Saturday, February 25, 2006

Off The Record

At the risk of total flamebait, I must say that I think the suspension of Ken Livingstone from his position of Mayor of London is utterly stupid.

We seem to have situation similar to 'those' cartoons; a highly visible figure has made a comment - an unwise and regrettable comment, true - which they have then been called upon to retract. Citing free speech, they have refused, and they have been punished because of this.

Now ok, Livingstone probably shouldn't have said what he did, but as far as I can see, he broke no laws in saying what he said. What he did do was cause offence, something which I consider an absolutely fundamental right of any society which considers itself to have free speech. What's more, Livingstone has been democratically elected to office, yet entirely undemocratically removed - no tribunal or faceless board of bureaucrats should be able to override (even temporarily) the decision of seven million voters. I mean, how do they even have this power, and does not the mere existence of this power make the democratic nature of the post a joke in and of itself? I sure as hell wouldn't vote in an election if I knew my decision could be undone without good reason and the consultation of the electorate.

Quoth Ken:

There will be therefore no apology or expression of regret to the Daily Mail Group... To the Daily Mail group, no-one in Britain is less qualified to complain about anti-Semitism. In truth, those papers were the leading advocate of anti-Semitism in the country for half a century.

I'll leave to you whether or not you agree with Ken's comments on the Mail group, and whether it is therefore ironic or not that they should be complaining of anti-semitism considering the history that Livingstone ascribes to them. But I will say that regardless of their stand on anti-semitism, from what I've read of the Mail, they are generally quite happy to single out any particular group of individuals and target them with the 'abuse' that they consider so unacceptable in this case. What's more, they do this daily in the press, rather than in a private setting where you may think your comments should be considered private.

Which of course brings into focus the question of whether or not political figures are ever 'off record' or whether they in fact represent the position at all times. Enter stage left Prince Charles, recently in court over the publications of his private journals. The argument here of course revolves around whether or not Charles opinions are public interest because of the agreement that the Royal family do not pursue their own political agenda. Frankly, I think this is quite stupid. Of course Charles should be allowed to have his own political opinion, and he can shout it from the rooftops the same as anyone else. Likewise, Charles should be able to make comments (political or otherwise) in private, and not expect to see them plastered all over the newspapers the following morning.

we seem to have ourselves a vicious circle going as far as the press and political figures are concerned. Charles is just one man, whose opinion is no more or less valid than anybody else's. The papers only report his opinion because he is a famous figure, but then his opinion is only heard because the papers are so keen to report on him because it sells papers. The same goes for Livingstone obviously - my private comments don't go beyond whoever I voice them to, because I am not important. I consider this a basic freedom though, the freedom to have an opinion which is not scrutinised by the world unless I allow it - like posting it here. We need to get off the backs of public figures and allow them similar privacy, and not create situations from their private life that we would not expect to see a normal individual be bought up for.

It is supposedly the electorate that runs this country, not the media. We would do well to remember that when the latest 'scandal' hits the headlines.


Katy Newton said...

Ken was not antisemitic. He was a rude, drunken twat, and he compounded it by claiming that the journalist in question swore at him and behaved aggressively, which the transcript of the their exchange shows was just not true. Journalists are there partly to keep an eye on politicians; whatever their motivations or the political slant of their papers, they perform an important function. You can't decide to go into politics and then throw a tantrum because journalists are following you around, it goes with the territory. I know it's old fashioned but I like the politicians I elect to behave with dignity.

So I don't think Ken exactly comes out of this covered in glory. But suspending him from office - or disciplining him at all - is just ridiculous. If Londoners don't want him in power they'll vote him out at the next election, and that should be the end of the story.

Bob Piper said...

The fact that Ken was being collared outside a party to mark the anniversary of Chris Price MP's decision to 'come out' by a right-wing reactionary newspaper with a history of support for fascism should make this sensitive little journalist examine his own soul. Ken was rude... bloody good job too! About time people started giving some of these twat journos a shot of their own medecine. To quote Katy back at herself: You can't go into that sort of scumbag job and then throw a tantrum because someone is rude to you, it goes with the territory. Live with it and stop squealing.

As for the Standards Board, they are beneath contempt and I suspect they have just signed their own redundancy notice.

MatGB said...

Pretty much agree witht he consensus; Ken was an arse, but he was drunk leaving a party after midnight.

The Mail/Standard are out to get him, and the reporter was being obnoxious.

Hey Bob; we agree on something ;-)

Bob Piper said...

I must be wrong mate. I take that back Katy.