstone

Ken Livingstone

Mr Justice Andrew Collins considers London Mayor Ken Livingstone's remarks "unnecessarily offensive" and yet clears him of bringing his office into disrepute. So, when is offensive not offensive? And what sort of offensive is offensive enough to shame public office in this country?

We get a lot of not quite the right sort of things in Britain at the moment... The trains run late because "it's the wrong kind of snow" and we've just had a warning that because of the late summer and the rain, we're going to get the "wrong kind of leaves" on the tracks, thus impeding an already Third World service. Condoleezza Rice is vilified in the The Guardian and the The Independent which, ostensibly, should surely be rejoicing that within living memory of the Civil Rights and Women’s Liberation movements, the holder of the most powerful foreign affairs portfolio in the world is not just a woman but also black. Clearly, she’s also the “wrong kind of woman” – but, just perhaps, she’s the "wrong shade of black." Michael Jackson she certainly ain’t.
Ken Livingstone indulges a petty-minded, vituperative grudge against The Evening Standard, London’s primary evening newspaper, in a vendetta that goes back to before Mrs Thatcher abolished the Greater London Council, on the grounds that its owners, Associated Newspapers Ltd., also publish The Daily Mail.  Livingstone’s beef is that The Daily Mail supposedly supported fascism in the 1930s, ergo The Evening Standard is the “wrong kind of newspaper”… and, of course, no-one vaguely to the left of Attila The Hun can abide the fact that it was the Conservative Party who produced the country’s first woman prime minister along with the first female Member of Parliament, American-born Lady Astor.   Perhaps she was the “wrong kind of American” or just the “wrong kind of aristocrat” – as a viscountess, the bucket in the well of loneliness she certainly was not.
Journalist Oliver Finegold had every right to challenge Livingstone after a party to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Chris Smith’s election as Britain’s first openly gay MP – looking on the bright side of life, clearly Mr Smith is the “right kind of homosexual” – and to draw offence at Livingstone’s gratuitously odious remarks. His and the Board of Deputies of British Jews – who took up cudgels on Mr Finegold’s behalf – subsequent mistake was to be far too gentlemanly about the whole sorry episode.
You see, if you listen carefully to the recording of Mr Finegold’s encounter with London’s mayor, what is unmentionably apparent is that Livingstone was drunk at the time… not in the “wrong kind of Catholic” Mel Gibson sort of way, but still sufficiently compus mentis to determine that kapos were the “wrong kind of Jews.”  It is the worst kept secret in London that Livingstone is not so much an alcoholic as an inveterate boozer whose choice of poison is clearly the “wrong kind of alcohol.”
In the full knowledge that anti-Semitism is the most clubbable of establishment peccadilloes in London at the present, Mr Finegold and the Board of Deputies should have complained not of Livingstone’s remarks, but of his drunkenness as bringing his public office into disrepute. If Mr Justice Andrew Collins is a gentile Londoner worth his salt and his beer, his considered opinion would have resulted in a more favourable ruling on the public purse. In this instance, his remarks owe more to political correctness than to blind justice and have the squint of the pie-eyed about them. But then, just perhaps, Jewish Londoners are the “wrong kind of tax-payer”…