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February 25, 2006

Ken Livingstone Suspended

So Ken Livingstone is suspended from office for a month for his (subjectively) racist remarks to a reporter. Harry’s, Brighton Regency, A Councillor, The Torygraph, well, use the search engines yourselves to find more views. Myself, if I actually thought that we had a functioning democracy in the UK still, would be more worried than I am.

Strip away the who said what said bit, whether it was racist speech or not, look at exactly what happened.

An elected politician was removed from office by the bureaucracy of the State.

Do we really want to go down that road?  Only those whose views are acceptable to said bureacracy may remain in office? Will we have an ideology test before someone may stand for office? Anyone may be a candidate as long as they are members of the Communist Party? As long as they sign up to the prevailing ethos?

No, I don’t think so, really not sure that this is exactly what we want. I dislike Livingstone intensely (my only personal interaction with him has been waiting upon his table in a restaurant a couple of decades ago. I tend to think that you can learn a lot about a man’s character by how he treats the "servants" and he was fine. My dislike is based on his politics, not his personal character.) but a good test of one’s commitment to anything is your reaction when someone you normally dislike is hit with what you regard as an injustice.

Should Nick Griffin be banned from politics? From being able to stand? If he actually won a seat as a councillor, should his elected position be taken away from him? As long as he hasn’t breached the criminal law, no. Should G. Galloway be banned from the Commons for his repulsive views? No. MPs have to go if they are made bankrupt or sentenced to more than 1 year in jail.

Should Ken be suspended because he breached the "code of conduct"? No. There shouldn’t be such a code of conduct in the first place. That’s giving far too much power to the bureaucracy that writes said code and far too little to the people who are allowed to elect anyone they damn well please. "Allowed" may be too weak a word there.

I think Larry Flynt had the right idea here, talking about the First Amendment in the US. When found not guilty he said "If the law protects a scumbag like me then it’ll protect you."

Quite. Livingstone won a democratic election fair and square. The only people who can remove him from office (barring an untimely death, of course) are the people at the next scheduled such or a conviction under the criminal law. Being rude, breaching a speech code or insulting a reporter (what else are they for?) doesn’t meet that standard. And having the bureaucracy decide who we can elect to run said bureaucracy on our behalf is a negation, a nullifcation, of the entire idea of democracy itself.

I hope he does appeal and wins.

en livingstone

February 25, 2006 in Politics | Permalink


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» More about the soon-to-be-suspended Mayor from Ephems of BLB
An update to my earlier piece about the absurd affair of the suspended mayor, noting the flimsiness and lack of proportion of the full text of the tribunals finding [More >>>]... [Read More]

Tracked on Feb 26, 2006 12:10:46 AM


KL was suspended by the "Adjudication Panel for England", an independent judicial Tribunal, appointed by the Deputy Prime Minister, which was established by the Local Government Act 2000 to hear and adjudicate on matters concerning the conduct of local authority members.

I'm not privy to what exactly motivated the government to propose this legislation to Parliament. Very likely, it was to make good on the promise Blair made shortly after becoming PM to halt the corrupt and wrongful practices and conduct of some local councils and some democratically elected councillors as instanced by news reports like this which were and are entirely unrelated to either KL or the London Assembly:

"A council at the centre of a police fraud inquiry has been criticised in an independent report for blatant junketing which cost the taxpayer hundreds of thousands of pounds. . ."

"The worst local government corruption case since the Poulson scandal of the 1970s ended yesterday with hefty jail terms for a senior Labour councillor and the property developer who bribed him."

On KL's suspension, the complaint in the news that an unelected tribunal has temporally suspended a "democratically elected mayor" seems a complete nonsense to me. We don't elect the judiciary in Britain, or magistrates or tribunal panels, and so far as I'm aware there are no serious proposals to do so.

Sadly, there remain recurring concerns about local councils:

"An incredible £7 million has gone missing from accounts of the South Yorkshire Trading Standards Unit based at Chapeltown . . "

Those who insist on the principle that everything and anything is acceptable provided that it is endorsed by electorates might recall that the installation of a one-party state in Nazi Germany was endorsed by a huge majority in a popular plebiscite held in November 1933 and the amalgamation of the functions of the posts of President and Chancellor of Germany in the person of the Feuhrer in a plebiscite held in August 1934. In the present context, this comparison is especially ironic.

Posted by: Bob B | Feb 25, 2006 10:12:38 AM

I disagree Tim. I think the c*** should have been suspended far longer for the damage he has done both to London and its reputation. An Islamist-loving Jew-hating scumbag should not be Mayor of London's capital.

Posted by: Andrew Ian Dodge | Feb 25, 2006 12:20:51 PM

Altogether now ...

"His name is Ken,
He's got a maggot in his brain"

"His name is Ken,
He's got a maggot in his brain"

Posted by: johnny bonk | Feb 25, 2006 2:56:01 PM

Public officials in the US can be suspended. And by the electorate and not some frightening appointed tribunal- it's called a recall. Do the citizens of London have that recourse?

Tim adds: No, we do not have recall elections over here. More’s the pity.

Posted by: Greg | Feb 25, 2006 4:37:59 PM

A very fair man, Red Ken does alot of good. Hopefully he'll win an appeal. The verdict should not stand.

On the back of the Irving case, whats has happends to the 'free speech' advocates that we loudest in the cartoons affaif?

Tim adds: I was on the same side in both. DI should be free just as J-P were free to print. Both objectionable, possibly insulting, certainly in bad taste. And that they are allowed to be so , continue to be so, is what makes a free society.

Posted by: jamal | Feb 25, 2006 9:10:10 PM

He should of course have been suspended or recalled for breaking his manifesto pledge not to raise tube fares or the congestion charge almost immeadiately on gaining office. And his views on democracy are well illustrated by his push to extend the congestion zone to the (lucrative) west, which despite several polls showing 80% or more residents were opposed to the extension are going through anyway - cos he thinks it's a good idea. Unfortunately not enough people remembered what a disaster he was last time.

Posted by: Mark T | Feb 25, 2006 10:43:43 PM

Just want to register complete agreement about the utterly unacceptable and ill-judged 'decision' to suspend our capital city's elected mayor. I have set out my views at greater length at http://tinyurl.com/z4hh8 and shan't repeat them here, except to mention that the full text of the decision of the Adjudication panel for England is available (pdf) at http://tinyurl.com/l262y, and a very sad and unconvincing read it is. The tribunal makes unsupported assertions about the supposed offensiveness and insensitivity of Ken Livingstone's remarks to the Evening Standard reporter, without any sign of recognising or allowing for the circumstances of the encounter; priggishly rebukes the Mayor for setting out his legal arguments at length and for refusing to apologise for offending the reporter, accepts that the case should never have got as far as the Panel (thus implicitly acknowledging the essential triviality of the whole affair) but blames Livingstone for having let it do so, and proceeds to impose a swingeing penalty out of all proportion to the significance of the supposed offence as assessed by the Tribunal itself. The tone of the whole document is that of an exceptionally prim housemaster at a minor public school. The Tribunal notes that the government has accepted that the paragraph of the Code of Conduct under which they have 'convicted' the mayor is unsatisfactory and that it needs to be amended in such a way as to remove from its scope the kind of conduct that has led to the complaint against the Mayor -- meaning that if the proposed amendment had been made, there would have been no case for the Mayor to answer -- but they clearly ignore the implication of that in deciding on the severity of the penalty they impose. If the High Court doesn't allow the Mayor's probable appeal on the grounds that the complaint against him was vexatious and frivolous, or at the worst substitute a token penalty such as the 'reprimand' recommended by the referring Standards Board, I shall really have to consider emigrating. That will show 'em!


Posted by: Brian Barder | Feb 25, 2006 11:45:09 PM

PS: Sorry -- the link to the full text of the tribunal's finding on the Livingstone affair should have been http://tinyurl.com/l262y.


Posted by: Brian barder | Feb 26, 2006 12:25:29 AM

I defend free speech whether I agree with the politics or not (although impolite, Ken didn't say anything racist). I loathe David Irving, Hizb ut Tahrir, Nick Griffin, the 'behead' demonstrators and didn't particularly like the cartoons, but I defend them all from a free speech point of view. If we have to ban or imprison people for speaking their mind then it sends out the message that we don't believe the truth is strong enough to withstand criticism. You can't defeat fascism by being fascist. This justs creats martyrs and is counter-productive. Only those who directly incite violence should face prosecution.

Posted by: Neil Harding | Feb 27, 2006 6:22:38 AM